PE 656 At Work

By Ralph Cantos

Pacific Electric Hollywood car no. 656 heads up a 2-car morning rush hour train at Vineyard Junction. It’s a cold, overcast February morning, and these World War II Los Angeles commuters will board this train for a smooth and warm trip to downtown LA. The Hollywood cars were just a year or two out of a major rebuilding and modernization that made them attractive and comfortable. They were as good or better in performance as the newest PCCs. The Hollywood cars did the PE proud.

Vineyard Junction was a very busy place on the Western District. It’s difficult to believe now, that in little more than eight years after this photo was taken, all this commuter rail infrastructure would be scrapped and sold for junk in favor of buses, road widening and freeways.

The September 17, 1950, abandonment of the world-famous Venice Short Line marked the real “beginning of the end” for what we knew as the Pacific Electric Railway. From that day in 1950 until April 9, 1961, a vast and viable interurban rail system would virtually disappear as though it never existed.

Today, the West Boulevard bridge still stands, its future uncertain. The bolts that once held up the wood trolley wire guards remain as a reminder of what was once the Pacific Electric that served LA so well in a time of transportation desperation brought on by the Second World War.

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

Ralph Cantos Collection

The West Blvd Bridge that was built in 1933 now faces an uncertain future. Los Angeles City Engineers are looking at the bridge, but not with any kind of admiring eyes. The City of LA has this bridge on its “hit list.” The City feels that the bridge would not hold up in the event of a 12.5 earthquake, and so it must come down and be replaced by some type of multi-billion new bridge, perhaps something resembling the Vincent Thomas suspension bridge. The City is looking for donations. After the 6th Street bridge is rebuilt, the days for the West Blvd. Bridge will be numbered.

This photo was taken just before the bridge was open to auto traffic. I am not sure, but I think the car is a 1933 Chrysler.

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Showing 11 comments
  • Militant Angeleno
    Reply

    If that train is bound for Hollywood, then why is it heading east on Venice? Or did they run through-service through Downtown?

    • Ralph Cantos
      Reply

      Some runs like the one pictured, operated on Hill St past the Subway Terminal, through the Hill Street tunnels to Sunset Blvd. and on to Hollywood. Most of those long runs turned back at Gardener Jct.

      • SyB
        Reply

        Many Hollywood Blvd. Line cars operated south on Hill St. and turned back at the crossover on Hill St. between eleventh and twelfth streets. (Where the Echo Park Ave. cars turned back.) I used to wonder: The overhead destination sign read “12th and Hill Sts.” while the metal dash sign read “11th and Hill Sts.”

        During the day, the Hollywood Blvd. Line also operated out of the Subway. Those cars went past Gardner Junction to Beverly Hills.

        Prior to 1941 there was also a Hollwood-Venice Line that operated via the Hollywood Blvd. Line (from either 11th and Hill Sts. or Hill Street Station) past Beverly Hills to Santa Monica and terminated in Venice.

        • Syb
          Reply

          During WW II, some Venice Short Line runs were through routed with the Hollywood Blvd. Line.

  • Duncan Still
    Reply

    The answer for Militant is yes. This was the Hollywood-Venice Line which ran east from Vineyard to Hill St., then ran north on Hill, finally turning west to end up in Hollywood.

    • Ralph Cantos
      Reply

      One last note, only trains with Hollywood cars ran through Downtown to Hollywood. Trains with the big beautiful 950’s terminated at the Subway Terminal “surface yard” under the Olive St. bus deck.

      • Ralph Cantos
        Reply

        Food For A Happy Thought: Perhaps due to a mix up in train orders, a 3 car train of 950’s ran through Downtown and out to Hollywood. A three car train of 950’s rolling down Hollywood Blvd., now that’s a picture that would have been worth ten thousand words. The only 950 to operate on Hollywood Blvd., was the #999 on a fan trip.

  • David Sobo
    Reply

    There are passengers on board. Did this train originate at San Vicente and Fairfax?

    • Ralph Cantos
      Reply

      I think the practice at the time was that trains originating from San Vicente & Olympic ran through Downtown on Hill St to Gardener Jct.in Hollywood. Trains starting from the Santa Monica Station (Ocean Ave & Broadway) would run to the Subway Terminal Surface yard at 4th & Hill Streets. Trains made up of 950’s or 1000’s never ran to Hollywood. (to bad)

      • David Sobo
        Reply

        Thanks, Ralph. I think in later years the service was cut back to Venice and Vineyard, which was really West Boulevard. And, as a child, I loved to stand on the viaduct and watch the passing parade of red cars.

  • Robert Anderson
    Reply

    With so many boarding, do you think many are transfers from feeder bus lines, inbound VSL trains (to get off at local stops), or ?

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Ralph Cantos CollectioHarold F. Stewart Photo, Craig A. Rasmussen Collection