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History of the 600 Class “Hollywood” Cars

Pacific Electric’s famed 600 class “Hollywood” cars (600-759) are the most common and popular cars on the PE system.  “Numerically, the 600 class was PE’s largest.  When built, these cars were widely regarded by electric railway men as being the nation’s finest city cars; when rebuilt and speeded up, they were among the finest suburban cars. They enjoyed the longest life span of any PE car type. Their numerous appearances in motion pictures…familiarized them to international audiences.” Ira Swett, Interurbans Special 28       

“In 1921, three important PE officials: Messrs. Annable, Small and White, toured electric railways of the eastern and Midwestern states to observe and inspect the most advanced city car types of that day. Purpose of their trip was to compile ideas for a projected new PE city car, to embody all the latest approved electric railway appurtenances; upon evolving a design for this “super” car, PE would then place an order for a large number of these units.

Finally concluding their lengthy tour, the PE officials closeted themselves in a New York City hotel room with Mr. Kippenberger, President of the St. Louis Car Company. In due time their ideas were jelled and a  draughtsmen was sent for, who then and there roughed out the preliminary drawings for the new car. After final approval, PE signed with Kippenberger for fifty of these big, all-steel cars. Subsequently, St. Louis Car Company built sixty more, and The J.G. Brill Company of Philadelphia was the builder of fifty more.” Ira L Swett, Interurbans Special 28

The first fifty cars, 600-649, were built in 1922 by the St Louis Car Company. Arriving in the summer of 1922, the 600 class cars were first used on the Hollywood Blvd- West 16th St Line. “With large and heavy bodies and comparatively small wheels and underpowered, the new Hollywoods were slow—their top speed was about 28 mph—although they did provide good acceleration. With rattan seats, concrete floors, train operation and automatic couplers, the Hollywoods were a distinct step forward for the PE.” “The completely enclosed body marked a break away from the California car for Los Angeles, as well as bringing a new concept of comfort and quietness to city service. Ira L Swett, Interurbans Special 28

Pacific Electric placed an order for fifty more cars (650-699) from St. Louis Car Company in 1924. These cars were mechanically and structurally identical to cars 600-649. Minor differences occurred with the top of center doors having rounded styling, improved roof ventilation, and seats covered in pantasote instead of rattan. In 1925, Pacific Electric ordered an additional fifty cars (700-749) from the J.G. Brill Company. 700-749 were clones of cars 650-699 from St. Louis Car Company. A final order for ten cars, numbers 750-759, was placed in 1928 with St Louis Car Company. These cars were again mostly identical to the other St Louis cars with the exception of roller bearings, brass window sash, and deluxe leather seats.

All 160 of the 600 class cars were modernized and remodeled; beginning in 1939 in what would become the largest modernization program on the PE. Noted for their low speed, redesign of the motors increased top speed to 45 mph, allowing the cars to work efficiently on suburban service. The appearance of the cars was improved dramatically with the removal of eclipse fenders, built-in electric marker lights, and a new paint scheme of a brighter red, with orange striping and silver roof. The car interior was also aesthetically improved with new modern bulls-eye lights installed over every seat, along with new tubular bench style seats covered in mohair.

Starting in 1949, modernization began to convert the 600 class cars to one-man operation, where the motorman also handled the conductors job of passenger boarding and fare collecting. Upon completion in 1950, the cars were renumbered into the 5050 class. Cars 732-759 remained as two-man cars.

Retirement of the Hollywood cars began in late 1951 as a result of abandonment of several lines on the Western District and the full abandonment of the Northern District to Pasadena and Glendora. Cars 731-759 were sold to the General Urquiza Railway in Buenos Aires in 1952. An additional eight cars were sold to Portland Traction Company in Portland, Oregon in 1953. Scrapping of the 5050 cars began with five cars being scrapped at the Southern Pacific Railroad Alhambra Shops in Los Angeles.

In October 1, 1953, Pacific Electric passenger service was transferred to Metropolitan Coach Lines. The remaining 600 class cars worked the lines of the former western district and the Watts local line. In 1956, the Western District was abandoned, including the lines to Hollywood and Glendale-Burbank. Sixteen cars were retained for the Watts local Line.  All remaining 5050 class cars were or sold to National Metals for scrapping at their Terminal Island, CA facility.

