TIMEPOINTS VOL 2 NO 04 April 1951
THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TRACTION REVIEW
FEATURE ARTICLE .............By Malcolm D. Isely
HUMAN DRAWBACKS TO THE LARGE STREETCAR
(SC-ERA President Isely, an LATL motorman until recently, continues his series on the future possibilities of the electric railway in America, earlier articles of which appeared in the September, November, and February TIMEPOINTS - Ed.)
The advantages of a big transit vehicle could be many. With automatic turnstile conductors the problem of expensive labor versus low fares would be pushed into the background. Reserve capacity could also be kept in each car. Every day there are sudden changes in riding, which are apparently based on nothing more predictable than human caprice. They may be general throughout the property, or quite local in nature. Other public utilities, faced with a similar problem, maintain standby facilities--only transit loads to estimated capacity and hopes for the best. Needles to say its customers are often disappointed.
The drawbacks of a large car exist mainly in the minds of transit managements and equipment manufactures that apparently view the problem from the very narrowest outlook of the investor. Admittedly the investor has not much leeway of capital today, but he still takes quite a shellacking for that very reason. A little additional risk capital in transit could cause a major and we believe profitable revolution. The poor, tired old worrywart investor, trying to keep his present holdings without any further investment, is likely to say, “My father stood on a streetcar, my grandfather stood on a streetcar, and that’s good enough for me.” Only it isn’t. He drives to work in his own car. His hopeless outlook, though stymies progress.
Suppose that a new MU unit for one-man operation, as large as two PCC cars, were to be operated on a typical property. The scheduling department would start figuring how the car could be made to do the work of two PCCs. The traffic department would begin to hail the car as a cure-all for over-crowding, which it would not be after the schedule department got through. The safety department would hamstring it with a set of rules designed to relieve the safety department of all responsibility in event of an accident. The operating department would let it tie up traffic because it would not fit existing zones. The union would demand an extra man on it, and the local auto club would damn it because it was not an automotive vehicle.
The car’s sponsors should adopt a positive “this-will-work” attitude. The union should be consulted and sold on the very real advantages of such a car to platform men. The city fathers should be told in advance: “Here is one solution to the traffic problem. We need longer loading zones, like they have in Hollywood, to made it work.” The car should be well publicized to the general public. The auto club should be made to understand that the car could attract dumb drivers off the streets, leaving them freer for club members’ cars. All departments should understand the possibilities and limitations of the car and these departments should understand top-management’s determination to produce with it a greatly improved ride, as well as to reduce costs.
Above all, top management should have just that determination. The operation of one car for the purpose of shaking down mechanical bugs might be necessary but one car couldn’t prove much about itself from an economic or service viewpoint. A whole line should be equipped and, if the one line were chosen to pay the deficit on the rest of the system (as Woodward is doing in Detroit-Ed.) It might do just that, but the service (on the remaining lines) would still be poor while the union would still be anarchistic and desperate, short-sighted management would gain nothing of permanent importance for the investors.
Unless everyone shares the benefits those who are left out will fight for their share, and when people are as close to and dependent upon each other as they are in big city transit, they cannot fight without hurting their own interests. Management, with the new car, adequate capitalization, and an unexpected show of public spirit, might reverse what, for want of a better name, we call the “rat-race trend” in public transit.
(M.D. Isley’s series will continue in the June TIMEPOINTS, with an article on “The light-Weight Streetcar.” For a criticism of his February article on “One Way to Save Platform Labor,” see Letters to the Editor section.
FEATURE ARTICLE (2) .........................By Andrew M. Payne
PLEASE PARDON MY AIR!
(SC-ERA member Payne is motorman on the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and has been persuaded to recount his impressions and experiences while on the job, thus giving TIMEPOINTS a more human quality than has hitherto been possible-Ed.)
Those of you who have often had the desire to be, but never actually have been an electric railway motorman, you no doubt wonder if such a job is a good deal of fun, or is it, after a fashion, just another form of work, or just what is it really like?
