The Tournament of Roses held on January 2, 1939, marked the fiftieth anniversary of this famous floral pageant. Movie star Shirley Temple was Grand Marshall that year, there were sixty floats devoted to the theme "Golden Memories", and PE had its own reviewing stand at the corner of Lake and Colorado where for $2.20 its patrons could "view the parade from one of the most advantageous locations in Pasadena."
To carry its thousands of patrons to Pasadena, PE trains ran on extremely frequent headway over four routes from 4:45 AM to 1:00 PM. In addition to through trains run to Pasadena from other cities, Pacific Electric's Los Angeles-Pasadena service operated over the Pasadena Short Line, the Oak Knoll Line, the Sierra Madre Line, and the South Pasadena Line. The Northern District and the Southern District were denuded of cars, and the Western District sent over a hundred cars for the day. Thus the sight of sights on any part of the PE system at any time was the Pasadena area on New Years Day. Virtually every type of interurban, suburban and city car could be seen in juxtaposition, creating unusually interesting scenes for the PE aficionado---950s cheek-by-jowl, with 1200s, 750s from Hollywood-Venice and 735s from the Valley (in their red & cream ) rubbing fenders with Birneys as well as combos vying for a space with the 450s.
As the Rose Parade got under way about 9:30 AM and made its triumphant entry into the downtown section, it progressively cut off PE's Colorado Street trackage, backbone of the Pasadena rail network. For the next three hours, trains turned back a block or so south of Colorado and parked in a solid string of cars stretching for several blocks. This unusual sight could be seen on Fair Oaks, Lake and Sierra Madre Boulevard. As soon as the parade passed, spectators began their exodus and the red cars were soon moving back to Los Angeles in a solid stream. Coming against them by this time were Santa Anita and Rose Bowl extras, continuing the stirring spectacle. A mid-afternoon lull followed, only to be climaxed by the dusk onslaught of the big red trains back to the Main Street Station as Santa Anita and the Rose Bowl released their masses.
The Pasadena Star reviewing the Tournament of Roses on January 2, 1902, stated:
"Electric cars brought 9,500 to Pasadena from Los Angeles to view the Rose Parade. This was equal to all passengers brought by the three steam roads together."
The following year this same newspaper reported:
"PE had 15 cars in operation on the Short Line and 50 on the Main Line (South Pasadena Line). 12,000 people were carried, the largest one-day business the company ever had."
The figure climbed steeply as the years went by, apparently reaching a peak in 1921 when 41,000 people rode Pacific Electric trains to Pasadena. Complete figures on passenger travel via PE cars to the Rose Parade are unobtainable, but here is a partial list:
|These totals are to the nearest hundred. The small amount of traffic shown for 1934 was due to severe floods, rail lines being largely impassable because of torrential rains.
The Tournament of Roses was cancelled during World War II, and after resumption in 1946, traffic never reached the high levels of the early 1920s. The 1947 total was about 27,000 and in 1948 some 22,000 people rode the big red cars to Pasadena on New Year's Day. The 1948 total was moved in 441 three-car trains, compared to a normal day of 208 one-and two-car trains. All Pasadena trains were routed in a loop through Los Angeles' 6th & Main Street Station---a once-a-year operation. Both the Southern and Western Districts loaned trains and crews; Western District cars had to be deadheaded twenty miles via Culver City and the Santa Monica Air Line after trackage on Sixth Street downtown was abandoned in 1947. To permit safe operation over the Santa Monica Air Line, all freight service between Culver Junction and Amoco Junction was discontinued between 12:01 AM and 10:00 PM on New Year's Day, 1948, 1949 and up to final abandonment of the Pasadena Short Line in 1951. The deadheading and extra service required extra help, not only from trainmen but from standby repair crews, ticket sellers, towermen, signalmen, dispatchers, switchmen and officials from early dawn to midnight of New Year's Day. More over, most trainmen were forced to spend more time deadheading equipment and standing by during the Rose Parade and football game than in actually hauling passengers. Hence Pacific Electric could claim without fear of contradiction that its New Year's Day traffic was all work and little profit.
Great credit should go to trainmen for the extremely low accident figures turned in on New Year's Day. In spite of the difficulties to be expected from green crews from other districts, the Pasadena traffic was usually handled with very few accidents. In 1948, for instance, there was but one major accident and two minor ones all day. Every precaution was taken to expedite traffic. At key points on the Short Line, the Oak Knoll Avenue Line and the Arcadia Line(for Santa Anita), special supervisors were stationed to assist trainmen to keep their trains moving on schedule time and with the greatest possible safety.
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