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Pacific Electric

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Title: Pacific Electric  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Pacific Electric Railway, Owensmouth (Pacific Electric), Alhambra – San Gabriel (Pacific Electric), Balboa (Pacific Electric), Riverside–Rialto (Pacific Electric)
Collection: 1901 Establishments in California, 1961 Disestablishments in California, Defunct California Railroads, Defunct Companies in the Greater Los Angeles Area, Defunct Public Transport Operators in the United States, Defunct Town Tramway Systems by City, Electric Railways in California, Former Class I Railroads in the United States, History of Los Angeles County, California, History of Los Angeles, California, Interurban Railways in California, Light Rail in California, Pacific Electric Railway, Passenger Rail Transportation in California, Predecessors of the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, Public Transportation in Los Angeles County, California, Public Transportation in Los Angeles, California, Public Transportation in Orange County, California, Public Transportation in Riverside County, California, Public Transportation in San Bernardino County, California, Public Transportation in Southern California, Railway Companies Disestablished in 1961, Railway Companies Established in 1901, Southern Pacific Railroad Subsidiaries
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Pacific Electric

Pacific Electric
Main depot, circa 1910
Reporting mark PE
Locale Greater Los Angeles Area
Dates of operation 1901–1961
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Headquarters Los Angeles, California

Pacific Electric, also known as the Red Car system, was a privately owned Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County and Riverside County.

The system shared dual gauge track with the 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge Los Angeles Railway, "Yellow Car," or "LARy" system on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles (directly in front of the 6th and Main terminal), on 4th Street, and along Hawthorne Boulevard south of downtown Los Angeles toward the cities of Hawthorne, Gardena, and Torrance.


  • Districts 1
  • History 2
    • Origins 2.1
    • Early history 2.2
    • The Great Merger and the "New" Pacific Electric 2.3
    • Decline 2.4
    • Freeway construction 2.5
    • Public ownership 2.6
  • Revival 3
    • 1970 – present 3.1
    • Proposed developments 3.2
  • Heritage and popular culture 4
  • Routes and facilities 5
  • Fleet 6
    • Interurban cars 6.1
    • City and suburban cars 6.2
    • Work cars 6.3
    • Locomotives 6.4
    • Freight cars 6.5
    • Buses 6.6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • Bibliography and further reading 9
  • Bibliography - Predecessor Lines 10
  • External links 11


Los Angeles Pacific Electric (Red Cars) network (interactive version)

The system was divided into four districts:

The Eastern District was incorporated into the Northern District early in the company's existence.



Electric trolleys first appeared in Los Angeles in 1887.[1]:208 In 1895 the Pasadena & Pacific Railway was created from a merger of the Pasadena and Los Angeles Railway and the Los Angeles Pacific Railway (to Santa Monica.) The Pasadena & Pacific Railway boosted Southern California tourism, living up to its motto "from the mountains to the sea."

Early history

Old Mission Trolley streetcar of the Pacific Electric makes a stop at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, 1905.
Pacific Electric railway car approaching intersection of Pioneer Boulevard and South Street in Artesia, California 1915.
Three PE tickets. The top two (front and back views) between downtown LA and Santa Monica, the bottom for a transfer from Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley.

The Pacific Electric Railroad was created in 1901 by railroad executive

  • Pacific Electric Railway system map, 1949
  • Pacific Electric Railway Elec Railway Historical Association of So. California guide to PE traction heritage.
  • Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society Online Image Archive
  • Bill Volkmer collection of Red Car photos and post cards
  • Orange Empire Railway Museum PE equipment site
  • L.A. San Pedro waterfront Red Car line restoration and operation
  • Pacific Electric photos (Jim Stubchaer)
  • Pacific Electric Railway Monuments archival photographs
  • Pacific Electric Subway photos (Elson Trinidad)
  • Proposal to bring the Red Car back to Downtown Los Angeles year 2000
  • The Red Cars of Los Angeles (USC archives)
  • Pacific Electric Subway – Toluca Portal: 1925 – 1955 – 2008 photos (Harry Marnell)
  • Tours in a Bygone Era (Tom Wetzel)
  • Article about the history of the Pacific Electric and other L.A. streetcar systems, with archival photos
  • LAistory: The 1925 "Hollywood Subway"
  • DVD Documentary – This Was Pacific Electric – Complete documentary on the Pacific Electric. Movies, stills, and interviews.

External links

  • Myers, William A. & Swett, Ira (1976). Trolleys to the Surf: The Story of the Los Angeles Pacific Railway, Interurbans Special #63. Glendale, CA: Interurbans Publications.  
  • Swett, Ira (1956). Los Angeles Pacific, Interurbans Special #18. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1965). Los Angeles Pacific Album, Interurbans Special #40. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1957). Los Angeles and Redondo Railway, Interurbans Special #20. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1962). Riverside and Arlington Railway, Interurbans Special #27. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1969). Ontario and San Antonio Heights Railroad, Interurbans Special #48. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Van Norden, Rudolph (1967). Pacific Electric in Transition, Interurbans Special #30. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans.  

