PE 5008 at the LA River: A crime against traveling humanity

By Ralph Cantos

This breathtaking photograph, taken by master photographer Alan K. Weeks, shows the Pacific Electric Glendale-Burbank Line at is best. At the time Alan took this photo, the end for the G-B Line was just days away.

The line a was a showcase for modern light rail rapid transit in the late 1940s and early ’50s. The PE had invested hundreds of thousands of of private capital in 1940 to completely rebuild the line, top to bottom, end to end. The line was equipped with 30 ultra-modern MU PCCs built to PE’s own specs. The PCCs were augmented with a like number of rebuilt suburban Hollywood cars. The Hollywood cars were considered by transit experts to be the finest “standard” rail cars to ever grace the streets of any American city after their 1940 modernization. No other rail cars in the country could equal their smart, handsome appearance, fast acceleration and smooth ride.

And yet after only 15 years of all this investment into providing commuters of the Glendale-Burbank Line the finest transportation possible, the line was scuttled in favor of INFERIOR buses, in the name of curb service and flexible routing. City officials stood by and did not to a DAMN thing. Their take? The line’s commuters could all “take a hike.”

Fast forward to 1990. The LA Metro Blue line opens on a completely rebuilt former interurban rail line that was foolishly abandoned some 29 years earlier, while City officials stood by and again, did not do a DAMN thing. The “new” Metro Blue Line was equipped with the latest light rail cars of LA’s own design, much the same way the Glendale-Burbank line was in 1940.

As the year 2005 dawned, the Blue Line was now 15 years old. Suppose you opened your morning newspaper and read that the Blue Line was to be abandoned in favor of more flexable buses and curb service. This is the shock that greeted commuters of the Glendale-Burbank line when they were informed that the line was to be abandoned. Who in their right mind would look at such a conversion as anything but insane?

And so, the Glendale-Burbank line , just 15 years old, fell victim to “we don’t give a damn” and greed by those in charge of the line’s fate. Had the line somehow managed to survive into the late 1980s it would have been given top consideration for conversion into modern, high-speed light rail service. But unlike the Blue Line’s right-of-way that had remained largely intact for almost 30 years after abandonment, the Glendale-Burbank Line’s infrastructure was demolished and its valuable rights-of-way carved up like a Christmas turkey.

In my humble opinion, an UNFORGIVABLE act of vandalism.

The entire line, everything, wiped out as fast as could be done, a costly lesson for all of us to remember.

Alan Weeks Photo, Alan Weeks Collection

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Showing 2 comments
  • Terry Hamilton

    And now Metro’s master plan calls for restoring service by light rail to Glendale and Burbank.

  • Ed Weiss

    You can see this view as it is today in the current issue of AAA’s Westways magazine.

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Ralph Cantos Photo, Ralph Cantos CollectionAlan Weeks Photo, Alan Weeks Collection, Courtesy Ralph Cantos