PE Car No. 5000 poses in sunlight, wearing a post-World War II version of its livery, with the original silver roof replaced by tan and the “Pacific Electric” lettering replaced by a logo.
This is the third in a series of posts concerning which historic paint schemes, or “liveries,” should be applied to three of the double-ended “torpedo” PCC streetcars about to be restored by Muni. (They’ve asked Market Street Railway for input, as their non-profit preservation partner, but the final decision is theirs.)
We’re taking a look at the different possibilities being considered, with our first focus on cities that actually ran double-end PCCs at one time. We’ve already looked at Dallas, Texas and Boston, Massachusetts. Now we look at Pacific Electric.
Of all the discussions about streetcar liveries involving Muni’s PCC fleet, none has been as intense as the one over the iconic Pacific Electric livery. This legendary system once served much of Southern California, from San Bernardino to Santa Monica. PCCs, though, were a tiny part of its fleet (just 30 cars) and, during their P-E service, from 1940 to 1955, were used primarily on just one line, from downtown LA to Burbank and Glendale (though for a brief period they also served Venice and Hollywood).
Pacific Electric was mainly what was called an “interurban” system. Interurban lines were typically longer distance than normal streetcar lines with larger, heavier duty vehicles. In many ways it was like modern light-rail, Pacific Electric even had two-car trains like Muni Metro today. This was complemented by a separate narrow-gauge local streetcar system owned first by Los Angeles Railways, later by National City Lines, and finally, by the then-regional transit agency. Two different eras of that narrow-gauge LA system are represented in Muni’s fleet by single end PCC car No. 1052 and car No. 1080.
The “wings” motif flowed from front to back from the passenger side, but from the other side, as here, they appeared to be going backward. Joe Testagroce collection.
Pacific Electric was owned by Southern Pacific Railroad, which favored at the time a striking red, orange and silver paint scheme on its “Daylight” train service between LA and San Francisco. This striking scheme also graced most Pacific Electric streetcars, none as strikingly as the streamlined PCCs, on which the Art Deco “wings” looked right at home on the car ends and sides.
P-E’s PCCs were double-ended, like four of the PCCs Muni is now restoring for F-line (and future E-line) service. But unlike any other double-ended PCCs in America, they featured doors at one end and at the center of the car, just like typical single-end PCCs. So when it came time to choose the liveries for Muni’s first batch of F-line PCCs in the 1990s, there was a conundrum.
Muni’s Pacific Electric “tribute livery,” viewed from the door side. Richard Panse photo.
If the Pacific Electric livery was applied to a single-end car, it would look “right” (i.e. more like the original) on the side of the car with the doors. On the other, “blind” side (with no doors), not so much. Yet on a double-end Muni car, it wouldn’t look accurate on either side, because the Muni double-enders have the doors at either end, none in the center. The first time around, Muni chose the single-end option and painted PCC No. 1061 to honor Pacific Electric.
Muni’s Pacific Electric “tribute livery,” viewed from the blind side. Steve Ferrario photo.
This hasn’t stopped the debate, though. Each side has its partisans. What is beyond debate is that as currently painted, No. 1061 is one of the most striking cars in the F-line fleet, based on the photos of 1061 submitted to our Flickr group and the cars chosen for use in professional photo and video shoots, as well as those images used by Muni itself to promote the F-line.
So we ask which of these options you prefer: should one of the double-end PCCs be painted in the Pacific Electric scheme? If so, should car No. 1061 be repainted, or should we have two of this striking design?
Make your opinion known below, or to comment privately, email firstname.lastname@example.org.