Hop on Board! – Taking a Trip On the Red Car

Gather round folks while I tell you a tale. Once upon a time in the faraway land of Los Angeles there was a large, inexpensive and very efficient form of transportation called the Pacific Electric Railway. The Red Car (as it was more commonly called) transported citizens from far and wide to their favorite destinations. Live in San Bernadino but want to go to Santa Monica? No problem. Coming from downtown Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles? Step right up. Hop on board. The Red Car will get ya there.

Of course that could never be, right? Los Angeles with all it’s traffic and freeways and lack of decent transportation could not possible have something as convenient as the Red Car. Wrong. Los Angeles did have the Red Car. For many years in fact. Here’s photographic proof.

And it did travel everywhere – Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire….

See how busy that map looks? That’s all the Red Car lines. So what happened? Well, with the dawn of the automobile the Red Car fell out of fashion. Why take public transportation when you can just drive there? After all, these freeways make driving a cinch. No traffic. It’s so much better than taking a stinky old trolly.

And so in 1961 it was all over. The tracks were dismantled, the cars destroyed, and Los Angeles entered a new dawn – on filled with smog, traffic, and many, many frustrated drivers.

the disposal of the red cars (credit)

But what’s going on here? Aren’t I supposed to be telling you all about fun things to do? Where’ the fun in hearing such a sad tale? Well, you may have noticed the top picture looks pretty recent. That’s because there is a Red Car route that’s currently open and it runs along the waterfront in San Pedro.

In 2003 San Pedro decided to bring back the Red Car and installed a trolly track to transport visitors to points of interest surrounding the port. The fleet consists of two reproduction cars and one restored original. And from Friday-Sunday you can ride the cars as long as you’d like for only $1 per day.

So, last week when I went to visit the S.S. Lane Victory I made a point to finally take a ride. It was SO fun! The cars function as they did back in yesteryear – complete with period uniforms for the conductors, vintage advertisements inside, and a hand pulled whistle. Check it out!

The route has four stops and a round trip takes about 20 minutes. Since, I didn’t really need to go anywhere I just enjoyed the round trip. At the end of the line the conductors asked if anyone wanted to blow the whistle and I enthusiastically volunteered. Who cares if I’m an adult. The conductors certainly didn’t. And now I get to say that I blew the whistle for the Red Car.

Even though it was the middle of the day on a Friday, the car was full. It was so nice to see so many people with an appreciation for this significant piece of California history. May this route never face the sad fate of its predecessor.

The Port of Los Angeles Waterfront Red Car Line
travels along the San Pedro Waterfront
open Fri-Sun 12-9:30pm
all day fair $1

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