Metropolitan Coach Lines was absorbed in March of 1958 by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority. Renumbered to the 1800 class on LAMTA, the sixteen cars ran a short period of service on the Watts Local Line until service was discontinued later in 1958. Scrapping of the last sixteen cars began in 1958 as cars were sold one by one to National Metals with the last cars were sold in early 1960. Orange Empire Trolley Museum member Walter Abbenseth bought the last two Brill cars, 1814 (716) and 1815 (717) as well as St Louis Cars 1801 (637), 1803 (635)1812 (626) in February, 1960. The cars were trucked to the museum in Perris, CA during March of 1960 on permanent loan to the museum. Car 1812 was run on March 19-20 for the Electric Railroaders Association of Southern California on what would be the last operations of a Hollywood car on the former Pacific Electric.

Richard Fellows and PE 655

Richard became a fan of the Pacific Electric Red Cars as a child, riding the cars in Long Beach.  His father was a ship builder, with the family business Fellows & Stewart Shipyard on Terminal Island. During World War II, Calship Shipyard was across from Fellows and Stewart, where Richard enjoyed watching the trains of the United States Maritime Commission and Pacific Electric transporting workers to the shipyard. The next door neighbor to Fellows and Stewart was National Metals, who scrapped a majority of the streetcars of the Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Railway. The owners of National metals were family friends, and Richard has the opportunity to rescue streetcars and parts from the scrap heap. Beginning about 1958, he saved cars 457, 655, 993, 00161 from National metals and 524 and 963 from private parties. The PE Hollywood cars were stacked in a pile four cars high. Richard picked 655 as it was on top of the pile and in fair condition. Richard, seeking preservation for his beloved PE cars, eventually sold PE 457 to the Western Railway Museum and the 00161 sold to the city of Seal Beach where it is today the Red Car Museum. 524, 655, 963, and 993 were retained in his collection.

Richard is most noted for his restoration and modification of PE 963 in the 1960’s into a PE 1000 class car, which he numbered 1058. Fitted with rubber tires and a gasoline engine, the 1058 made appearances around the LA area for 30 years at special events. 655 was also cosmetically restored and fitted on truck axles and rubber tires. Most notably, 1058 and 655 were cast in Disney’s 1988 movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

Richard died unexpectedly in fall of 1995, leaving restoration on cars 524 and 993 unfinished. At auction in March 1996, 524, 993, and a large collection of parts were sold to the Orange Empire Railway Museum. Later in the year, Richards’s wife Lois Fellows donated 655 to the museum. Car 1058 eventually was purchased by the LA Harbor Department and restored to rail operation on the now defunct Waterfront Redcar. Today, cars 524 and 993 are in storage at the Southern California Railway Museum awaiting restoration. The 655 is proudly on display at SCRM for visitors to enjoy. In the future, 655 can be restored to operation as the required parts are available. Generous donations to the museums Red Car Fund will make this dream a reality.


Pacific Electric 655 at Vineyard Junction prior to modernization. Raymond E. Younghans Collection

Pacific Electric 655 at the Echo Park Avenue Line terminus at Line at Echo Park Blvd and Cerro Gordo St, July 19, 1941. Raymond E. Younghans Collection.

Pacific Electric 655, outbound to Beverly Hills on the Hollywood Blvd Line, drops off a passenger on Sunset Boulevard. Olsen Collection.

Pacific Electric 5094 departing the Watts Carhouse in the early 1950’s for service to Los Angeles on the Watts Local Line. PE 655 was renumbered to 5094 during the 1949 conversion on 600 class cars to one man operation. Jeffrey J Moreau Collection.

Stack of Hollywood Cars at National Metals, Terminal Island. 5094 could be one of the cars in this pile before Richard Fellows saved the car. Southern California Railway Museum Collection.

At the Southern California Railway Museum, 655 is on display during Pacific Electric Day on June 18, 2010. Photographer John Smatlak.

SCRM member Gary Starre presents PE 655 for Mouse Planet.

Pacific Electric 655 Photo Gallery