Tracking the slow decline of the Pacific Electric Railway Red Cars – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Sunday, January 03, 2016

The last Red Car rail line shut down in 1961.

But the iconic photo reflecting the decline of once-mighty rail in Los Angeles was taken 60 years ago.

It showed old Pacific Electric red cars sitting at a Terminal Island junkyard, set to become scrap metal.

After World War ll, the Pacific Electric Railway system was slowly dismantled — replaced by buses and freeways.

Sold for scrap

As reported in the March 19, 1956, Los Angeles Times, many of the cars were broken up for scrap:

A host of ghosts hovers over a monumental boneyard on Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor. There at the National Metal & Steel Corp. junkyard the hulks of hundreds of ancient streetcars are coming to rest at an acetylene torch-dissecting demise

Currently some 200 old Pacific Electric red cars are piled three or four high in a mountain of rolling stock junk awaiting the searing knife flame of the torch.

The cars, most of which rolled to their doom on their own wheels down Harbor Belt Line tracks to the yard, are stockpiled near the water’s edge. One at a time gantry cranes lift them down to the waiting men with torches and huge alligator-jawed cutting machines…

After being dismantled, the scrap metal was sold locally or shipped overseas. The recycling continued for several years.

The slow decline

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