Facebook Page

Red Car Revival: the San Pedro Waterfront Trolley

by Chris Guenzler

The Pacific Electric, Southern California's leading passenger rail carrier reached San Pedro via Dominquez from Wilmington on July 5,1905. This line used the famous bascule bridge to reach San Pedro and ran from Wilmington. On July 25, 1910 a PE line from Long Beach reached San Pedro until January 2, 1949. A PE line via Torrance reached the Port City on March 19,1912 and lasted until January 15,1940. PE also had some local lines out of San Pedro. The Port Fermin Line 2.33 miles ran from 1911 to 1934. The La Ramba Line 1.52 miles ran from 1905 to 1938. The 14th Street Line 1.88 miles ran from 1911 to 1915 and the San Pedro Outer Harbor Line 0.18 miles ran from 1911 to 1916. The Downtown San Pedro Pacific Electric Station was located at 6th and Harbor Drive. The PE Line to San Pedro which survived the longest was the San Pedro via Dominquez Line with its last day of service on December 7,1958.

Jump to 1995 when a Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed by the Board of Harbor Commissioners proposed a rail line to link the "String of Pearls" attractions along San Pedro's Waterfront. In 1998, the Pacific Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee recommended a passenger rail connection between the Cruise Ship Terminal and 22nd Street the site of future development. Stops would also be at 6th Street, Downtown and Port O'Call Village.

The cars to be used on this future 1.5 mile Waterfront Rail Line provides an interesting story in itself. Car 1058 a vintage Red Car began its life as a Pacific Electric 950-Class Car being built as a standard wooden car number 953 in 1907. The car was found after its retirement in 1950 in a Water Heating Company in Compton in very bad shape by Richard Fellows. He saved the car and moved it to his boat yard which was next to National Metals on Terminal Island back in those days. Richard liked the PE 1000 series cars so he lengthen the frame to restore it as PE 1058 one number higher than the last 1000 car built for PE. Fellows wanted to run it on the streets as a bus so he added four rubber tires, a gasoline engine and a brake system. The car's dead mans pedal became the gas pedal, the air valves came from a PE Blimp and the BG VE5 Universal Valve came from a New York City Subway Car then rebuilt. A few years passed before Richard drowned off of Huntington Beach in 1997 ending the life of a very important player in our story. The car was moved to storage in Vernon where Richard also had collected the PE 524 {body and parts}, PE 655 and PE 950. Through an auction the PE 524 and 950 went to the Orange Empire Railway Museum {OERM} out in Perris, California. Later, Mrs. Fellows donated the PE 655 to the OERM. Moving ahead again to 1998. Bob Henry, the Port's Project Manager "made one hell of a sales pitch" to acquire the 1058 for the future service on the Waterfront Streetcar Line.

The 1058 was taken to Wilmington where FMN Roger Fruerhing was contacted to return the bus to a rail car. He managed to get motors from Japan with US Baldwin Parts. They received one GE Motor and three excellent Japanese copies. They replaced the spoke wheels with AAR Wheels from ABC Rail out in Palmdale. The Air Brakes 26R is of standard cab car design and the compressor is a Wabco New York City Subway model. The new PE 1058 was painted in "Pacific Electric Red" which was adopted by the PE in 1939. The woods used in the car were Mahogany on the interior, Poplar exterior paneling and Ash for the seats. The 1058 is 55 feet, 7 inches long and weighs 80,000 lbs. It seats 54 with room for 78 passengers standing. This car will be used mainly for a spare but will be available for Charter Services and special operations.

The two replica cars the 500 and 501 are being built from scratch from the ground up. 501 was completed in time for the opening day trips but the 500 will be completed sometime in the next couple months if all goes right. They are based on drawings of the PE 500 Class Cars that ran from 1902 to 1930. The skilled craftsman from the Port of Los Angeles Construction and Maintenance Division built these two beautiful replica cars 500 and 501. One year ago the skeletons of the cars arrived from Seattle and the Port knew they had to do the work themselves to complete the project on time. It was an excellent project to undertake and we should now thank the people who made these two cars plus restored the 1058. Project Manager was Bob Henry and Construction Supervisor was Michael Scurlock. Carpenters Ron Hayes, Timothy Buxton, Kent Schumann, Jesse Cruz and Raymond Chen. Electrical work was done by Michael DeLong and Joseph Bulqueim. The Metal work was completed by Albert Baca, Bud Renner, Joseph Trujeque and Charles Parsons. The Painters were Gary McAngus, Joe Soto, Shimon Shaibi, Thomas Biernat and Gene Volynsky. Each of these very talented people contributed to the success of reproducing the elegant and historical representation from the bygone Pacific Electric Era in Southern California. The 500 and 501 are painted in "No 1 Electric Line Red" adopted by the PE in 1915. The cars are 43 feet long and weigh 58,500 lbs. They seat 48 with space for 42 passengers standing. Inside each car patrons will experience the early 20th Century complete with authentic product advertisements. The 1.5 mile line was part of this 9.5 million dollar project that was built by the Port of Los Angeles. The line can accommodate the trolley with its 600 volt DC overhead wiring. The line is shared with freight traffic at night and derails are in place at each location where a freight could enter the line while the trolley service is in operation. The four stations are ADA complaint high level platform with ramps that make loading wheelchairs easy. Each trolley can accommodate wheel chairs so anybody can ride these wonderful cars. Service is on Friday through Mondays.