Actually, I believe it is a little of both, but not necessarily in the sense that one might understand from being merely a passenger upon any of many electric railways, because operating an electric car you do not always observe things in the same light that you would when just going along for the ride. Naturally one cannot spend all his time gazing at the scenery and expect to operate an electric car, nor on the other hand it is the same thing day after day, day in, day out, as it is in many other types of work. Something usually happens to break the monotony, and that is the main reason why many of us are motormen. Operating over the few remaining narrow-gauge car line of the LATL, especially the 5 line and more specifically the owls of that line, as I have been doing the past few years, one is apt to run across some amusing experiences.
One such incident occurred while I was taking a vacation from my usual run, the 5 owl, and was giving one of the 7 owls a try. Upon arriving at Manchester and Broadway in the wee hours of one cold winter morning, my attention was diverted toward the rear of the car by the dull thud of one somewhat inebriated individual falling out of one of the seat. “Hey, where the hell we at?” blurted the rudely awakened sleeper. Right off the bat, one of the passengers yelled back, “Salt Lake City.” To which came the reply, “Well, geeze, lemme off, I wanted off back in L.A.” I don’t believe I have ever disposed of a drunk with as little effort since.
Of course not everyone that rides the owls is intoxicated, contrary to the opinions of some individuals I know.
I have one certain night in mind, when I caught my leader on the 5 line on his last trip. I saw his car sitting at Avenue 28 and Idell, just outside Division 5, and after pulling up behind him, went to see what was going on. It seems that at 7th and Broadway a woman who was waiting for her change sneezed and dropped her partial front plate into the farebox! The operator was really in a dither at what to do at first. When he reached First Street, he called he dispatcher on the company phone and explained the details of the incident. The dispatcher (never having heard of anyone dropping their false teeth into the fare-box before) wanted to know what the operator had been drinking. After convincing the D.S. that he needed a fare-box change, the operator went on his way. Of course this caused much amusement among the passengers, but the poor woman was wondering how she was going to get her teeth back. When the mechanic with the new fare-box met the operator outside Division 3, he was accompanied by a couple of special agents who wanted to smell the operator’s breath! After viewing the evidence, they looked at each other, scratched their heads, and were gone. Being around Yule time, the passengers just couldn’t resist, and broke out in song with “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.”
In those good old days on the 5 line, before one-man operation and the over-dose of traffic lights that now exists, I used to get quite a variety of equipment to operate, the best of which was and in my mind always will be 950 (ex-funeral car used on SC-ERA’s July 16, 1950, excursion-Ed.). With this car it was next to impossible to run late. The 600s were good, but not quite as good as the 950. Although I used to run 950 almost regularly, I still spent a good deal of my time running the 1100s, most of which were lemons as far as riding qualities go. I don’t believe I ever had more fuses blow on me that I did with this type of equipment. One night when all the streetlights were out on Broadway the ribbon fuse let go on the 1165 just as I was nearing Ninth Street. It blew with such a wallop and flash that all of Broadway was deserted for several minutes afterward.
Yes, to those who are not too well acquainted with the habits and inner secrets of electricity and electric railroads, there seems to be no end of puzzlement and surprise. Take for instance that most mysterious of all devices, the electric track switch. Many is the time during a rain storm that an unsuspecting pedestrian decides to step over an electric switchpoint just as the trolley of the oncoming electric car is entering the switch pan. Then he wonders how he got the shower bath.
