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out of Portland was equaled by the high quality
of the rolling stock provided for the service.
Weighing as much as 52 tons each, the porthole-

windowed cars delivered by Pullman in 1914
were among the earliest all-steel interurbans.
After the untimely abandonment of "Red Elec-
tric" passenger service late in the '20's, most of
the cars moved south to join the roster of the
SP's Pacific Electric. University of Oregon


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Over the Hills to Sacramento

Of revered memory among Western electric trac-
tion enthusiasts is the great Sacramento Northern
Railway. SN's Meteor and Comet limiteds pene-
trated nearly 200 miles northward from San Francis-
co Bay to Sacramento and Chico on North America's
longest interurban journey. Trains frequently ran
to as many as six cars in length and offered such
amenities of long distance travel as dining and par-
lor car service, and open observation platforms
from which to view the sometimes spectacular

Among the many who recorded Sacramento North-
ern on film in the last years of its passenger opera-
tion, none produced more inspired camera work
than the late Art Alter, who composed this memora-
ble photograph. Sweeping around the Valle Vista
curve, a big Wason combine led a five-car Concord-
San Francisco local westward to Redwood Canyon
and the tunnel through the hills above Oakland.
Train No. 27's consist represented the handiwork of
no less than four carbuilders from such widely scat-
tered locales as Springfield, Mass., and San Francisco.
Arthur R. Alter.



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During the first years of Oakland-Sacramento in-
terurban operation this Oakland, Antioch &
Eastern limited crossed Lake Temescal in the
Berkeley hills. To obviate turning at each end of
the line the richly appointed parlor-observation cat-

platform at both ends. In 1929 OA&E, by then
known as the San Francisco-Sacramento Railroad,
was merged under Western Pacific ownership with
the Sacramento Northern Railway, the former
Northern Electric Railway. Golden State Trans-

Moraga was equipped with a complete observation portation Historical Society.

Above Oakland, Sacramento Northern trains made a laborious ascent up Shepherd Canyon to pierce
the hills via 3458-foot Redwood Peak Tunnel, then rolled downward through the scenery of Red-
wood Canyon. The walls of Shepherd Canyon echoed to the whine of a dozen traction motors as a six-
car Sunday-morning version of the Comet scaled the 3 per cent grade. Arthur R. Alter.



Bursting forth from the east portal of SN's tunnel, a Comet beaded by Holman-
built combine 1006 gathered speed for the downhill ride to tidewater. ARTHUR R.

Long after first-class schedules disappeared from the Sacramento Northern time-
card, freight tonnage continued to roll through the canyons. In 1951 this eight-
car freight crept up the hill from Oakland, propelled by a big Baldwin-West-
inghouse steeple-cab, with an identical machine shoving mightily behind the
caboose. Even though they represented Sacramento Northern's heaviest electric
motive power, these 68-ton locomotives were rated at only 400 tons on the
formidable track through the canyon. William D. Middleton.


To Sea by Interurban

The waters of Suisun Bay presented a natural ob-
stacle in the path of Oakland, Antioch & Eastern's
"short line" to Sacramento. To cross it company
engineers planned a 10,000-foot bridge, 70 feet above
high water at the navigable part of the stream, esti-
mated to cost 1.5 million dollars. Preliminary work
was actually under way when the project was post-
poned due to unsettled business conditions result-
ing from the outbreak of World War I, and the car

ferry that was to have been only a temporary ex-
pedient became a permanent feature of the line.
The delay occasioned by ferrying trains across the
Bay was not serious during the early days of OA&E
passenger operation, for the company's chief com-
petitor for San Francisco-Sacramento traffic — South-
ern Pacific — likewise was forced to ferry its trains
across the Bay. But in 1930 Southern Pacific com-
pleted its great Martinez-Benicia bridge, and Sacra-
mento Northern was thereafter placed at a severe

In 1951 one of SN's black and orange striped motors eased out toward the apron
at Mallard, pushing a cut of cars onto the ferry Ramon. William D. Middleton.

From 1VI4, a year after the Suisun Bay car ferry crossing was opened, until its
abandonment in l'J'>4, SN trains were shuttled across the half mile of open water
and tricky currents by the ferry Ramon, a steel-hulled vessel powered by a re-
markable 50-ton, (yOO-borsepower distillate-fueled engine which represented
the largest electric-ignition, internal-combustion engine ever constructed.
Arthur R. Alter.

