PE-1045-46

Car 1045, newly arrived at OERM in 1959
Car Specs
Car Number: 
1045-46
Type: 
Trailer Coach
Builder: 
American
Built / Retired: 
1908 - 1934
Construction: 
Wood
Seats: 
52
Length: 
49 ft. 2 in.
Weight: 
50,700 lbs.
Notes: 
body only, non-accessioned

Pacific Electric (II)1045 and 1046 were built as control trailers 301 and 302 for the Visalia Electric Railway, an interurban line in the Fresno , California area which operated electric passenger service from Visalia to Exeter , Lemon Cove and Woodlake. The line was controlled by the Southern Pacific, which used it as a testing ground for a study of AC railroad electrification. As a result, the line used an experimental 3,300-volt 15-cycle AC power standard. Powered cars were each equipped with a single pantograph for current collection.

The line's initial order of six passenger cars (which included 4 motor cars and our two trailers) was placed with the American Car Company plant of the J.G. Brill Company, and all used Brill's popular semi-convertible design. This meant that the window sash could be raised all the way up into pockets in the ceiling, permitting maximum airflow through the car on warm days. The design gave the interior of the car a graceful, curving ceiling, almost tube-like in appearance. A 1908 issue of Brill Magazine had a short article on the cars and included this description of the elegant interiors:

"All the cars are handsomely finished in mahogany with the paneling richly inlaid. Ceilings of the full empire type, three-ply birch veneer, tinted and striped. The arched ventilators are furnished with opalescent glass and are operated in pairs. The seats are of Brill manufacture, 36" long with high backs, head rolls and adjustable foot rests. Basket racks are provided and the bronze trim throughout is of substantial and excellent design."

The hoped-for traffic on the Visalia Electric never developed, (nor, for that matter did SP's electrification plans) and most runs were handled with single-car trains. As a result, trailers 301 and 302 probably did not see heavy use. In 1918, World War I had brought about a surge of business on the Pacific Electric, and the SP decided that trailers 301 and 302 would be of more use to the PE. The pair were sold to the PE in 1918 along with steel motor cars 103 and 203. The Visalia Electric discontinued passenger service altogether only six years later, on November 1st, 1924. Electrified freight service continued on a portion of the line until 1944, when diesels were brought in.

The PE initially renumbered cars 301 and 302 as 1046 and 1047. Car 1047 was subsequently renumbered (II)1045, following the removal of (I)1045 from the roster. (I)1045 was former Visalia Electric steel motor car 203. In 1918, the PE converted it and sister Visalia car 103 [PE (I)1360] from AC to DC operation. Apparently, the experiment was unsuccessful and it is not known how long either car was actually used (if ever) in revenue service. In 1920, both cars were converted back to AC operation and re-sold to the San Francisco , Napa & Calistoga Railway, an AC line in the Napa Valley region of Northern California .

Trailers 1045-46 were initially used with PE's 800-class interurbans, and later with the 1000-class cars, but only during peak travel periods when extra seats were needed. One example was New Years Day, during which an average of about twenty-five thousand passengers flocked to Pasadena via the PE to enjoy the famous Rose Parade and Tournament. In fact, the earliest sighting of one of the cars is a report from Russell Wescott of seeing one on New Year's Day, 1919 at Hill St. Station in downtown LA. The car was reported to have been still painted orange and lettered for the Visalia Electric.

Although they were used on the PE for 16 years, there are few known photographs of trailers 1045-46, which tends to support the theory that they were used only to accommodate overflow traffic. Both cars were retired in 1934. Available information suggests that the PE made only minor modifications to the cars, replacing the baggage racks with an advertising card rack, removing the toilet compartment, and replacing the exterior side doors with the company's standard folding trap/gate apparatus (such as can be seen on car 1001 at Perris today).

Although the PE listed the cars as non-control trailers, it is interesting to note that they retained features such as pilots and roof gongs which one would not expect to find on a non-control trailer. In the PE's own photograph of car 1046, looking in to the vestibule you can see what looks like an air-brake stand. Examining the cars today, there are holes in the platform floor for brake pipes and controller wiring, and there are also holes in the wall below the front window where you would expect to see a controller and brake stand, all of which tend to suggest the cars retained their operating controls. It is hoped that additional material will come to light in the future to help resolve these questions.