Bibliography - Predecessor Lines

  • Swett, Ira & Walker, Jim (1975). Lines of the Pacific Electric Southern and Western Districts, Interurbans Special #60. Glendale, CA: Interurbans Publications.  
  • Swett, Ira & Walker, Jim (1976). Lines of the Pacific Electric, Northern and Eastern Districts, Interurbans Special #61. Glendale, CA: Interurbans Publications.  
  • Swett, Ira (1964). Cars of the Pacific Electric Volume 1: City and Suburban Cars, Interurbans Special #28. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1965). Cars of the Pacific Electric Volume 2: Interurban and Deluxe Cars, Interurbans Special #36. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1965). Cars of the Pacific Electric Volume 3: Locomotives and Non-Revenue Cars, Interurbans Special #37. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1965). Pacific Electric Album of Cars, Interurbans Special #39. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1969). Pacific Electric in Pomona, Interurbans Special #46. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1964). Official Car Records of the Pacific Electric Railway, Interurbans Special #38. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1946). Pacific Electric All Time Roster, Interurbans Special #3. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Swett, Ira (1952). Pacific Electric All Time Roster, Interurbans Special #13. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans. 
  • Thompson, Gregory Lee (1993). The Passenger Train in the Motor Age: California's Rail and Bus Industries, 1910–1941. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH.  
  • Vesey, Laurence (1958). Passenger Service of the Pacific Electric, Interurbans Special #21. Los Angeles, CA: Interurbans.  
  • Veysey, Laurence (1953). The Pacific Electric Railway Company: 1910-1953: A Study in the Operation of Economic, Social and Political Forces Upon American Local Transportation. Available at Glendale Public Library, California: Seminar paper, Yale.  
  • Walker, Jim (1991). Last of the Big Red Cars; The Long Beach Rail Line Then and Now, Interurbans Special #118. Glendale, CA: Interurbans Press.  
  • Walker, Jim (2007). Images of Rails Series: Pacific Electric Red Cars. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.  

A note on Ira Swett, author and founder of the Interurbans publishing company: he spent his lifetime producing approximately 50 publications about interurban railways nationwide, particularly in California and Utah. Many are in the Library of Congress. Included were approximately 20 publications regarding the Pacific Electric. Mr. Swett died in 1975, but Interurbans Press continued publishing until 1993.

  • Bail, Eli (1984). From Railway to Freeway Pacific Electric and the Motor Coach.  
  • Bottles, Scott (1991). Los Angeles and the Automobile: The Making of the Modern City.  
  • Coscia, David (2011). Pacific Electric and the Growth of the San Fernando Valley. Bellflower, CA: Shade Tree Books.  
  • Copeland, Allen P. (1997). Pacific Electric in Color, Vol 1. Scotch Plains, NJ.: Morning Sun Books.  
  • Copeland, Allen P. (1999). Pacific Electric in Color, Vol 2. Scotch Plains, NJ.: Morning Sun Books.  
  • Copeland, Allen P. (2002). California Trolleys in Color Vol.1. Scotch Plains, NJ.: Morning Sun Books.  
  • Crise, Steve & Patris, Michael A. (2011). Pacific Electric Railway (Then and Now). Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. 
  • Crump, Spencer (1977). Ride The Big Red Cars: How Trolleys Helped Build Southern California. Corona Del Mar, CA: Trans-Anglo Books.  
  • Crump, Spencer (1978). Henry Huntington and the Pacific Electric Railway: A Pictorial Album. Corona Del Mar, CA: Trans-Anglo Books.  
  • Demoro, Harre W. (1986). California's Electric Railways. Glendale, California: Interurban Press.  
  • Duke, Donald. (1958). Pacific Electric: A Pictorial Album of Electric Railroading. San Marino, CA: Golden West Books. 
  • Duke, Donald. (2001). Pacific Electric Railway, Volume 1: The Northern Division. San Marino, CA.: Golden West Books.  
  • Duke, Donald. (2002). Pacific Electric Railway, Volume 2: The Eastern Division. San Marino, CA.: Golden West Books.  
  • Duke, Donald. (2003). Pacific Electric Railway, Volume 3: The Southern Division. San Marino, CA.: Golden West Books.  
  • Duke, Donald. (2004). Pacific Electric Railway, Volume 4: The Western Division. San Marino, CA.: Golden West Books.  
  • Friedricks, William B. (1992). Henry Huntington and the Creation of Southern California. Columbus, OH.: Ohio University Press.  
  • Heller, Jim, ed. (1998). Pacific Electric Stations. Long Beach, CA: Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California.  
  • Howard, Danny (1980). Southern California and the Pacific Electric. Los Angeles, CA.: Daniel L. Howard Publishing.  
  • Karr, Randolph (1973). Rail Passenger Service History of the Pacific Electric. Los Angeles, CA: Southern Pacific Transportation. 
  • Long, Raphael (1966). Pacific Electric’s Big Red Cars; A Pictorial Account of the Decline of the World’s Largest Interurban Electric Railway System. Los Angeles, CA: T.C. Phillips. 
  • Long, Raphael (1983). Red Car Days, Interurbans Special #92. Glendale, CA: Interurbans Press. 
  • Long, Raphael (2010). Red Car Era An Album: Memories of Los Angeles and the Pacific Electric Railway. CreateSpace.  
  • Seims, Charles (1976). Mount Lowe The Railway in the Clouds. San Marino, CA: Golden West Books.  
  • Seims, Charles (1982). Trolley Days in Pasadena. San Marino, CA: Golden West Books.  
  • Shanks, Thomas H. (1991). From Horse Car to Red Car to Mass Rapid Transit: A Century of Progress. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Company. 
  • Smatlak, John C. (2010). Pacific Electric 500-Class cars: Interurban Pioneers. Bellflower, CA: Shade Tree Books. 