With the train safely stowed, the Ramon headed across the Sacramento River.

In the days of passenger service, coffee and doughnuts were served during

the voyage in a small lunchroom on the vessel. William D. Middleton.


The flatland running that carried Sacramento Northern trains from the Suisun Bay ferry to Sacra-
mento was broken by the 2-mile Lisbon trestle which crossed the Yolo Basin. Such was the quality



of this 1500-volt, catenary-equipped speedway that the Comet was able to cover 47 miles from the
ferry to Sacramento Union Station at an average speed of 50 miles per hour. Fred Fellow.


One leg of the SN turning wye in Woodland was under the station arches. Train J7 was beading for
a connection with the westbound Comet. B. H. Ward.



Sacramento Northern passengers to Woodland enjoyed the facilities of a mission-style structure that
was without question one of the handsomest of all interurban stations. The 18-mile Sacramento-W ood-
land branch was as far as predecessor Northern Electric ever got with plans for its own route to San
Francisco, conceived at a titne when Oakland, Antioch & Eastern, later to become part of the same Sac-
ramento Northern, was a fierce rival. Western Pacific Railroad.

This solid-tired, chain-driven "auto bus" trans-
ported passengers between the third-rail Northern
Electric' s East Grid ley station and nearby Grid ley.
At the time of its completion in 1913 NE had the
longest third-rail interurban line in the United
States. The earliest portions of the line were con-
structed with overhead trolley wire, but so success-
ful was the later adoption of the third-rail system
that the trolley wire was replaced, resulting, in one
case, in the resignation en masse of the section gang
along the affected stretch of track. Western
Pacific Railroad.

Early in 1939 Sacramento Northern trains, which
had previously terminated on the Key Route
ferry pier out in the Bay, began operating across
the new Bay Bridge into East Bay Terminal in
downtown San Francisco. The expected traf-
fic boom failed to materialize and within two
and a half years SN ended its interurban pas-
senger business. Few were on hand in August
1940 when train No. 10 departed from East
Bay Terminal on the last through trip to Sacra-
mento. Arthur R. Alter, Al Haij Collection.


Between runs at the Northbrae terminal of the "F" line, this Key unit waited on
track which was until 1941 a part of Southern Pacific's rival East Bay electri-
fication. After SP abandoned its operation. Key System trains began service
over several stretches of former SP track. Donald Sims.

During earlier years the Key Route offered high-
class electric traction service to San Francisco's East
Bay cities with commodious wooden cars of typical
interurban pattern, one of which won a first prize
at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and
thereafter displayed a bronze plaque to that effect.
Chefs on the big orange Key ferries that plied be-
tween the company's Oakland Pier terminal and
San Francisco served up such specialties as "Key
Route Corned Beef Hash." and stringed orchestras
provided Sunday entertainment. Altogether it was

a most satisfactory method of commutation. In

preparation for through service to San Francisco

over the new Bay Bridge which replaced the ferries

in 19V), the Key System designed an unusual type

of articulated unit. In this 1951 photograph an

inbound Bethlehem-built unit from the Berkeley

"F" line headed for the Bay Bridge, dipping under

the Southern Pacific main line and a highway

approach to the bridge in a three-level montage

of electric, steam, and internal combustion transport.

William D. Middleton.


A Key System predecessor, California Railway, bought masterfully painted car 11 from Carter Brothers
of Newark, Calif., in 1896. Its proportions and massive clerestory indicate a greater familiarity with
steam car construction than with electric car building on the part of the local builder. Industrial
Photo Service.


In 1939 NWP'i car from Manor waited at San
Anselmo station for the connecting train from
San Rafael. The owl-faced cars ran south to

the ferry terminal at Sausalito on this former
narrow-gauge trackage. Arthur R. Alter,
Al Haij Collection.

