Southern California once boasted one of the great interurban systems in the world–the mighty Pacific Electric (PE)–running from LA east to San Bernardino, west to Santa Monica, south to Long Beach and beyond as far as Newport Beach. The “Big Red Cars”, as all PE equipment was known to Southern Californians, covered hundreds of miles of track.
Developed by Henry Huntington, nephew of one of the titans who built the Southern Pacific Railroad, the PE contributed significantly to the development of Southern California, by Huntington’s design. Neighborhoods and even whole cities, including the modestly named Huntington Beach, came into existence as a direct result of PE service.
Huntington owned a second streetcar system, Los Angeles Railway (represented in Muni’s fleet by Car No. 1052), which served the more urbanized core of LA and actually carried more passengers than PE.
In 1940, PE bought 30 PCCs in a unique design, double-ended with front and center doors. The decision may have been partly politically driven. In 1936, PE had largely converted its line connecting Downtown LA with Glendale and Burbank to buses. Residents complained so loudly to the California State Railroad Commission that PE was pressured to restore full-time rail service and used the PCCs to do so.
Trains of up to three PCCs ran from the Subway Terminal Building downtown through a tunnel almost a mile long, and then over trestles, streets, and private right-of-way to Burbank and Glendale. For a time in the early 1940s, PCCs helped out on the busy Venice-Hollywood line as well.
Three years after their 1955 retirement, the 30 PE PCCs were sold to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they served only briefly. Then, in 1960, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA), successor to both PE and LA Railway, fitted out a single-end ex-LA Railway PCC with standard gauge trucks (borrowed from Muni!) and tested it on PE’s former (but still busy) LA-Long Beach line. Maybe the test would have worked better if they had used larger, multiple-unit, double-end PCCs, like the ones they had just shipped to South America!
Muni No. 1061 is painted in the red, orange, and silver livery of the PE PCCs, inspired by the ‘Daylight’ train colors of PE’s big brother Southern Pacific. Today, every F-line trip passes SP’s old headquarters at One Market Street.
» Los Angeles Railways No. 1052
» Los Angeles Transit Lines No. 1080
Philadelphia Transportation Company, Philadelphia PA, 1948 (as car No. 2116)
**Acquired by Muni from**
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia PA, 1992
St. Louis Car Co.
4 Westinghouse 1432J