In keeping up with expanding line construction and growing ridership, Pacific Electric Railway ordered twenty suburban cars from the St Louis Car Company in 1909. These cars were to become the 230 class, numbers 230-249. The 230 class were essentially copies of the 200 class, reflecting the major modifications that occurred between 1907 and 1909.
For information on the 200 class, visit the page for Pacific Electric 524 (old number 224), also preserved at the Southern California Railway Museum..
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.
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 several of the 500 class cars, including 530, 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 530. The body of 530 was purchased from the Pacific by an unknown party presumably in 1934 or 1935 and moved to Crestline, California to be used as a cabin. 530 was a residence until 2007, when new owners of the property offered the car to the Orange Empire Railway Museum. 530 was promptly rescued and relocated to the museum property. Today, 530 is in excellent condition and awaits restoration. Future work to 530 is possible by generous donations to the museum Red Car Fund.