Bibliography and further reading

  1. ^ a b Kuntsler, James Howard (1993). The Geography of Nowhere – The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape (First Touchstone Edition 1994 ed.). New York, New York: Touchstone.  
  2. ^ "Ten Million Dollars Is The Capital Stock; Huntington Lines Organize; Articles of Incorporation Filed Giving the Company the Right to Build a Network of Interurban Electric Roads".  
  3. ^ Walker, Jim (2006). Images of Rail: Pacific Electric Red Cars. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7.  
  4. ^ "Letter: IW Hellman to Henry Huntington". Hellman Collection 27. California Historical Society. May 21, 1901. pp. 270–71. 
  5. ^ Friedricks, William B. (1992). Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California. Ohio State University Press. p. 74.  
  6. ^ a b Friedrickson 1992, p. 75.
  7. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 75-76.
  8. ^ a b Friedrickson 1992, p. 76.
  9. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 77.
  10. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 78.
  11. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 78-79.
  12. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 81.
  13. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 90.
  14. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 87.
  15. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 85.
  16. ^ a b Friedrickson 1992, p. 101.
  17. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 83.
  18. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 100.
  19. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 101-102.
  20. ^ Friedrickson 1992, p. 102-103.
  21. ^ a b Friedrickson 1992, p. 103.
  22. ^ Demoro (1986) p. 12
  23. ^ Britt, Rex L. "Ride The Big Red Cars to Redlands". The Fortnightly Club of Redlands, California. 
  24. ^ "Pacific Electric Subway". Westworld. 2000. Archived from the original on June 21, 2003. 
  25. ^ Adams, Cecil (January 10, 1986). "Did General Motors destroy the LA mass transit system?". 
  26. ^ "Motorways Plan Revealed: System of Roads Designed to Cure Traffic Ills". Los Angeles Times. June 15, 1938. 
  27. ^  
  28. ^ Demoro, Harre W. (1986). California's Electric Railways.  
  29. ^ "Metropolitan Coach Lines". Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California. Metropolitan Coach Lines was incorporated in California on May 18, 1953; Haugh capitalized it at $8.5 million, $7.2 million of which was to cover the purchase price of the Pacific Electric assets and the remainder was for organizational expenses and working capital. The sale was completed on October 1, 1953, with PE’s entire passenger operating rights and all facilities and property related to the bus lines being turned over to Metro. These included the Pasadena, Ocean Park and West Hollywood garages, Macy Street shops, servicing and storage locations at Van Nuys, Sunland, Long Beach (Morgan Avenue) and Echo Park Avenue, stations at Pomona, Riverside and Whittier, and 695 buses. 
  30. ^ "PE Bus Franchise Transfer Gets OK".   Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  31. ^ a b Span, Guy. "Paving the Way for Buses– The Great GM Streetcar Conspiracy – Part I – The Villains". San Francisco Bay Crossings. 
  32. ^ "Plan for Public Purchase of Transit Lines Revealed: Legislature Will Get Bill to Legalize Agreements on Sale With Metro and LATL".   Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  33. ^ "Transit Authority Begins Operating LATL and Metro: Public Now Owns Big Bus Lines".   Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  34. ^ Vondrak, Otto M. (December 13, 2007). "Book Review: Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars". The Railroad Network. By the end of World War II, the Huntington estate had sold its majority interest to Chicago-based National City Lines. LARy became the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and bigger changes were in store. Many lines were converted to bus operation through the late forties and fifties. Never mind that NCL was partially owned by bus (GM), tire (Firestone), and gasoline (Standard Oil) suppliers. Though federal anti-trust action was taken against NCL, the damage was already done. Los Angeles was officially in love with the automobile. 
  35. ^ (2.6MB PDF file) Archived August 10, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "Waterfront Red Car Line". The Port of Los Angeles. 
  37. ^ "Trail Features". City of Rancho Cucamonga. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ "Buena Vista Street and Newly Designed Front Entrance in 2012". Disneyland News. June 9, 2010. Archived from the original on December 23, 2010. 
  40. ^ "Red Car Trolley Construction to Begin Monday". MouseInfo. 


See also

  • GM yellow coach


  • LA&R flat-top caboose 1896
  • PE flat-top caboose PE 1939
  • LS&MS caboose 1915
  • LV caboose 1926
  • RF&P caboose 1905
  • SSC box car 1924

Freight cars


Work cars

  • St Louis Car Co double-truck Birney 1925–1941
  • Pullman Car Co Submarine 1912–1928
  • J. G. Brill Birney 1918–1941 (69)
  • St Louis Car Co baby five MU coach 1901–1934
  • St Louis Car Co medium five MU coach 1909–1934
  • St Louis Car Co Hollywood car MU 1922–1959 (160)
  • St Louis Car Co Hollywood car 1922 (50) numbered 600–649
  • St Louis Car Co Hollywood car 1923 (50) numbered 650–699
  • J. G. Brill Hollywood car 192x (50) numbered 700–749
  • St Louis Car Co Hollywood car 1924 (10) numbered 750–759
  • Pullman Standard PCC 1939 (30) numbered 5000–5029. Sold to Argentina in 1959
  • St. Louis Car Co. 500 class DE streetcars

City and suburban cars

  • Blimp MU (61 – Pullmans)
  • St Louis Car Co MU coach 1907–1950
  • Jewett Car Co. 1000 "Business Car" 1913–1947
  • Jewett Car Co. 1000-class MU interurban 1913–1954
  • American Car Co trailer coach 1908–1934
  • American Car Co trailer coach 1908–1934
  • Pullman Car Co officer's car 1912–1958
  • J.G. Brill Portland RPO-baggage 1913–1959
  • 500-class interurban cars
  • American Car Co 800 class interurban
  • Standard Steel Car Co. 1100-class interurban car – Hammond, Indiana
  • Pressed Steel Car Co. 1200-class Berdoo MU interurban 1915
  • Pullman Car Co. 1222-class Long Beach MU interurban 1921
  • Pullman Car Co. 1252-class Portland MU interurban 1912
  • Pullman Car Co. 1299 "Business Car" 1912, converted from Portland trailer 1929

Interurban cars

Pacific Electric 1624 "Juice Jack"
Pacific Electric 1001
San Francisco Municipal Railway #1061, a rebuilt PCC streetcar painted in honor of the Pacific Electric Railway, is seen in service on the F Market heritage line in December, 2004. This single-ended car was originally built for the city of Philadelphia in 1946 (Pacific Electric only operated double-ended PCC's).