For if anything ever “breaks the monotony” of streetcar-ing, it is the rain. This was especially true when the 300s were running. It was enough grief to run these “twin-engine jobs” in dry weather, but when the rains came, the fun came also. Pulling in and out on the old “B” line “over the back way” consisted of running from Brooklyn and Evergreen via Evergreen, Fourth, and Euclid to the crossover at Whittier and Euclid, and then into Seventh and Central car house over the “R” line. Pulling in over this route, we had a stiff upgrade curve at Fourth and Euclid where there also was a boulevard stop. One rainy night when pulling in I made the mistake of making the stop at this point and succeeded in getting started just well enough to get stuck in the curve where the wheels spun around and around. I was able to back the car out and down the hill, dumping sand, which soon washed away. Three more tries, no luck; every time I tried to get a run up the hill, the wheels just ground and spun away. Finally I backed off and dumped several large piles of sand by hand on both rails, backed away, got a good running start, and around the curve we went. But if you think that’s all that can happen when you’re working with streetcars, then “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
SC-ERA NOW ONE YEAR OLD; DIVISION GROWS
ERA’s first and only Division west of St. Lewis officially came into being on March 28, 1950; the Executive Board of the national organization approved one week after its charter. One year later, membership and TIMEPOINTS circulation are at an all time high (TIMEPOINTS reaches 47 addresses every month now).
TIMEPOINTS itself expanded from a bi-monthly two-page sheet, as it was in January 1950, to be a monthly magazine now often six pages in length. Exchange agreements exist with the Western Railroader, The Bay Area Electric Railroad Review, The Circuit Breaker, and the Headway Recorder.
SC-ERA is every more actively fulfilling its intended role as the only all-electric railfan organization in Southern California, run with democratic autonomy yet affiliated with the oldest and most active nation-wide all-electric railfan group, the Electric Railroaders’ Assn.
PE FANTRIP DATE CHANGED TO MAY 13
SC-ERA’s forthcoming excursion to Newport Beach, Whittier, and Yorba Linda has been postponed one week from May 6 to May 13, 1951. The change was made in response to a conflict with an overnight steam trip out of San Francisco the weekend of the 6th.
This will be the last interurban train ever to click off those miles along the shining Pacific shore to Newport. No one should miss this opportunity to ride what was one of PE’s very best passenger lines, along with a trip through the long freight-only orange-grove districts of upper Orange County, on what will also be the last train to Yorba Linda. (Both it and Newport are going diesel later this year.) PE’s Southern district will never be the same again after trolley wire has vanished from Newport.
The trip will be an all-day affair, and will feature 5050-class equipment, never before used on an excursion.
OUT OF THE PAST
Rail Routes of Yesteryear-10
Huntington Beach - La Bolsa Line
Pacific Electric once operated passenger service on a 2.66-mile route from Huntington Beach, on the Newport Line, north to La Bolsa, primarily to serve workers at the Holly Sugar Plant.
The January 1916 Official Guide lists 5 round trips per day on this branch, from 6.40am to 7.00pm. By January 1918 the spread had changed from 6.40am to 5.33pm. After 1920 the line was no longer listed in the Guide, although it continued to operate.
Car 228 was used on the run in 1927, a Railroad Commission report on PE reveals. At that time cars left Huntington Beach at 6.40 and 7.40am, at 3.15pm, and 4.40pm. Returning from La Bolsa, they left at 7.10 and 8.10am., and at 3.35 and 5.10pm.
On October 30, 1928, PE received permission to abandon all passenger service on that line, and as PE was generally prompt in such matters, it is almost certain that the last car ran during November of 1928.
The line is still on the PE route map, in diesel-operation now connected with former SP trackage from Stanton to Wiebling, which PE acquired after the last war. The diesel freight route to Newport may run via Stanton and La Bolsa to Huntington Beach, thence to Newport, rather than via Seal Beach as at present.
LOCAL TRANSIT NEWS
PE 1100 CLASS RETIRED; LATL BUS CHANGE
Monday, March 19, saw the 5050-class take over the Glendora run from the 1100-class, cars of which are now stored at West Hollywood. Rush-hour running time is a few minutes longer now, but Sunday schedules were unaltered.