On a related note, various texts on the PE have stated that the company also acquired some steel lattice-work catenary towers from the Visalia Electric. The towers in question were installed between El Sereno and Van Horne Street (a distance of 3160 feet) on the Northern District "Four Tracks". Research for this article revealed this to only be partly true. The November 10, 1929 issue of PE Magazine states: "Lattice steel poles were released from the Visalia Electric Railroad and were cut and made use of on the tops of all the bridges for the support of the 15,000 volt lines". This also explains why no one has been able to find any photos or mention of four-track catenary towers on the Visalia Electric. 

Official PE portrait
Official PE portrait
Builder's interior view
Builder's interior view
Car 1045 became the Honeymoon Cafe diner upon retirement.
Car 1045 became the Honeymoon Cafe diner upon retirement.

Although they were used on the PE for 16 years, there are few known photographs of trailers 1045-46, which tends to support the theory that they were used only to accommodate overflow traffic. Both cars were retired in 1934. Available information suggests that the PE made only minor modifications to the cars, replacing the baggage racks with an advertising card rack, removing the toilet compartment, and replacing the exterior side doors with the company's standard folding trap/gate apparatus (such as can be seen on car 1001 at Perris today).

Although the PE listed the cars as non-control trailers, it is interesting to note that they retained features such as pilots and roof gongs which one would not expect to find on a non-control trailer. In the PE's own photograph of car 1046, looking in to the vestibule you can see what looks like an air-brake stand. Examining the cars today, there are holes in the platform floor for brake pipes and controller wiring, and there are also holes in the wall below the front window where you would expect to see a controller and brake stand, all of which tend to suggest the cars retained their operating controls. It is hoped that additional material will come to light in the future to help resolve these questions.

On a related note, various texts on the PE have stated that the company also acquired some steel lattice-work catenary towers from the Visalia Electric. The towers in question were installed between El Sereno and Van Horne Street (a distance of 3160 feet) on the Northern District "Four Tracks". Research for this article revealed this to only be partly true. The November 10, 1929 issue of PE Magazine states: "Lattice steel poles were released from the Visalia Electric Railroad and were cut and made use of on the tops of all the bridges for the support of the 15,000 volt lines". This also explains why no one has been able to find any photos or mention of four-track catenary towers on the Visalia Electric. 

Sister car 202 in service on the Visalia Electric 


Car 1046

The body of car 1046 was acquired by the Museum in 1974, 40 years after its retirement. It had been used for decades as a cabin in Crestline, located in the nearby San Bernardino Mountains . Fortunately, the new owner took excellent care of the car, and as a result the body survived in very good condition. Modifications for use as a cabin included the installation of roofing paper to the exterior sides and roof and the addition of fixed doors (salvaged from other railway cars) to the side doorways.

PE 179 and 1046 in Crestline, 1974. Brian Norden photo.
PE 179 and 1046 in Crestline, 1974. Brian Norden photo.

In general, the weather has taken its toll on the exterior wood, and the exterior of the car is in fair condition. A full examination of the wood siding has never been made because it is still covered with roofing paper. The siding that is visible under the paper looks pretty weathered. Some of the worst damage to the exterior woodwork appears around the buffers at each end of the car, where the wide horizontal surface would trap water. Fortunately, the roof and the windows were always maintained, protecting the interior. The underbody is also in good condition, although the truss rods, bolsters, and other components were removed long ago.

The car was stored outside until 1986, when it was moved inside the then-new Carhouse Four. Because the body bolsters were missing, the car was placed on the underframe of a dismantled tank car in order to make it mobile. Today, the car presents a rather unusual appearance. Sitting atop the tank car frame, with peeling house paint and red roofing paper covering much of its exterior, most people are unaware that the car has one of the most beautiful interiors in our PE collection.

Inside the car, the woodwork is entirely intact and in excellent condition, complete with beautiful inlay work and carved figures. Although the varnish is cracking, and the woodwork shows its age in places, it never received any major damage, nor was it ever covered with any paint. When converted to cabin, all of the seats and armrests were removed and a bathroom was added near the center of the car. The installation of the bathroom was done very carefully, however, causing only minimal damage to the original interior surfaces. The new bathroom even made use of several salvaged railway car parts, including a door, some window guard parts, and an original armrest from the car.