North from the Golden Gate

From 1903 until 1941, commuters from the Marin
peninsula north of San Francisco rode down to the
ferries at Sausalito on the first third-rail electric
line in California. Originally narrow gauge and op-
erated with steam motive power, the North Pacific
Railroad was renamed North Shore Railroad when
it was electrified in 1903. The Northwestern Pacific
Railroad took over operations in 1907. Some of the
first cars built for the railroad in 1902 — open plat-
form wooden coaches — were outfitted with elec-
trical equipment and operated right to the end of

service as rush hour extras. Soon after Southern Pa-
cific took control of the NWP in 1929, 19 steel and
aluminum interurbans were put into service. Al-
most identical in dimensions and appearance to cars
built before World War I for SP's East Bay electri-
fication, the 55-ton cars incorporated many other
improvements in addition to the use of aluminum
in the bodies. Completion of the Golden Gate
Bridge and through bus service to San Francisco
doomed interurban service, but the big orange cars
went south to the Pacific Electric where many of
them operated in Long Beach service until early
1961. 1


Northbound at Alto, five big orange cars of the NWP's extra "school train" car-
ried Tamalpais High School students home to Ross Valley suburban towns. These
72-foot cars, built in 1929 and 1930 by St. Louis Car Company, had no doors on
their semi-enclosed platforms. Sliding screen gates closed the double-width
vestibule steps. Stephen D. Maguire.

y . i

The longevity of the electric car was ably demonstrated by the vehicles which
inaugurated service on the United Railroads of San Francisco's San Mateo
interurban line in 1904 and were still around for last-day festivities in 1949. One
of them raced southward down the peninsula at Lomita Park in 1947 , by which
time the line had long since become part of the San Francisco Municipal Railways.
Arthur R. Alter, Al Haij Collection.

These steel passenger cars of the San Francisco &
Napa Valley Railroad borrowed gas-electric body
styling, and were noteworthy as the last interur-
bans constructed (in 1953) before depression and the
decline of the electric railways almost entirely
wiped out the carbuilding industry. A serious

equipment shortage resulting from a carbarn fire,
rather than any sudden increase in traffic, neces-
sitated the purchase of these cars. Only five
years later the company's Napa Valley passenger
service between Calistoga and Vallejo was ended.
George Krambles Collection.

The Central California Traction Company, which
began operation between Stockton and Lodi in
1907, was an early user of the 1200-volt D.C. power
system and was the first electric line to employ
1200-volt third-rail power distribution. These two
wooden cars were part of a six-car order constructed
by the Holman Car Company of San Francisco in

1910 to operate passenger schedules over the com-
pany's newly completed extension to Sacramento.
Ready to roll northward on the 53-mile trip to the
stale capital, they were near the docks in Stockton,
where a connection was made with overnight San
Joaquin River steamers from San Francisco.
George Krambles Collection.



Red Cars in the Southland

■ i

Pacific Electric Railway

Six cars of pleasure-bent Southern Californians
raced southward over the four-track main
line of Pacific Electric' s Southern District,
bound for the docks at Wilmington and
the connecting steamer to Avalon in the
carefree days before World War II. The
1200-class steel interurbans were PE's fastest
and finest cars. Donald Duke Collection^


Red Cars in the Southland

Pacific Electric Railway

CjREAT RED TRAINS of heavy steel interurbans,
their air whistles shrieking hoarsely for road cross-
ings, hurtled at mile-a-minute speeds down the inner
rails of the Pacific Electric's four-track steel boule-
vards, overtaking mundane locals that skipped from
stop to stop on the outer tracks. Multiple-unit trains
of suburban electric cars worried their way through
the congested boulevards of Hollywood and then,
like big red snakes, darted into the subway that sped
their way to downtown Los Angeles. Polished par-
lor-observation cars with guide-lecturers transported
breathless tourists over the length and breadth of a
trolley empire of over a thousand miles that ranged
from the snow-capped peaks of the San Gabriel
Mountains to citrus groves, vineyards, and endless
Pacific beaches. Sumptuously furnished private cars
glided along the rails bearing high officials on their
errands of importance. In a time before Southern
California became the world's most automobile-
oriented society almost everyone rode Pacific Elec-
tric's "big red cars" to the beaches, mountains, race
tracks, and other pleasure spots of the Southland,
as well as to and from their daily work.

Pacific Electric freight trains rumbled in every
direction across the red car network behind electric,
steam, and later, diesel motive power, and a compre-
hensive box motor service delivered package freight,
express, and mail to every extremity of the system.
Full-fledged Railway Post Office cars raced imperi-
ously along the more important routes.

"The World's Greatest Interurban Railway" was
what they labeled this Los Angeles-centered traction
colossus assembled under Southern Pacific control in
the Great Merger of 1911. And even in a region
prone to generous superlatives and overstatement,
the title was one that could hardly be disputed, for
the Pacific Electric Railway simply encompassed
more miles of track, operated more cars, and hauled
more passengers and freight than any other inter-
urban. It has been estimated that nearly 10 per cent

of the U. S. interurban investment was represented
by this one system.