March 11th LATL lines 4, 49, and 90 were combined as outlined last month
PE ADDS LINE NUMBERS TO ITS TIME TABLES
“You can catch a 32 car anywhere on Hollywood Blvd.!” “The 2 line runs out to Pasadena!” These phrases are now legitimate, for official route numbers (long in existence in company records) now are being added to public timetables of the Pacific Electric. By April 3, the following numbers had also appeared: 58, LA-Whittier-Santa Ana; 86, Riverside-Van Nuys; 52, Temple City; 70, Pasadena Oak Knoll; 63, LA-Riverside & San Bernardino; 79 Garfield Ave.; 82, Wilshire Blvd.: 77, Hollywood-University; 76, Beverly-Sunset; 75, Venice Beverly Hills loop; 4, LA-Glendora; 67 LA-Sierra Madre; 55, LA-Newport Beach; 81, Ventura Blvd.; 85, Birmingham Hospital.
The East Through Western Eyes-10: A PHILADELPHIA STORY
(One of a series of reports by the Editor on his impressions of Eastern electric railways while exiled from Southern California-Ed.)
The weekend of March 10-11-12 saw your editor journey southwest from New Haven to Philadelphia to be the guest of TIMEPOINTS subscriber Bob Abrams and ride PTC on an NRHS fantrip.
There are many different ways of reaching Philadelphia from here, including the most obvious one of traveling by through train over the Hell Gate Bridge, into and out of Pen Station in New York and onward to the City of Brotherly Love without once leaving one’s seat. However, such practices are very dull, and instead, I arose at 3.30am Saturday morning, walked down to the Railroad Station, took a train (which was a half hour late) to Grand Central, took the shuttle to Times Square (this 2,100 foot line is now recommended for replacement by a continuously moving conveyor belt!), an IRT local to 50th Street, where I arrived at the Greyhound Terminal shortly after 7am. The 7.30 blue-pooch for Bethlehem Pa., arrived at the latter point about 10.45, exactly on time. The bus depot is at a terminal where a grand union on the Lehigh Valley Transit still exists intact, but most of the curves are seldom used. I walked south over a bridge that had been abandoned to streetcars only the November before, and found myself at the end of the suburbanish South Side line running between Bethlehem and Allentown, really just a streetcar line with a good stretch of right-of-way in its middle.
Before proceeding, I’d better generalize that the LVT is the most backward transit operator for a population district of its size that exists in America. It has just lurched on year after year, its cars getting shabbier and older and weaker all the time, and its track deteriorating far beyond PE. Bob Abrams told me that LVT bought the ex-C&LE lightweights with the sole intention of using them as a stopgap for a few years before buses moved in. The war lengthened their reign, but the famous “Galloping Goose” Liberty Bell Limited will be gone within the next few months, replaced largely by city-type Macks! Right now the only decent equipment, rail or bus, on LVT, are about 25 post-war Macks (like the LATL 5000s); the rest of the bus fleet is decrepit and falling-apart 25-passenger-or-so prewar Macks. The best streetcars are Master-Units, but very poorly maintained and only on one line. Two older types of streetcars are used on the conglomeration of rambling rail lines that still spread outward from Allentown and Bethlehem. On tripper service to Cooperstown on the Liberty Bell Line from Allentown some ghastly, almost unpainted 400s are used. And needless to say, the ex-C&LE 1000s are but a shadow of their former selves: windows shattered but un-replaced, paint peeling, schedules slowed (although a few beautiful bursts of speed remind one longingly of the dim past), entire appearance dingy. Once the LVT was an attractive way to get from Philadelphia to Allentown; now all the riding is local, from town to town, with through passengers seeking some other more inviting mode of transportation.
And what a contrast to step aboard a P&W bullet-car at Norristown for the final journey into a busy, crowded electric terminal at 69th Street, Philadelphia! Returning Monday morning, I rode a P&W “Express” that ran the 14 miles of the route in 16 minutes with two scheduled stops along the way.