Opening Day 7/19/2003

I was up early and following doing some domestic chores around the house, I called Richard telling him I was on my way. I drove to Long Beach meeting Richard at the Bayshore Marina. We drove over to Wilmington where I caught a Pacific Harbor Line engine running light.

We went over to the PHL Pier A Yard catching the "Green Goat" switcher at work.

I took a few pictures from every angle of the "Green Goat". The Green Goat is an innovative switcher concept that uses all batteries for power and has a small engine that recharges the batteries. It really a nice engine and very non polluting to the surrounding environment. We drove over to San Pedro. We went to the Marina Station where the car tent is located. In a trailer David L Garcia of Herzog Transit Services Inc. gave us a nice interview about the project and the cars. From there we drove to the Port O' Call Station where we found the two Red Cars getting ready to head to the opening ceremonies.

After a few pictures of the car, Richard and I managed to get aboard the 501 for the trip to the opening ceremonies. What a fantastic job they did building this car as it is fantastic both inside and out. The 1058 ahead of us and our 501 both are carrying the VIP's to the opening. Once on the move we followed the 1058 to the Downtown Station at 6th and Harbor Drive. After the 1058 had unloaded and pulled forward, it was our turn to pull in to the cheers of the crowd and the rolls of the drums.

The Opening Ceremonies 7/19/2003

The ceremony started at approximately 11:25 AM with the Pledge of Allegiance then the remarks started with Bob Henry mentioning that Richard Fellows "restored" the 1058 car in the 1960's. It had been mounted on tandem truck axles and used around the port area like a bus. Mr. Henry then introduced Lois Fellows who was in the audience. City of Los Angeles Deputy of Operations Mayor Don Lui thanked the Harbor Department on behalf of Mayor Jim Hahn. Next speaker was Los Angeles City Councilwoman the Honorable Janice Hahn from District 15 {the harbor area}. She spoke of the past and future for the harbor. The late Kenneth Hahn, father of Mayor Jim Hahn and Janice Hahn, took them for a ride on the last day Red Car Service to Long Beach to Los Angeles in 1961. Hahn then spoke of the future grand redevelopment of the port area. Another restored bit of the past is the Cabrillo Bathhouse. Janice Hahn then honored Bob Henry and 4th District LA City Councilman Tom LeBonge with an award. The next speaker was Tom LeBonge who mentioned that the redevelopment of the port will stretch from the Vincent Thomas Bridge to the breakwater. Betty Karnette, 27th District State Senator was the following speaker and told the audience that she too grew up in Southern California and rode the Red Cars. Debra Bowen, State Senator 28th District told those gathered that lots of paperwork was involved in getting the Red Cars back on track and running. Several of the speakers got a running joke started saying that lots of paperwork was required by Sacramento, whoops, San Francisco, where the California State Public Utilities Commission is located. Tom Warren, Harbor Commissioner, also spoke of the bridge to breakwater plan which will feature a promenade, with the plan due in 2004. Leslie Smith of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce said a few words and the last speaker was Larry Keller, Port of LA executive director. Keller acknowledged the Harbor Commission. This finished the dedication ceremony and then public rides commenced.

Now for the Ride

We reboarded Car 501 and we headed south back to Ports O'Call where most of the VIP's left and we picked up a few more passengers. The 501 headed beneath the bluffs to the west then passed the car tent to the Marina Station where a connection to the Rubber Tired Trolley that could take you to the Cabrillo Aquarium, Cabrillo Beach and the Cabrillo Fishing Pier. The operator reversed the trolley poles and we the passengers flipped the seats. We headed north back by Ports O'Call making a stop there before running along Harbor Drive to the Downtown Station back at 6th and Harbor Drive. Here you can transfer to the Rubber Tired Trolley Line through the Historic Downtown San Pedro. This is also the stop for the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. The 1058 was sitting on the passing track as we boarded more passengers from the long lines which had formed. We traveled north after passing the 1058 by the large parking lots used by the cruise ship passengers cars and continued north along Harbor Drive. We came to a stop at the World Cruise Center Station with the Vincent Thomas Bridge just to the north. Here we repeated the pole changing and seat flipping ritual. After a prolong wait to let the 1058 get back to near the Downtown Station, we traveled south to the passing track and ducked into it. The 1068 only has one door so it takes longer to load and unload than the 501 with its two doors. Once the 1058 had passed north, we pulled into the Downtown Station where Richard as well as most of the car detrained and I stayed on to get back to my car at Ports O' Call. I thanked the crew for a most wonderful experience before I set up for a runby of the 501 as it headed towards the Marina Station.

Once that was finished, I drove north parking on Harbor drive opposite the Downtown Station arriving in time to see the arrival of the 1058 into the passing track.

I picked up my Press Kit before finding Richard in the crowd. I talked briefly with Ken Ruben, the official caller of Lets Talk Trains and then found my good friend Barry Christensen photographing the arrival of the 1058 into the Downtown Station.

Following a few more pictures, I dropped Richard off in Long Beach before I headed home to Santa Ana ending a very interesting day of riding and learning about the San Pedro Waterfront Trolley. A very special thanks to all the people who made this day possible and to Richard Elgenson for most of the opening ceremonies material.