Routes and facilities

Streetcars of the PE are featured as atmospheric elements in L.A. Noire.

A transportation attraction based on the PE, the Red Car Trolley, is located at Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. It features two stylized replicas of PE rolling stock and is the first attraction in the park to provide transportation, running from Buena Vista Street to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Hollywood Land, with four stations.[39] Construction began on January 4, 2010, and the attraction opened on June 15, 2012.[40]

In The Simpsons episode titled "Postcards from the Wedge" that aired March 14, 2010 on Fox, the film shown at the beginning of the episode is based on GM's promo films from the 1950s; in addition, the cars from the abandoned Springfield Subway are modeled after the PE cars.

The 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit is loosely modeled on the conspiracy to dismantle the streetcar lines in Los Angeles.

The Pacific Electric Trail is a 21-mile rail trail that has been constructed along the former San Bernardino Line. As of March 2013, approximately 18 miles have been completed,[37] from the planned western terminus at Huntington Drive in Claremont () to the temporary eastern terminus at Maple Avenue in Fontana (). An additional segment is planned from this point into Rialto, as well as connection to a 6.9-mile rail trail project being planned to run from Claremont to San Dimas.[38]

Car #1734 has been turned into the Pacific Electric Museum, at the corner of Main Street and Electric Avenue in Seal Beach, California
Pacific Electric Inland Empire Trail, Fontana

Heritage and popular culture

Also under consideration is a new passenger rail line on the abandoned Harbor Subdivision railway corridor, connecting Carson to downtown Los Angeles via Torrance and the LA west side. Connections to the Harbor Subdivision from the World Cruise Center cruise ship terminal in the San Pedro District of Los Angeles Harbor to the Long Beach Transit Mall and the Metro Blue Line are also under evaluation.

In 2005, with growing congestion along Wilshire Boulevard to the Westide, then Congressman Henry Waxman introduced legislation to repeal the ban on federal dollars being used for subway tunneling underneath Wilshire Blvd he had passed 20 years earlier. The ban resulted in the Red Line subway ending at Wilshire and Western Avenue before being re-routed up Vermont Avenue towards the Valley. In 2006, the MTA renamed the line from Union Station to Wilshire/Western the Purple Line to differentiate it from the Red Line, which splits at Wilshire/Vermont. As a result, in May 2012, the MTA approved plans to extend the Purple Line to the west as far as the VA Hospital in Westwood, on an alignment mostly following Wilshire Boulevard, the city's most densely populated corridor, as was originally planned in mass transit plans designed as early as the 1920s. In 2005, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made as one of his most publicized campaign promises a pledge to set the wheels in motion for eventual construction of the "Subway to the Sea" as he called it. Construction finally began in 2014 on the Purple Line Extension, with completion projected for the 2030s, though if additional funding can be found, the subway could be completed earlier.

There are several plans in motion to connect the congested West Los Angeles area with rail service. Service has begun on the Expo Line, a light-rail line, as of April 28, 2012 to the intersection of La Cienega and Jefferson; and then as of June 20, 2012, about .8 miles further west, to the corner of National and Washington Boulevards, just east of central Culver City. In 2011 construction began on Phase Two of the Expo Line, continuing from Culver City to Santa Monica, which is scheduled to open in 2016.

If construction funds are identified, the "Foothill Extension" of the Gold Line will extend the service to Montclair, or possibly all the way to LA/Ontario International Airport, but the current construction schedule calls for the line to open to Azusa by 2016, so any extensions past that would open much later.

More rail lines are in the planning and building stages. Light rail is being designed to connect the city center of San Bernardino with the University of Redlands via the Redlands Subdivision by 2016.

Proposed developments

1.5-mile (2 km) streetcar line connecting the World Cruise Center south to Ports O' Call and the 22nd St. terminal, where a shuttle bus connects other attractions along the San Pedro waterfront. Two newly constructed Red Car replicas, #500 & #501, provide service along the line on cruise ship arrival/departure days as well as weekends – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In addition, a restored 1907-vintage Pacific Electric car, No. #1508 originally rebuilt from two wrecks as a unique motor coach, is available for special rail excursions. It began operation as a tourist attraction on July 19, 2003. The Port of Los Angeles financed, constructed and operates the replica equipment on heritage PE track, one of many of its waterfront revival projects. A new pedestrian esplanade featuring public art and fountains, sculpture and fountains has been built alongside the track from the World Cruise Center to the Maritime Museum and Fire Boat Station. It connects to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and other San Pedro attractions when using the Waterfront Red Car trolley/shuttle. There are plans to extend the Waterfront Red Car line approximately two more miles south to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and the tidepools of Cabrillo Beach. Current plans for an extension of the line north into Wilmington to Avalon Blvd. along existing trackage is in effect as a part of the waterfront improvement plan. Trackage is in place, but funding for additional improvements has not yet been identified. Some transit advocates have proposed linking this line to the Metro Blue Line Long Beach terminus, a very intensive and expensive expansion.[36]

Waterfront Red Car
Waterfront Red Car in San Pedro, California. No. #501 PE "Huntington" type wooden streetcar is a replica operated on heritage tracks

Metrolink (Southern California) provides weekday interurban commuters with high speed reversible trains – consisting of Diesel Locomotives hauling double-deck high capacity passenger cars servicing much of Los Angeles County and operating to connections in Ventura County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, Orange County, and San Diego County as well.

The Metro Gold Line opened in 2003, connecting downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena. Mostly at-grade, the line runs along the former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF) historic Super Chief right-of-way, which was converted to dual track overhead electric light rail. California's oldest surviving iron railroad bridge, built across the Arroyo Seco (1895), was also included in the conversion. The Gold Line Eastside Extension now connects Union Station, Downtown Los Angeles to East Los Angeles. A second extension will extend east from Pasadena, again utilizing the former AT&SF right-of-way in the median of Interstate 210.