I had never ridden PST before, so I made a round trip on the West Chester line, a real side-of-the-road interurban except that quasi-PCC’s are used, with a truck that gives them a 1000% better riding quality than Pittsburgh’s 1700s. It is an uphill-down-dale line, following the twists of the highway. The motormen make no secret of running fast: they go full speed down hill, until they are at least 60mph, then race up the other side passing all the cars on the highway, and repeat the process a dozen times. It is single track with meets, which are not perfect but largely good. They have a very fine one-man, two-man arrangement: a second man rides the cars in both directions from the outskirts of West Chester to the end of the line in the heart of the business district (there is a pay-enter, pay-leave system), collecting all the fares outbound and inbound and leaving the motorman free during this heavy loading stretch, but allowing the economies of the one-man operation the rest of the way into Philadelphia. The Media line regretfully had to be omitted from the agenda this trip due to lack of time.
The next day I enjoyed a PTC fantrip covering a large part of the streetcar system in Philadelphia, sponsored by the NRHS. In tone it was very different from Western excursions, in that the men were much more “normal,” less excited, older, more “respectable.” The picture stops were not frantic scramblings.
Most Philadelphia railfans themselves will admit that most of the PTC streetcar lines and equipment types tend to be monotonous (“all the streets and cars just look alike”). Exception to this on the excursion was the remnant of Line 37 private right-of-way. This line is also unusual in that it is the only streetcar line in operation to be submerged under tidal waters for a portion of each day. Since a flood in November, the line has operated only at low tide, with a bus on the outer end at high tide. In planning the fantrip, the NRHS consulted a tide-table. The water of course tends to weaken the rail, and it is very rough. The line will be cut back in the near future. But not even PE’s Newport Beach Line can claim to be as intimate with water as this!
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
DISPATCHES FROM TIMEPOINTS READERS
.... I was interested in Bob Abrams’ comment on the Los Angeles Transit Lines in your February TIMEPOINTS. While the old Los Angeles Railway was not on the modern side, I don’t see how anyone can describe it as being run down. As far as track and equipment, the old LARy could not be beat. With the possible exception of San Diego, I consider the LARy track the best in the West. The cars, of course, were on the antique side, but were always well maintained and brightly painted. Even before it sold out to National City Lines, the Los Angeles Railway had obtained some PCC cars and was ordering more. All the NCL did was to scrap some very good track. For my own part, I can never see why anybody would stop the “D” and “A” lines, but that was what the NCL did. Chief trouble with the Los Angeles Railway was its too early standardization of equipment; while good from the maintenance standpoint, it did definitely date its cars and made the system obsolete in the eyes of those from other sections of the country. In my own opinion the biggest mistake that the LARy made was to build the Type H cars (and cars of this general design), but I suppose that the 3'6" gauge was against the general adoption of a low floor car at the time. This is more or less borne out by the fact that both Denver and Portland (Oregon) kept to big wheels... The LARy 2501 should have set the new standard. It was not until 1930 that the motor companies seem to have developed a satisfactory low-floor motor suitable for double-truck narrow-gauge streetcars and the Portland Traction Company was the only one to made extensive use of it.
M.D. Isely’s “One Sure Way to Save Platform Labor” is not up to the high standards he set in his two earlier articles. It shows that he has not had too much experience with coin-operated machines. In some cities turnstiles have been used on streetcars such as Rochester, Dayton, New York and Syracuse, to permit rear loading of one-man cars. I have ridden St. Louis PCCs upon which there were coin-operated turnstiles. However, I think that Mr. Isely has too much confidence in the intelligence of the public. The best way to ease the operator’s load is to simplify the fare structure system... I feel that Mr. Isley has placed too much emphasis on “labor turnover” and I am sure he will find that it is a problem not exclusively confined to the transit industry... Generally speaking, the labor turnover in the transit industry is far less than in others as well as being one of its own lesser problems. I do agree that in many cases there is too much work for one man on a car and that a two-man crew is justified on many city runs for part of the distance at least. (Sour grapes from San Francisco?-Ed.) Had the old Market Street Railway Company followed its original idea of running two-man cars on Third, Fillmore, and Market (not Mission? -Ed.) with one-man cars on all other streets, San Francisco would still be a major street railway center.
Berkley, Calif. ---ADDISON H. LAFLIN