In the geographic extent of its interurban services
Los Angeles was eclipsed by Indianapolis, but in
sheer numbers of passengers PE easily made Los
Angeles America's leading interurban center. In
1914, for example, a total of 1626 trains, made up
of 3262 cars, entered or left Los Angeles daily over
PE's three operating districts.

Pacific Electric was largely the creation of Henry
E. Huntington, wealthy heir and nephew of Collis P.
Huntington, one of the Southern Pacific's "Big
Four." Arriving on the Southern California scene
in 1898 with a broad background of experience
on Southern Pacific and other family railroad prop-
erties, Huntington purchased a pioneer Los An-
geles-Pasadena interurban and within 10 years par-
layed it into a traction giant that reached out from
Los Angeles to San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport
Beach, Santa Ana, Glendora, and Glendale.

Huntington's electric railway activities were close-
ly allied with his extensive real estate interests, and
the advance of the red cars into new territory was
carefully co-ordinated with the operations of his
Pacific Electric Land Company. Southern California
was then enjoying a period of unparalleled growth
and prosperity, and Huntington profited handsome-
ly from his dual interests.

Retiring from active management of his electric
railway interests in 1910, Huntington sold out to
Southern Pacific which a year later merged PE with
other Southern California traction properties into
the greatest electric railway system in history. New
construction continued until 1914 when the last
major Pacific Electric line, a high-speed route to
San Bernardino, was opened.

Had the favorable climate for interurban develop-
ment lasted a few years longer than it did, Pacific
Electric might have grown to even greater dimen-
sions. As early as 1906 the "Huntington syndicate"


The first interurban route of what was to become the world's greatest

traction system was created when Gen. Moses H. Sherman and Eli P.

Clark connected two local lines with this bridge across the Arroyo Seco

and inaugurated electric car service between Los Angeles and Pasadena

in 1S95. This is the first car. Historical Collections, Security First

National Bank, Los Angeles.

After retirement from business affairs Henry E. Hunting-
ton, who made a fortune from his Southern California
real estate and electric railway activities, devoted his
last years and his fortune to the distinguished library
and art gallery at San Marino which bears his name.
Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery.


Both the Sixth and Main Street terminal building
and the San Pedro interurban line were new when
this photograph was taken about 1906. No. 279,
scraping the pavement as it heeled into the ter-
minal, was one of 130 semi-open cars delivered by
the St. Louis Car Company between 1902 and 1906.
The sidewalk semaphores and track switches were
operated from the raised bay-window office to
expedite heavy two-way movements in this then
stub terminal, and to protect narrow-gauge city
cars which also used Main Street's three-rail
trackage. Al Haij Collection.

All dressed up for a day's outing, a crowd of
excursionists unloaded from a Pasadena & Pa-
cific train at Santa Monica around the turn of
the century. The P&P was constructed with such
rapidity by promoters Gen. Moses H. Sherman
and Eli P. Clark that some called it another
"Sherman's March to the Sea." Later known
as the Los Angeles Pacific, the company came
under Southern Pacific control in 1906 and be-
came part of Pacific Electric in the 1911 merger.
Historical Collections, Security First
National Bank, Los Angeles.


was believed to be backing a group which proposed
to build a Los Angeles-San Diego electric line along
the coast, and Huntington's name was associated
with grandiose plans for a high-speed electric line
through the San Joaquin Valley which would extend
all the way to San Francisco. Still other proposals
envisioned lines to Santa Barbara via San Fernando,
and from Santa Monica to Ventura.

101 Miles for ioo Cents

Then as now, Southern California was a favored
vacation spot, and Pacific Electric developed the
tourist excursion business into a fine art. The most
popular of PE's inexpensive electric tours of the
Southland was the "Balloon Route Trolley Trip"
originated by Los Angeles Pacific and continued
by PE after the 1911 merger. Tourists flocked
aboard the "palatial observation cars" of the Bal-
loon Route specials by the thousands. On one
record day 18 carloads of excursionists were trans-
ported on the tour, and in 1909 an average of
10,000 monthly rode the trip during the tourist
season. First stop on the "101 miles for 100 cents"
tour was the Hollywood Boulevard home and gallery
of renowned French floral artist Paul de Longpre,
where this tour party posed self-consciously early
in the century. Historical Collections, Security
First National Bank, Los Angeles.