The Metro Green Line opened in 1995. Its right-of-way was planned from conception to be entirely isolated and protected, running in the median of Interstate 105, the Century Freeway west from Norwalk, connecting at Rosa Parks Station with Metro Blue Line, then further west to Los Angeles International Airport, and then south on elevated tracks to Redondo Beach. The Century Freeway, named for Century Blvd. the equivalent of 100th St., was the world's first freeway built to bypass and relieve traffic congestion from another freeway – the 91, Artesia Freeway.

The Metro Red Line subway opened next in three parts between 1993 and 2000, first from Union Station in central Los Angeles connecting with short subway which forms the northern terminus of Metro Blue Line at 7th/Figuroa Metro Center station, and then west under Wilshire Blvd. onward to Western Avenue. Construction was halted in 1985 due to an unrelated explosion of methane fumes in an underground portion of a Ross Dress for Less store along the proposed route turning north at Fairfax Avenue to Hollywood, which was to service the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum Row and the La Brea Tar Pits. After then-Congressman Henry Waxman banned federal funding for subway construction underneath Wilshire Blvd. past Western Avenue, the subway had to be re-routed. The second portion was the result of this: the subway now traveled north under Vermont Avenue to Hollywood Boulevard turning west to Highland Avenue. When the Hollywood Freeway was built, two PE tracks remained in the center, entering the canyon to Cahuenga Pass under the freeway at what is now the northbound Highland Avenue onramp. PE trackage continued to provide mass transit efficiently until the line was abandoned in 1985; the former roadbed was eventually converted for highway use. RTD bus service replaced rail service and remained the highest daily passenger volume corridor. When the third expansion of the Red Line subway opened, most long distance commuter bus routes from Downtown Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley were trimmed to connect with the new subway stations, reducing diesel fumes and motor vehicle congestion. It tunnels deep under the Santa Monica Mountains and the next station, at Universal Studios, boasts the world's longest continuous underground escalator. At the northern most Metro Red Line terminus, North Hollywood, connections can be made to several MTA bus routes of the San Fernando Valley, including several routes along the private right-of-way Metro Rapidway Metro Orange Line (route 901) dedicated exclusively for MTA vehicles that replicates many PE thru lines by transferring buses.

When the Metro Blue Line commenced commuter service in 1990 from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach, electric rail passenger train service returned to Los Angeles, using much of the PE roadbed that ceased in 1961. Since then, the LACMTA has opened additional lines.

In 1976, the state of California formed the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission to coordinate the Southern California Rapid Transit District's (SCRTD, advertised and known locally by Angelinos as the RTD) efforts with those of various municipal transit systems in the area and to take over planning of countywide transportation systems. The SCRTD continued planning of the Metro Rail (Los Angeles County) Subway (the Red Line), while the LACTC developed plans for the light rail system. Construction began in 1985. In 1988, the two agencies formed a third entity under which all rail construction would be consolidated, and in 1993, the SCRTD and the LACTC were merged into the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA).

During the 1970s, there was serious discussion about the need for additional mass transit systems based on environmental concerns, increasing population and the 1973 oil crisis. A 1974 inquiry in the Senate heard allegations about the role that General Motors and other companies, including Pacific City Lines, played in the dismantlement of streetcar systems across the U.S. and in particular in Los Angeles in what became known as the Great American Streetcar Scandal.[31] The plot of the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit is loosely modeled on the alleged conspiracy to dismantle the streetcar lines in Los Angeles.

1970 – present


PE's lucrative freight service was continued operation through 1964 under the Pacific Electric name by the Southern Pacific Railroad using diesel-electric locomotives on the heavy-duty PE rail-bed and rails and tripping the iconic "Wig-Wag" crossing signals of the former PE. A Christmas tree lot was operated in the small stub yard at the northwest corner of Willow and Long Beach Blvd. – the stock arrived in and was stored in a steel sided box car until the Christmas trees were prepared for sale – the busy intersection was where dual trackage departed Long Beach Blvd and joined the private right-of-way from Huntington Beach and Seal Beach towards Los Angeles. The crossing signal there was the first installation of the final design of the Magnetic Watchman wigwag crossing signal and crossbucks. Oil tank cars were still shuttled to Signal Hill even as the surface street tracks were torn up from the center of Long Beach Blvd. long after the copper overhead catenary supply wires had been removed. Southern Pacific (now part of Union Pacific) continues to operate freight service utilizing former PE right-of-way.

The few remaining trolley-coach routes and narrow gauge streetcar routes of the former Los Angeles Railway "Yellow Cars" were removed in early 1963. The public transportation system continued to operate under the name MTA until the agency was reorganized and relaunched as the Southern California Rapid Transit District in September 1964.[35]

The interurban Los Angeles to Long Beach passenger rail line served the longest, from July 4, 1903, until April 9, 1961. It was both the first and last interurban passenger line of the former PE. It still had long stretches of open country running on private right-of-way. With this closure the final rail link was replaced by the interurban Motor Coach 36f ("F" representing Freeway Flyer) route. This former PE route was the first of the new MTA light rail lines, rebuilt as the dual track Metro Blue Line.

In 1958, the California state government through its Public Utility Commission took over the remaining and most popular lines from Metropolitan Coach Lines.[32][33] The MTA also purchased the remaining streetcar "Yellow Car" lines of the successor of the Los Angeles Railway, then called Los Angeles Transit Lines. LARy/LATL had been purchased from the Huntington estate by National City Lines in 1945.[34] The MTA started operating all lines as a single system on March 3, 1958.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority had been formed in 1951. It was known as the MTA but is unrelated to the current MTA. This agency had been founded to study the possibility of establishing a publicly owned monorail line running north from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles and then west to Panorama City in the San Fernando Valley. In 1954, the agency's powers were expanded to allow it to propose a more extensive regional mass-transit system and in 1957, its powers were again expanded, this time to allow it to operate transit lines.

