Pacific Electric Railway

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox SGRailroad The Pacific Electric Railway Template:Reporting mark, also known as the Red Car system, was a mass transit system in Southern California using streetcars, light rail and buses. At its greatest extent, the system connected cities in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, and the Inland Empire.

The system was divided into three districts:

The Pacific Electric Railway was established by Henry Huntington in 1901. Henry's uncle, Collis 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's 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 completely and also purchased several other passenger railway operators in the Los Angeles area, including the Los Angeles Pacific, resulting in the "Great Merger" of 1911. At this point the Pacific Electric became the largest operator of interurban electric railway passenger service in the world, with over 1,000 miles of track. Henry Huntington then purchased the company which provided local streetcar service in central Los Angeles and nearby communities, the Los Angeles Railway (LARy). These were known as the "Yellow Cars," and actually carried more passengers than the PE's "Template:Color."

Pacific Electric passenger service was sold off in 1953 to a company known as Metropolitan Coach Lines, whose intention was to convert all rail service to bus service as quickly as possible. Many of the Pacific Electric passenger lines were shut down in 1954, but the California state government would not allow the most popular lines to be discontinued. In 1958, Metropolitan Coach Lines relinquished control of the remaining rail lines to a government agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which also took over the remaining streetcar lines of the successor of the Los Angeles Railway, the Los Angeles Transit Lines. Only a handful of electric train lines remained operating at that time and the conventional wisdom held that their days were numbered. The last passenger line of the Pacific Electric, the line from Los Angeles to Long Beach, continued until April 9, 1961. With the closure of the Long Beach line, the final link in the system as well as the PE's first line some sixty years prior, was eliminated. The PE's freight service was continued by the Southern Pacific Railroad and operated under the Pacific Electric name through 1964. The few remaining former Los Angeles Railway streetcar lines were removed in 1963.

Missing image
San Francisco Municipal Railway #1061, a rebuilt PCC streetcar painted in honor of the Pacific Electric, is seen in service on the F Market heritage line of the San Francisco Municipal Railway transit system in December, 2004. This car is single-ended, while Pacific Electric only operated double-ended PCC's.

The majority of the surviving pieces of Pacific Electric rolling stock can be both viewed and ridden at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris.

The end of the Red Cars has been tied by some to the alleged General Motors streetcar conspiracy, in which a consortium of General Motors, Standard Oil, and others formed a front company, National City Lines, in order to buy streetcar lines, shut them down, and replace them with buses. The plot of the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit is loosely based on this theory.

The PE was also responsible for an innovation in grade crossing safety that was quickly adopted by other railroads, a fully automatic electromechanical grade crossing signal nicknamed the wigwag.

In 1989, electric rail passenger train service once again became available to the citizens of Los Angeles with the opening of the Template:Color, which ran from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach using mostly the same trackage as the original Pacific Electric line that was removed in 1961. The construction of the line was instigated by the Los Angeles Country Transportation Commission and the Los Angeles County Rapid Transit District, two public agencies which in 1993 were combined to form the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (which was not related to the 1958 agency of the same name). Since that time, a subway and two other surface rail lines have opened for use in the Los Angeles area, with more construction underway and in the planning stages.

External links

Missing image
A Pacific Electric Railway company depot in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1910.
Missing image
A streetcar of the Pacific Electric Railway makes a stop at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel (just outside the City of Los Angeles), circa 1905.

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