Monday, November 16, 2009

Pacific Electric Railway

Electric trolleys first traveled in Los Angeles in 1887. The Pasadena and Pacific Railway was an 1895 merger between the Pasadena and Los Angeles Railway and the Los Angeles Pacific Railway. The Pasadena and Pacific boosted Southern California tourism by living up to its motto "from the mountains to the sea."

During this time, by consolidation of many smaller railroads, the Pacific Electric Railway was established by railroad and real estate tycoon Henry Huntington in 1901. Henry's uncle, Collis P. Huntington, was one of the founders of the Southern Pacific Railroad and had bequeathed Henry a huge fortune upon his death.

Only a few years after the company's formation, most of Pacific Electric stock was purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which Henry Huntington had tried and failed to gain control of a decade earlier. In 1911, Southern Pacific bought out Huntington except for the LARy, the narrow gauge street car system known locally as Yellow Cars, and SP also purchased several other passenger railways that Huntington owned in the Los Angeles area, including the Pasadena and Pacific.

This resulted in what was called the "Great Merger" of 1911. At this time the Pacific Electric became the largest operator of interurban electric railway passenger service in the world with over 1,000 miles of track. The system ran to destinations all over Southern California, particularly to the south and east.

Major 1920s PE business was "taking the Red Car" for inland folks, such as in the Pasadena area, to the beaches at Santa Monica, Del Rey, Manhattan, Redondo, Hermosa Beach and Long Beach in Los Angeles County and to Newport Beach and Huntington Beach in Orange County.

On weekends, extra service beyond the normal schedules was provided, particularly in the late afternoon when everyone wanted to return at the same time. It was good times for residents of the region and good times for profits for the PE as this was the Roaring Twenties.

The Pacific Electric also ran frequent freight trains under electric power throughout its extensive service area (as far as 55 mile distant San Bernardino and 50 mile distant Redlands near Riverside), including operating electrically-powered Railway Post Office routes, one of the few U.S. interurbans to do so. This provided important revenue.

LINK: Much more at the Metro Library and Archive's on Flickr


Keith said...

I really like all of these. That emblem is great. Hope your week gets off to a good start. Cheers!

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, that color photo is awesome (the black and white ones are very nice too)!!

Thanks for the link to that wonderful flickr page, it's going to keep me busy for a while!!

TokyoMagic! said...

What a shame this system isn't still operating today!