Public ownership

Several lines operating to the north and the west which used the Belmont Tunnel from the Subway Terminal Building downtown ceased operation – the Hollywood Boulevard and Beverly Hills lines were shut down in 1954 and service to the San Fernando Valley, Burbank and Glendale using newly acquired PCC streetcars lasted only to 1955. The Bellflower line to the south closed in 1958 as the Golden State/Santa Ana (Interstate 5) neared completion.

Remaining PE passenger service was sold off in 1953 to Metropolitan Coach Lines, which was given two years of rent-free usage of rail facilities.[29][30] Jesse Haugh, of Metropolitan Coach Lines was a former executive of Pacific City Lines which together with National City Lines acquired local streetcar systems across the country with the intention of shutting them down and converting them to bus operation in what became known as the Great American Streetcar Scandal.[31]

The various public agencies—city, county, and state—agreed with PE that further abandoning service was necessary and PE happily complied. PE management had earlier compared costs of refurbishing the Northern District interurban lines to Pasadena, Monrovia/Glendora, and Baldwin Park versus the alternative of converting to buses, and found in favor of the latter.

The Southern District's passenger service to Santa Ana and Baldwin Park ended in 1950 as did the Northern District's Pasadena's Oak Knoll line, and the Sierra Madre line. The Western District's last line to Venice and Santa Monica also ended. The Pasadena and Monrovia/Glendora lines ended in 1951.

Large-scale land acquisition for new freeway construction began in earnest in 1951. The original four freeways of the area, the Hollywood, Arroyo Seco (formerly Pasadena), Harbor, and San Bernardino, were in use or being completed. Partial completion of the San Bernardino Freeway to Aliso Street near downtown Los Angeles led to traffic chaos when inbound automobiles left the freeway and entered city streets.

Pacific Electric #1299 Business Car.

Freeway construction

Aware that most new arrivals planned to stay in the region after the war, local municipal governments, Los Angeles County and the state agreed that a massive infrastructure improvement program was necessary. At that time politicians agreed to construct a web of freeways across the region. This was seen as a better solution than a new mass transit system or an upgrade of the PE.

The nation's last interurban Railroad post office (RPO) service was operated by PE on its San Bernardino Line.[28] This was inaugurated comparatively late, on September 2, 1947. It left LA's new Union Station interurban yard on the west side of the terminal, turned north onto Alameda Street at 12:45 pm and reached San Bernardino at 4:40 pm, taking three hours for the trip while making postal stops en route as required. It did not operate on Sundays or holidays. This last RPO was pulled off May 6, 1950.

PE carried increased passenger loads during World War II, when Los Angeles County's population nearly doubled as war industries concentrated in the region attracting millions of workers. There were several years when the company's income statement showed a profit when gasoline was rationed and much of the populace depended on mass transit. At peak operation toward the end of the war, the PE dispatched over 10,00 trains daily and was a major employer in Southern California. However, the equipment in use was old and suffered from deferred maintenance.

The Whittier & Fullerton line was cut in 1938, Redondo Beach, Newport Beach, Sawtelle via San Vicente, and Riverside in 1940. When the San Bernardino Freeway opened in 1941 but was not yet connected to the Hollywood Freeway, while the "Four Way" overpass was being constructed, westbound car traffic from the SB freeway poured onto downtown streets near the present Union Station. PE's multiple car trains coming and going from Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and Monrovia/Glendora used those same streets the final few miles from private right-of-way to reach the 6th and Main PE terminal and were bogged down within this jammed traffic. Schedules could not be met, plus former patrons were now driving. The San Bernardino line, Pomona branch, Temple City branch via Alhambra's Main St., San Bernardino's Mountain View local to 34th St., Santa Monica Blvd. via Beverly Hills, and all remaining Pasadena local services were all cut in 1941.The Glendale line survived to the early 1950s due to the convenience of a subway into downtown Los Angeles and used the company's only modern equipment, a group of streamlined PCC cars.

When the freeway system was planned in the 1930s the city planners planned to include interurban tracks in the center margin of each freeway but the plan was never implemented.[27] There was one exception that was within the Ventura Freeway through Cahuenga Pass. The San Fernando Valley line from Hollywood took to the center of the Freeway over the pass and exited at Lankershim Boulevard. When that service was terminated, the freeway was expanded onto the former PE roadbed.

Traffic congestion was of such great concern by the late 1930s that the influential Automobile Club of Southern California engineered an elaborate plan to create an elevated freeway-type Motorway System, a key aspect of which was the dismantling of the streetcar lines, replacing them with buses that could run on both local streets and on the new express roads.[26]

Although the railway owned extensive private roadbeds, usually between urban areas, much PE trackage in urban areas such as downtown Los Angeles west of the Los Angeles River was in streets shared with automobiles and trucks. Virtually all street crossings were at-grade, and increasing automobile traffic led to decreasing Red Car speeds on much of its trackage.[24] At its nadir, the busy Santa Monica Boulevard line, which connected Los Angeles to Hollywood and on to Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, had an average speed of 13 miles per hour (21 km/h)[25]

In the pre-automobile era, electric interurban rail was the most economical way to connect outlying suburban and exurban parcels to central cities.

Huntington's involvement with urban rail was intimately tied to his real estate development operations. Real estate development was so lucrative for Huntington and SP that they could use the Red Car as a loss leader. However, by 1920, when most of the company's holdings had been developed, their major income source began to deplete. Many rural passenger lines were unprofitable, with losses offset by revenue generated from passenger lines in populated corridors and from freight operations. The least-used Red Car lines were converted to cheaper bus routes as early as 1925.

