Red Cars – Pacific Electric

Pacific Electric 1Pacific Electric (PE) was America’s largest interurban electric railway system, blanketing the Los Angeles region with more than 1,000 miles of rail lines. The origins of the Red Car system date back to 1895 and the opening of the region’s first electric interurban line connecting Los Angeles with Pasadena. In 1901, real estate and utility tycoon Henry Huntington formed the Pacific Electric, sparking an intense period of interurban expansion and a battle with the Southern Pacific (SP) railroad for control of the region’s electric railways. Huntington sold his interests in the PE to the SP in 1910, and the Great Merger of 1911 consolidated almost all of the region’s interurbans under SP control. In exchange for his interest in the PE, Huntington gained complete control of Los Angeles’ local streetcar system, the Los Angeles Railway.

By 1914, more than 1,600 PE trains entered or left Los Angeles daily over the system’s four operating districts. The system reached its peak in the mid-Twenties; after that, it began a slow decline, halted temporarily by the traffic boom brought on by World War II, and then declining precipitously in the postwar years. In 1953, PE’s remaining passenger operations were sold to transit operator Metropolitan Coach Lines, who in turn sold the remaining lines to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1958. The last remnant of PE’s vast passenger operation, the line to Long Beach, was replaced with busses in 1961.

PE also operated a significant freight business, becoming the third largest originator of on-line freight in California. Many PE rail lines were retained for freight service after passenger operations ended, and several have even returned to transit use as modern light rail and commuter rail lines.

The Museum has a collection of over 35 pieces of rail equipment from the far-flung Red Car empire, including many of the most iconic pieces such as the classic Hollywood Cars of the 1920s and the enormous Blimps that closed out service on the PE in 1961.

City & Suburban Cars

Image No. Type Builder Built Retired Construction Notes
  152 Double-Truck Birney St. Louis 1925 1941   body, on trucks
  179 Submarine Pullman 1912 – 1934   Steel body, on trucks
  331 Birney Brill 1918 – 1941     operational
  332 Birney Brill 1918 – 1941     operational
  511 Baby Five MU Coach St. Louis 1901 – 1934     body, poor condition *Deaccessioned 8/07
  5123 Hollywood Car MU St. Louis 1922 – 1959     complete car, non-op ex PE 626
  524 Baby Five MU Coach St. Louis 1901 – 1934     body
  538 Medium Five MU Coach St. Louis 1909 – 1937   Wood complete car, non-op
  637 Hollywood Car MU St. Louis 1922 – 1959     complete car, non-op. ex PE 5112
  655 Hollywood Car MU St. Louis 1924 – 1954   Steel complete car, non-op ex PE 5094
  716 Hollywood Car MU Brill 1925 – 1959     complete car, non-op ex PE 5166
  717 Hollywood Car MU Brill 1922 – 1959   Steel operational ex PE 5167

Freight Cars

Image No. Type Builder Built Retired Construction Notes
  1905 Flat-Top Caboose LA&R 1896     complete car
  19273 Caboose LV 1926   Wood complete car
  1962 Flat-Top Caboose PE 1939   Wood complete car
  1970 Flat-Top Caboose LS&MS c1915   Wood complete car
  1971 Caboose LS&MS c1915   Wood complete car
  1985 Caboose RF&P 1905   Wood complete car
  2704 Box Car SSC 1924   Composite complete car
  2721 Box Car SSC 1924   Composite complete car
  2729 Box Car SSC 1924   Composite complete car
  2731 Box Car SSC 1924   Composite complete car
  2737 Box Car SSC 1924   Composite complete car

Interurban Cars

Image No. Type Builder Built Retired Construction Notes
  1000 Officer’s Car Jewett 1913 – 1947   Wood body, on trucks
  1001 Ten MU Coach Jewett 1913 – 1954   Wood Operational
  1045 Trailer Coach American 1908 – 1934   Wood body only, non-accessioned
  1046 Trailer Coach American 1908 – 1934   Wood body only, non-accessioned
  1299 Officer’s Car Pullman 1912 / 1958   Steel complete car
  1406 Portland RPO-Baggage Brill 1913 – 1959   Steel body, on trucks
  314 Blimp MU Coach St. Louis 1930 – 1959   Steel / Aluminum Operational
  418 Blimp MU Coach Pullman 1913 – 1961   Steel operational
  498 Blimp MU Baggage / Coac Pullman 1913 – 1959     operational
  993 950 MU Coach St. Louis 1907 – 1950     body, on trucks

Locomotives

Image No. Type Builder Built Retired Construction Notes
  1624 Steeplecab Pacific Electric 1925 1958   Operational

Work Cars

Image No. Type Builder Built Retired Construction Notes
  150 Trolley Wire Greaser LAP 1898 1957   complete car, poor condition, non-op
  157 Tower Car PE 1915 1957 Wood operational