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In 1901, interests led by Henry E. Huntington reformed the Pacific Electric Railway. More cars were needed to supplement the existing fleet, especially considering construction was planned began on new interurban lines to Long Beach and Alhambra. Thirty new cars of wooden construction were ordered from the St Louis Car Company in October of 1901 as the new 200 class cars, numbered 200-229. Constructed in late 1901 and 1902, these were the first cars bought new by reformed Pacific Electric.

“Their design followed the customary Los Angeles & Pasadena and Los Angeles & Pacific type of intercity car: a large enclosed section taking up two thirds of the body, with a short open section at one end. The five window front end was retained, to become traditional with Huntington cars.” Ira L Swett, Interurbans Special 28

“In their new condition, these cars were 41’1” long, seated 42, used K-11 control, had the PE rigid bolster trucks and Christensen air brakes. Cars 200, 201 and 209 pioneered in having four motors with K-14 control; the others had but two motors.  All motors were Westinghouse 38-B (50 hp).  All cars were single unit.” Ira L Swett, Interurbans Special 28.

The new 200 class cars were the finest cars on the PE and were first used on the interurban lines to Pasadena and debuted service on the new lines to Alhambra and Long Beach after delivery in 1902.

200-229 were modified in 1907 with Janney radial couplers and new control systems to permit multiple unit operation. Trucks were replaced with St Louis car company model A-2 swing bolster trucks and four Westinghouse motors.  For added safety and comfort, the open section, originally sided with wire mesh, was partially enclosed up to the belt rail. The cars were again modified in 1909, to include retrofitting the partially wooden frame with steel construction, raised floor height, Westinghouse multiple unit control, Hunter destination signs, and additions of other miscellaneous safety equipment becoming standard on the system. PE ordered an additional twenty cars in 1909 from St Louis Car Company to these new specifications, becoming cars 230-249.

In 1911, several streetcar companies in the Los Angeles area merged to become the ‘new’ Pacific Electric Railway. Renumbering of the cars resulted in the 200 series cars being renumbered into the 500 series. Cars 500-529, the 1902 vintage cars became known by PE crews as “Baby Fives”, with cars 530-549 called “Medium Fives”. A similar class of fifty “Big Fives” came from the Los Angeles Pacific Railroad and were numbered 550-599.

Pacific Electric 224 on the opening day of the Long Beach Line, July 4, 1902. Exact location unknown. Craig Rasmussen Collection

No pictures are known to exist of PE 524 after the 1907  modifications. This image of 502 at the San Bernardino station is a good representation of the 500 class “Baby Fives” in their final configuration. Jeffrey J Moreau Collection.

Disaster struck the PE on July 13, 1913 when an inbound train of 500’s from Venice Beach rear ended a three car train of 800 class cars at Vineyard Junction at about 30 miles-per-hour. The fragility of wooden bodied cars was illustrated with massive destruction, resulting in 200 injuries and 14 fatalities. What became known as the Vineyard Wreck resulted in Pacific Electric only ordering steel bodies cars after 1913 and great pressure from the community to discontinue the use of wooden cars. The 500 class cars continued their service through the 1920’s and were used on suburban lines across the PE system. With the addition of the steel bodied 600 class “Hollywood” cars 1922 and 1100 class cars in 1924, the end was in sight for the 500 and 800 class cars. The first major retirement of wooden cars occurred in 1934, with all but four of the Baby Fives being dismantled at Pacific Electric’s Torrance Shops.

A growing trend during the 1930’s due to the Great Depression was the concept of re-purposing retired railway car bodies for use as storage sheds, offices, or homes. Car bodies were available for sale to the general public. Specifically, most of the Baby and Medium Fives are listed in company records as sold in 1934 including car 524. Presumably in 1934-35, Mr. and Mrs. “Streetcar” Louis Smith purchased 524 and four cars of the 170 class for use as their new home on Del Arroyo Drive in Sun Valley, CA.

Mr. and Mrs. Louis A. Smith Sun Valley at their re-purposed ‘Streetcar’ home is Sun Valley in late 1950. The Smith’s bought four 170 class cars and 524 from Pacific Electric and moved them to La Tuna Canyon. 524 is the car to the far right. Photo Courtesy Los Angeles Times.

In 1969, 524 was purchased from the Smiths by Pacific Electric collector and ship builder Richard Fellows. The car was relocated to the former Fellows & Stewart Boat Works on Terminal Island, Wilmington California. Fellows planned to restore his cars cosmetically and outfit them with rubber tires and bus propulsion to make the cars mobile. The Fellows collection was to include cars 457, 524, 655, 963 (rebuilt into ‘1058’), 993, and 00164. Richard Fellows completed work cosmetically restoring 655, 1058, and 00164 with the 1058 being completed as an operation ‘bus’, making appearances for special events in the Los Angeles Area. Fellows passed away unexpectedly in 1996, leaving much of his work unfinished. Cars 524, 655, and 993 were purchased from the Fellows estate by the Orange Empire Railway Museum (now SCRM) and moved to the museum in Perris, California. 524 was acquired mostly disassembled, as Fellows was in process of structural and exterior wood work. Today, 524 awaits restoration to be completed at the Southern California Railway Museum. Future work is possible by generous donations to the museum Red Car Fund.


Pacific Electric 524 as it appears today awaiting restoration at the Southern California Railway Museum. John Smatlak Photo.

Pacific Electric 524 Photo Gallery