Map of Pacific Electric rail routes, 1920.


The railway company "connected all the dots on the map and was a leading player itself in developing all the real estate that lay in between the dots".[1]:208, 211

There are other local streetcar suburbs. Angelino Heights was built around the Temple Street horsecar, which was later upgraded to electric streetcar as part of the Yellow Car system. Highland Park was developed along the Figueroa Street trolley lines and railroads linking downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. Huntington owned nearly all the stock in the Pacific Electric Land Company.[23] West Hollywood was established by Moses Sherman and his partners of the Los Angeles and Pacific Railway. Moses Sherman, Harry Chandler, Hobart Johnstone Whitley, and others bought the entire southern San Fernando Valley in 1910. The electric railway and a $500,000 boulevard called Sherman Way connected the three townsites they were selling. These included Van Nuys, Marion (now Reseda), and Owensmouth (now Canoga Park). Parts of Sherman Way are now called Chandler Bl and Van Nuys Bl.

Large profits from land development were generated along the routes of the new lines. Huntington Beach was incorporated in 1909 and developed by the Huntington Beach Company, a real-estate development firm owned by Henry Huntington, which still owns both land in the city and most of the mineral rights.

During this period, the Los Angeles Railway provided local streetcar service in central Los Angeles and to nearby communities. These trolleys were known as the "Yellow Cars" and carried more passengers than the PE's "Red Cars" since they ran in the most densely populated portions of Los Angeles, including south to Hawthorne and along Pico Boulevard to near West Los Angeles to terminate at the huge Sears Roebuck store and distribution center (the L.A. Railway's most popular line, the "P" line). The Yellow Cars' unusual narrow gauge PCC cars, by now painted MTA two-tone green, continued to operate until the end of rail service in 1963.

PE operated frequent freight trains under electric power throughout its service area (as far as 65 miles) to Redlands, including operating electrically powered Railway Post Office routes, one of the few U.S. interurbans to do so. This provided important revenue. The PE was responsible for an innovation in grade crossing safety: the automatic electromechanical grade crossing signal, nicknamed the wigwag. This device was quickly adopted by other railroads. A few wigwags continue in operation as of 2006.

During the 1920s profits were good and the lines were extended to the Pasadena area, to the beaches at Santa Monica, Del Rey, Manhattan/Redondo/Hermosa Beach, Long Beach in Los Angeles County and to Newport Beach and Huntington Beach in Orange County. Extra service beyond the normal schedules was provided on weekends, particularly in the late afternoon when passenger wanted to return simultaneously. Comedian Harold Lloyd highlighted the popularity and utility of the system in an extended sequence in his 1924 film Girl Shy, where, after finding one Red Car too crowded, he commandeered another and drove at high speed through the streets of Culver City and Los Angeles.

Following these acquisitions, PE was the largest operator of interurban electric railway passenger service in the world, with 2,160 daily trains over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of track.[22] It operated to many destinations in Southern California, particularly to the south and east.

The Southern Pacific now began to emphasize freight operations. From 1911, when revenue from freight was $519,226, freight revenue climbed to $1,203,956 in 1915, 13% of total revenue.[21]

In what was called the "Great Merger" of September 1, 1911, the Southern Pacific created a new Pacific Electric Railway Company, which was composed of Huntington’s original “old” PE, the Los Angeles Inter-Urban Railway, the Los Angeles Pacific Railway, The Los Angeles and Redondo Railway, the San Bernardino Valley Traction Company, San Bernardino Interurban, Redlands Central, and the Riverside and Arlington, with all electrical operations now under the Pacific Electric name.[21]

The Great Merger and the "New" Pacific Electric

Huntington retained control of the Los Angeles Railway, the narrow gauge street car system known locally as "Yellow Cars," until a controlling interest in this company was sold off by Huntington's estate in 1945.

On September 27, 1910 Huntington and Southern Pacific management came to a final agreement. In a complicated stock and bond transaction, Huntington conveyed his 50% of Pacific Electric to the Southern Pacific, while he acquired SP’s 45% interest in the Los Angeles Railway. In addition, Huntington conveyed the Los Angeles and Redondo Railway to the Southern Pacific. [20]

As a start, in June, 1908, he leased all the lines of the Los Angeles Inter-Urban Railway to Harriman. In 1909 he sold the systems in Fresno and Santa Clara County to the Southern Pacific. Talks paused after the death of Harriman on September 9, 1909, but resumed in early 1910.[19]

Expansion continued. The Covina line was completed in 1907, as well as a line from Monrovia to Glendora. The system reached La Habra in 1908. By 1910 PE operated nearly 900 miles of track. [16] But in 1909, earnings were only $75,000.[16] Routes had been built into or passed through areas just beginning to grow. Between 1903 and 1907, in the Pacific Electric’s most profitable year, 1905, the road made only $90,711. Profits from the Huntington Land and Improvement Company made up for the poor earnings of the interurban system, with profits of $151,000 in 1905 rising to $402,000 in 1907. [17] Huntington had begun long negotiations with Harriman about consolidating the Los Angeles electric railways beginning in 1907. There had always been a difference between the two men as to the purpose of the railway, with Huntington seeing the PE as a means to facilitate his real estate efforts, and Harriman seeing it as part of the Southern Pacific’s overall transportation system in Southern California.[18]

In January 1907, the Hellman syndicate, after seeing that Huntington ran the Los Angeles Railway similarly to PE, continually expanding and not declaring dividends, sold their 45% stake in the Los Angeles Railway to Harriman and the Southern Pacific.[15]

On March 19, 1906, an agreement was reached to sell control of the Los Angeles Pacific Railroad lines, owned by Moses Sherman and Eli P. Clark, for a reported $6 million to Harriman; this turned over all the lines in downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica and down the coast to Redondo Beach to the Southern Pacific.[14]

