Red Cars are back in service in San Pedro, Calif., nearly a half century after the original service closed down in 1958.
For 60 years, a vast network of electric railway lines operated by the Pacific Electric Railway served the greater Los Angeles area, with more than 1,000 miles of rail line stretching to Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. After the line to San Pedro was discontinued, the entire system closed three years later in 1961.
The idea was revived in 1995, when a task force appointed by the Board of Harbor Commissioners proposed a rail line to link the attractions along the waterfront. The $9.5 million revival project, begun in January 1999, took more than three years to complete and required 18 crewmen.
Red Car service operates using two newly built replica Red Cars, patterned after a 1908 500-class Pacific Electric car design. The route encompasses a 1.5-mile rail line that connects the Los Angeles World Cruise Center with other waterfront attractions, including the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.
The cars, which weigh 58,500 pounds, feature mahogany interiors, poplar exterior paneling and ash seats. The seats, called walkover seats, can be flipped over when the car reaches the end of the line.
“There’s a lot of nostalgic affection for red cars, so it was important to build the cars to be exact replicas, including the E-flat horn that everybody remembers,” said Bob Henry, project manager for the Red Car line. “It’s fun to watch people get on that used to ride the original cars because they know the ropes and they will flip the seats over.”
The Red Car line is open Friday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., a schedule based around the days when cruise ships normally call at the cruise center.
“We only charge a dollar, but I hear stories from our operators about people putting five-, 10- and 20-dollar bills in the fare box as a donation because they want to keep it running,” Henry said.
From its opening to mid-August, the line counted more than 17,000 boardings. There has been talk of extending the line an additional mile-and-a-half to Cabrillo Beach.
Operation and maintenance of the cars was contracted out to Herzog Transit Services Inc. Each car has a conductor and operator.