Midway through the Balloon Route all-day
outing, the excursion cars stopped at the
Playa del Rey Pavilion, where a fish din-
ner was served. Boat rides on the lagoon
and skating on a rink were also possible
during the stopover. Freshly rebuilt for
regular service on the Balloon Route trip,
Los Angeles Pacific cars 900 and 901 were
photographed at Playa del Rey with a
group about 1910. Al Haij Collection.


De luxe excursion car 023 transported Southland tourists on the "Old Mission Trolley Trip" to San Gabriel
Mission, Pasadena, Bush Gardens, and the Cawston Ostrich Farm, all for a dollar. Al Haij Collection.

The Greatest Mountain Trolley Trip

Among the greatest of Southern California's tourist

attractions of the early 20th century was Pacific

Electric' s amazing trolley ride up the slopes of the

Sierra Madre to Mount Lowe, named for Prof.

Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, who huilt the railway in

1893. In this rare photograph Professor Lowe (with

field glasses) and two ladies are studiously ignoring

construction progress in the vicinity of the Cape of

Good Hope on the Alpine Division.

Charles S. Lawrence.



Throughout most of its existence as a passenger
interurban PE was subdivided into three major dis-
tricts, each virtually a complete interurban system
in itself. Largest of them was the Northern District,
operating north and east from Los Angeles, which
included no less than 400 miles of track and 33 sep-
arate routes. Main artery of the PE north was a
great four-track right of way along Huntington
Drive that carried trains to Pasadena and other San
Gabriel Valley points, and within the district's jur-
isdiction were such diverse operations as the Great
Cable Incline and narrow-gauge Alpine Division
that elevated excursionists to the scenic heights of
Mount Lowe, and the 48-mile, 1200- volt San Bernar-
dino route that was PE's longest and fastest line.

At the top of the standard- gauge Mount Lowe inter-
urban line, the Great Cable Incline (designed by
Andrew S. Hallidie, who engineered San Francisco's
early cable railways) carried passengers up to the
Alpine Division's narrow-gauge trolleys. At this
level were a hotel and dance pavilion; at the top
of the incline stood Echo Mountain House, an
observatory, and a 3-million-candlepower search-
light said to be visible from 150 miles at sea.
Historical Collections, Security First
National Bank, Los Angeles.

Above Echo Mountain, the Alpine Division wound
through 127 curves and crossed 18 trestles to reach
Mount Lowe Springs, just 1100 feet below the sum-
mit. This is Circular Bridge, with a fearless group
posing in skeletal car 9. In the background is the
trolley line down to the summit of the incline.
Eldon M. Neff.

The Western District, made up largely of the lines
of the premerger Los Angeles Pacific Company, op-
erated 260 miles of track and 12 lines which served
a vast area to the west of Los Angeles, and included
among its destinations Hollywood, Beverly Hills,
Glendale, Burbank, the San Fernando Valley, and
the beaches at Santa Monica, Venice, and Redondo.

The Southern District, with 400 miles of track and
17 lines under its supervision, reached south from
Los Angeles to the busy harbors of Long Beach and
San Pedro, southeast along Pacific beaches to the
Newport and Balboa resorts and through the orange
groves to Santa Ana, and southwest to the El Segun-
do oil fields and Redondo Beach.

The Alpine Division was carved out of solid granite for its entire 4-mile length,
and its grade sometimes exceeded 7 per cent. A dusting of snow was not entirely
unusual at this 5000-foot altitude, making a unique ride even more spectacular
for Southern California tourists. PE purchased the line in 1902, and double-
truck car 121 replaced the original Mount Lowe cars in 1906.
Charles S. Lawrence.

-V .V- v

- < -

In vivid contrast to the snow scene on page 310 is this view of PE interurban
No. 1044 tarrying along the beach south of Long Beach on the way to the sea-
side resorts of Newport and Balboa. Such diverse scenes were only a few hours
apart on the "big red cars." Donald Duke Collection.


An almost universal feature of the hundreds of wooden interurban cars operated
by Pacific Electric was a generous expanse of front-end glass, which extended
clear around the corners in an early version of the "wraparound" windshield.

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Online LibraryWilliam D. MiddletonThe interurban era → online text (page 14 of 23)