Maureen Megowan's Blog


The Los Angeles and South Bay Red Car Line


                                                                THE RED CAR LINE


Henry Huntington was a very major real estate developer and public utility system tycoon in southern California. In 1901 Huntington formed the Pacific Electric Railway (“PE”) to serve his real estate development aims in the Los Angeles area. The largest of the suburban electric railways operating out of downtown Los Angeles in the early 1900s was not Huntington's Pacific Electric but the Los Angeles Pacific (“LAP”).The heads of LAP also had extensive real estate development projects in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Playa del Rey and Hollywood.



This very extensive railway ran streetcar lines out through Hollywood and suburban trolley lines to Santa Monica, Brentwood, and down the coast to Redondo Beach in what was called the “balloon route”.

In 1906 Edward Harriman, head of the Southern Pacific Railroad, gained control of the Los Angeles Pacific, and finally in 1910 he acquired Huntington's PE, and in 1911 merged the two into Pacific Electric. At that time, all of the transit cars were painted red, leading to the moniker “red car line”


One of the major problems with PE as a passenger railway was that when developers originally invested in the trolley lines to serve their subdivisions, they were interested in providing only the minimum facilities they needed in order to sell real estate, and they were not intended to make money providing passenger service. And in fact the PE passenger operations as a whole never made a profit. The Southern Pacific was willing to accept the perennial operating losses of PE because SP made quite a bit of money off the freight business that was fed to SP by PE. In the '20s to '50s era, PE was the main hauler of freight to and from the combined ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Redondo Beach traffic with Red car tracks and red car in background

The red car line also could never be called “rapid transit”, as it had to slog its way through surface street traffic. They were also very overcrowded. The trip from downtown Los Angeles to Redondo Beach took well over an hour. The increased ownership and convenience of the automobile spelled the demise of the Red Car. The red car line suffered severe operating losses throughout the 1930’s and were slowly replaced by bus service through the 1940’s. The Redondo Beach line was eliminated in 1940. The red car line is now only a nostalgic memory.

 Red car in Manhattan Beach


For more information about Palos Verdes and South Bay Real Estate and buying and selling a home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, visit my website at . I try to make this the best real estate web blog in the South Bay Los Angeles and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I would love to hear your comments or suggestions.

Comment balloon 0 commentsMaureen Megowan • January 29 2013 03:30PM


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