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WPacific Electric logoPacific Electric
Lines Of The Northern District

WThroughout most of its existance, the PE divided itself into three main divisions for ease and efficiency of operation. These were the Northern District, the Southern District and the Western District. Each district was physically semi-independent of the others and might be said to constitute an electric railway system in its own right.

WOf these three divisions, the Northern District was first to open, first to close, and the largest throughout most of its history. It sprawled from Los Angeles to Redlands -- from Ye Alpine Tavern to Corona -- totaling approximately 400 miles of trackage divided into 33 separate lines; compare this with the Southern District (400 miles, 17 lines) and the Western (260 miles, 12 lines). These figures are for December, 1916 when PE sent out 6200 electric trains daily over 1061 miles of track. The Northern District took its place at the head of this great rail system from the very start; in 1914, for instance, the comparison was as follows:

Pacific Electric Lines, 1914
Northern807 trains1098 cars daily
Southern424 trains598 cars daily
Western395 trains566 cars daily

WEven in 1948, when the end was drawing near, the five remaining interurban lines of the Northern District carried 42.64% of the total passengers carried on all interurban lines of the PE.

WYes, the North was distinctive and had a character all its own. It shared the 6th & Main Station with the Southern District, but it had its own shops at Macy Street capable of performing all but the very heaviest repairs on cars and locomotives; it had the unique box-motor terminal at the Union Passenger Station; it had State Street Yards, one of the heaviest freight points on the PE; it had PE's only 1200 volt line which also was PE's longest and fastest line; it had the highest of all PE bridges, and the most massive bridge; it had the wonderful Mount Lowe Line, which took the traveler up through the clouds to enjoy a never-to-be-forgotton vacation; it featured staff operation over the tracks of a steam railroad; and it included numerous city systems, each operated within its own tiny world as a separate microcosm. Today all this has gone and remnants we still have are devoted to diesel locomotives wheeling freight cars. But the old glory is still there if one will but look for it -- and that is the purpose of this work.

Henry E. Huntington:
WWhen Henry E. Huntington purchased the Los Angeles & Pasadena Electric Railway in 1898 (see South Pasadena Line), he obtained a foothold in the rich San Gabriel Valley which he was not slow in exploiting to the utmost. Within three years, the now--familliar form of the Northern District began to take shape. Built together with in 1902 were the Alhambra and Pasadena Short Lines; when they were completed, the gangs of laborers were transfered to the Monrovia Line and it was completed in 1903. Between then and 1910 the Sierra Madre Line, the Oak Knoll Line, the Sierra Vista Local Line, the Covina Line, the Annandale Line, and numerous local lines were constructed, each to the highest standards prevailing. So it was that the lush, beautiful San Gabriel Valley was criss-crossed by lines of the Huntington System. By 1910 it was virtually impossible to get beyond the sound of the red cars' whistles.

WHuntington, shrewd as they come, reaped a double profit. Before building his interurban lines, he purchased large acreages of the most desirable land. Then came his electric line into that city -- and his subdivisions opened as regularly and profitably as his red car lines. Clearly did he understand the tie-in between subdividing vacant land and providing speedy, economical transportation to Los Angeles. The communities of El Sereno, Sierra Vista, Oneonta Park, El Molino, San Marino and others were brought into existance by Huntington -- while older cities such as Alhambra, South Pasadena, Pasadena, Altadena, Monrovia and Glendora were awakened and stimulated to new heights of growth and commercial importance because of Huntinton's big red cars.

WThe development of the private automobile and good roads brought about a state of affairs which Huntington could not have forseen. Additional grade crossings and traffic congestion cut down the speed of the red trains; communities imposed local speed restrictions on them; gradually the red cars were throttled by settlements they had brought into being. As their speed was cut down, the attraction of the private auto grew. It was a vicious circle, and the PE was the loser.

WBusiness steadily dwindled, and as money grew scarce, track maintenance was deferred and rolling stock was not kept up to date. As early as June, 1937, PE sought permission to abandon rail service to Pasadena, replacing it with motor coaches running on the Arroyo Seco Parkway. This application and others were held in abeyance for several years; World War II caused the State Railroad Commission to dismiss them. However, PE did succeed in abandoning rail service between Los Angeles and Alhambra, San Gabriel and Temple City in November, 1941, and the San Bernardino Line lost rail passenger service beyond Corona at the same time.

WThe War brought about improved traffic conditions, but immediately after the war ended, passenger patronage began a steady continuous decline. By 1949 the situation became intolerable and PE asked permission to abandon all rail passenger service on the Northern District. Before so doing, PE investigated three possible courses:

  1. Rehabilitating rail passenger service with PCC cars and major track improvements.
  2. Instituting a rail shuttle service between 6th & Main Station and Sierra Vista, there transferring passengers to motor coaches.
  3. Complete bus substitution.

WThe first proposal called for 101 PCC cars at a cost of $40,000 each. Rail facilities at Main Street Station would have to be expanded, two additional tracks would be required from Valley Junction to Indian Village, Macy Street Shops would have had to be enlarged, and certain other lesser improvements accomplished. To bring trackage up to PCC standards would have required almost $3 millions alone. Altogether this proposal would have cost $9,356,000 which PE claimed it did not have, nor could it borrow such a large amount.

WThe second proposal was considered seriously for a time. Motor coach routes were laid out, operating schedules prepared for both rail and motor coach lines, and financial estimates were prepared. The results of the analysis indicated that this shuttle operation would in a net annual operating loss of $90,000. The big advantage of this plan would have been to cut down the number of units operating in the streets of the congested metropolitan district, especially during the peak periods, but this advantage was considered to be outweighed by the relative inconvenience to passengers destined beyond Sierra Vista.

WThe third proposal was thereupon decided as the logical choice, even though it meant abandoning facilites having an estimated ledger value of approximately $5 millions.

WThe Public Utilities Commission and other regulatory bodies granted PE permission to abandon rail passenger service on the Sierra Madre Line, the Baldwin Park Line and the Oak Knoll Line in 1950; the abandonments were accomplished in October of that year. The remaining lines continued to operate (using one-man 5050 Class cars on the Pasadena Short Line and Sierra Vista Line) until September 30, 1951 when they were replaced by motor coaches. The State precipitated the latter abandonment by preempting Aliso Street in Los Angeles for a freeway project; PE claimed it was unable to bear its share of the cost of relocating its tracks.

WTrackage on San Pedro Street (Los Angeles) from Sixth Street to Fourth Street and between Valley Junction and Indian Village for freight use. Removal of rails on Abandoned lines was accomplished in 1952.

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