Huntington purchased the Los Angeles and Redondo Railway in July, 1905, along with the Redondo Land Company, which owned 90% of the land in the beach community. The announcement precipitated a land boom in the area, which resulted in a quick return of Huntington‘s entire investment in the area and in the railway. [13]

Harriman continued to leave Huntington alone until 1910 when the he refused to allow Huntington to run a line to San Diego that would have interfered with a competitive arrangement Harriman had worked out with the Santa Fe Railway. [12]

1905 would find the Newport and Santa Ana lines complete. In 1906, the Newport line was extended to Balboa, and in late 1906, lines to Sierra Madre and Oak Knoll in Pasadena were finished. Together, the two firms had 449 miles of track, with Pacific Electric at 197 miles and LAIU, 252 miles.[11]

Huntington continued to expand and not declare profits. On December 7, 1904, the Hellman group sold the rest of their shares and bonds in PE and LAIU to Huntington and Harriman for $1.2 million. Huntington and Harriman were now equal partners in the Pacific Electric. The Hellman syndicate retained their 45% interest in the Los Angeles Railway, which they thought would eventually declare dividends. [10]

In 1904 he acquired and finished the Los Angeles and Glendale Railway. In June, LAIU assumed control of the Riverside and Arlington Railway and the Santa Ana and Orange Motor Railway. PE and LAIU finished their extension to Huntington Beach and began building a line to Covina.[9]

He simultaneously created the Los Angeles Land Company.[8] Huntington owned almost all the stock in the companies, with token amounts allotted to company directors. Although the company theoretically allowed Huntington to proceed with construction plans unencumbered by outside interference, the poor state of the bond market meant that he had to turn to stockholders to finance expansion.[8]

On June 6, 1903 Huntington created the Los Angeles Inter-Urban Railway, capitalized at $10,000,000, with plans to extend lines to Santa Ana, Newport, the San Fernando Valley, La Habra, Redlands and Riverside, with branches to Colton and San Bernardino.

Pacific Electric & Salt Lake Railroad station in Long Beach, 1905

A by-product of this sale was that Harriman sold the banking unit of his Wells Fargo Company to Hellman who merged it with his Nevada Bank operations and established the Pacific Coast's largest most powerful bank.

In May 1903, after an overnight trip to San Francisco, an arrangement was worked out between Harriman and Huntington. The Pacific Electric would get the Los Angeles Traction Lines, SP’s San Gabriel Valley Rapid Transit Railway line, the 6th Street franchise, and some downtown trackage. In return, Harriman got 40.3% of PE stock, an amount equal to Huntington’s, with Hellman, Borel and De Guigne owning the remaining 20%. Huntington could expand the PE as he saw fit, but he was not to compete with existing SP lines.[7]

The final confrontation came over a bidding war over the 6th Street franchise, in which the franchise (thought to be worth maybe $10,000), finally went to the top bidder for $110,000, with Harriman the secret winner. Huntington had had enough.[6]

Then, on April 14, 1903, Harriman bought Hook’s Los Angeles Traction Company, which ran lines within the downtown area and, through its California Pacific subsidiary, was constructing a line from Los Angeles to San Pedro.[6]

In early 1903, Harriman proposed to the Los Angeles City Council a franchise with a three-cent fare, which, if accepted, would have handicapped the other railways severely. Huntington countered with a ticket book which gave the rider 500 miles of travel for $6.25, which undercut the Harriman strategy. Council vetoed the franchise idea, unable to believe adequate service could be provided for such a low fare.[5]

E.H. Harriman, who controlled the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad, was concerned with the competition that these new electric lines gave his steam railroad traffic, and had been prodding Huntington for joint ownership of the lines but Huntington had refused.

Railroads were one part of the enterprise. Revenue from passenger traffic rarely generated a profit, unlike freight. The real money for the investors was in supplying electric power to new communities and in developing and selling real estate. To get the railways and electricity to their towns, local groups offered the Huntington interests opportunities in local land. Soon Huntington and his partners had significant holdings in the land companies developing Naples, Bay City (Seal Beach), Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Redondo Beach.

Huntington experienced periods of opposition from organized labor with the construction of the new railways. Tensions between union leaders and like-minded Los Angeles business men were high from the early 1900s up through the 1920s. Strikes and boycotts troubled Pacific Electric throughout those years until it reached a height of violence in the World War I.

In 1901, Huntington and Hellman incorporated a new entity, the Pacific Electric Railway of California, was formed to construct new electric rail lines to connect Los Angeles with surrounding cities. Hellman and his group of investors owned the controlling majority of stock (double that of Huntington's) and the newspapers of the time referred to it as the Huntington-Hellman syndicate. Using surrogates, the syndicate began purchasing property and rights-of-ways. The new company's first main project, the line to Long Beach, opened July 4, 1902.

In May 1901 Hellman, who had been Southern California's leading banker for almost three decades (and had much property down there), wrote Huntington that "the time is at hand when we should commence building suburban railroads out of the city."[4] Hellman added that he had already tasked engineer Epes Randolph to survey and lay out the company's first lines which would be to Long Beach.

Hellman, the President of the Nevada Bank, San Francisco's largest, became one of the largest bond holders for these lines and he and the younger Huntington developed a close business relationship. The success of their San Francisco trolley adventure and Hellman's experience in financing some early Los Angeles trolley lines, led them to invest in the purchase of some existing downtown Los Angeles lines which they began to standardize and organize into one network called under the Los Angeles Railway. When uncle Collis died, Henry lost a boardroom battle for control of SP Southern to Union Pacific President E.H. Harriman. Huntington then decided to focus his energies on Southern California. [3]

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