Los Angeles Almanac Logo
Home | All Almanac Topics | Transportation

Red Cars

Pacific Electric Railway, 1910. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

During the first half of the 20th Century, the Los Angeles area was crisscrossed by more than 1,100 miles of track carrying passengers on Pacific Electric Railway Red Cars. These cars, powered by overhead electrical cables, were so-named for their red color (downtown railcars were painted yellow). Passengers could travel the line between the San Fernando Valley and Long Beach and as far as Redlands and Newport Beach.

Opening day, July 4, for Pacific Electric Railway line in Long Beach. Courtesy of the California Historical Society Collection at USC Library.

As automobiles became more plentiful, the Red Car era drew to a close with only a brief resurgence in ridership during World War II. By the early 1950s, the automobile had become the dominant means of transportation in Southern California. Control of red car lines ended in the hands of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1958. By 1959, only the Los Angeles to Long Beach trolley line still ran. The line ceased operations on April 8, 1961.

Map of Pacific Electric Railway routes, 1912. Prepared by D.W. Pontius. Courtesy of UCLA Library.

Electrical Railway Historical Association of Southern California