PE’s Toluca Yard, 1941: The Calm Before The Storm of World War II

By Ralph Cantos

This beautiful photo taken by Ralph Melching from the Beverly Boulevard viaduct looks down on Pacific Electric’s Toluca Yard in the summer of 1941. The freshly modernized Hollywood cars are still adorned with their very attractive silver roofs as are the “new kids on the block,” PE’s revolutionary double end-MU PCCs. Hollywood car no. 659 will be heading for West Hollywood via busy Santa Monica Boulevard.

This was the Western District at it finest. The modernized Hollywood cars were the equal to the modern PCCs of the day. They were exceptionally smooth and quiet-riding cars. Braking was about the only performance area where a Hollywood car could not match a PCC head to head.

All was tranquil on the PE in the summer of 1941. The PE was still very much an “interurban system” despite some recent rail abandonments in 1938. Those abandonments, brought on more by demands of state and city regulatory bodies demanding the PE rid the streets and right-of-ways of all wood bodied interurbans, than a lack of patronage of the effective lines.

But in just a few months of this photo, all HELL would break loose and the PE (and the LARY as well) would be put to the test. The venerable 950s and 1000s were saved from the fire and served LA’s commuters with distinction in a time of crisis.

The PCCs had only been in service little more than a year and the Hollywood cars were in top condition. The PCCs and Hollywood cars – along with virtually every rail car on the system – would be put to the test of wartime passenger traffic demands that had never been seen on the PE since its inception.

Soon the bright silver roofs on all recently modernized rail cars would give way to a more sedate gray color as a safety precaution, less a PE car be spotted by enemy aircraft that could result in catastrophic results. Fortunately, all of PE’s rail cars made it through World War II in great shape, only to face the scrapper’s torch in the coming decade.

The PE had proved its worth to the City Of Los Angeles in time of crisis, only to be given the shaft in time of peace.

Ralph Melching Photo, Ralph Cantos Collection, Pacific Railroad Society Collection

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  • Al Donnelly

    Obviously the grey paint worked. Otherwise Spielberg would have had to use Sp. FX to portray Belushi’s character accidentally destroying Hollywood Cars during post-production of “1941”. Ferris wheels and beach houses were enough.

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