A lot of interior details were simply left in place, including the bronze operating mechanisms for the clerestory windows, the passenger compartment sliding doors, and two of the four folding trap/railing mechanisms on the vestibules. A gleaming coat of PE red paint is still visible inside the vestibules underneath a cracked and shrunken layer of yellow house paint. Even a portion of the gold "PE 1046" lettering is still visible. Likewise, the original etched glass remains intact in the arched upper sash, as does the beautiful stained-glass in the arched clerestory windows. Even the ceiling headliner is intact, although it has received some water damage and was also painted over while the car was used as a cabin.

The museum does own a set of Baldwin MCB-type trucks for the car (acquired from the Chicago Transit Authority in the 1970's), but in order to use them, new body bolsters will have to be fabricated for the car. For now, our focus is on stabilizing the car and protecting the interior woodwork. Toward this goal, we have removed the large collection of spare doors and other parts which had been stored inside, and have covered the clerestory portion of the roof with a heavy-duty tarp.

PE 1046 as it appears today. The carbody has been placed on an old tank car frame in order to make it mobile while it is in storage
PE 1046 as it appears today. The carbody has been placed on an old tank car frame in order to make it mobile while it is in storage
PE 1046 as it appears today. The carbody has been placed on an old tank car frame in order to make it mobile while it is in storage
PE 1046 as it appears today. The carbody has been placed on an old tank car frame in order to make it mobile while it is in storage
PE 1046 as it appears today. The carbody has been placed on an old tank car frame in order to make it mobile while it is in storage
PE 1046 as it appears today. The carbody has been placed on an old tank car frame in order to make it mobile while it is in storage
 


Car (II) 1045

The museum also owns the body of sister car 1045, which after retirement in 1934 became the "Honeymoon Express" diner in the San Fernando Valley . It was donated to the Museum in 1959, but unfortunately suffered a small fire at one end before it was moved. After suffering the ravages of several decades of unprotected outdoor storage, in 1994 the carbody was enclosed inside a tin shed. Although most of the carbody is in very poor condition, it contains a great many parts which could someday be used to restore the 1046, including a nearly complete set of seats and armrests, as well as detail parts like the etched glass for the arched side windows and stained glass clerestory windows, bronze window-operating mechanisms, and other interior fittings.

All of the more fragile parts were removed from the 1045 in 1990 and placed in storage inside the 1046. Another interesting feature of the 1045 is that unlike sister car 1046, the ceiling headliner was never painted. Although badly deteriorated, we were able to salvage a few good samples on which the original gold leaf stripping is still visible. These samples will serve as a guide for future restoration efforts on the 1046. The 1045 is retained as a non-accessioned parts vehicle, and the shed structure keeps it protected from the weather. 


Conclusion

We hope you have enjoyed this look at these two classics in our Pacific Electric collection. The pair represent the only surviving passenger equipment from the Visalia Electric Railway. Who would ever have guessed when the cars were retired in 1934 that both would someday end up preserved at Perris? Needless to say, if you have photographs of cars 1045-1046 on the PE, or the 301-302 on the Visalia Electric, (or know of someone that does) we'd certainly like to hear from you.

Thanks to Dave Garcia, Mark Effle, Craig Rasmussen, Phil Kauke and Warren Buchanan for their assistance in preparing this article. You may also be interested to know that Phil Kauke has written the definitive history of the Visalia Electric, and is working with a publisher which will hopefully release it in the near future. Entitled "The Visalia Electric Railway Company, Southern Pacific's Orange Grove Route ", the 13 chapters will be illustrated with more than 300 photos as well as maps, timetables and a complete roster. (Ed- the book was released in late 2004 by Signature Press).

The above article by John Smatlak originally appeared in the August 1999 issue of the Museum's newsletter, The Gazette. 

OERM 2014 Calendar

OERM 2014 CalendarThe Orange Empire 2014 Calendar titled "The Street Cars of Los Angeles" is now available. Photographs of the Los Angeles Railway and the Pacific Electric Railway in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas enhance each month.. The price is $12.95 each plus sales tax and $5.00 shipping. To order your calendar call 951-943-3020 or e-mail info@oerm.org for more information.