"Red Car" Trolley

Pacific Electric Railway

L. A. Metropolitan Transit Authority

Interurban Streetcar

Built by:

American Car & Foundry – 1911


Overhead Wire – 600 Volts D.C.


61 Tons

Purchased for “scrap value” – 1961

by a group of generous donors


Among the last of L.A.'s traditional "Street Cars" - LAMTA 1543 heads south on Long Beach Boulevard about 1960. This great photo is from the Security Pacific Historical Photograph Collection.

LAMTA Street Car No. 1543 was one of L.A.’s famous “Big Red Cars”.   Technically known as an interurban car, the common name “trolley” comes from the way the car gets it power from the overhead electrical wire via a ‘trolley pole’.  These particular type of cars were nicknamed “Blimps” due to their bulky appearance.  Like many of the trains at Travel Town, this car has a long and storied history; which includes multiple owners and service locations.  The car was built in 1911 for the Southern Pacific’s East Bay Electric Lines based in Oakland, California, which ultimately included operations into downtown San Francisco on tracks across the Bay Bridge.  Our car was No. 379 on the S.P.’s Bay-area electric operations, which ended in 1941 and the cars were scheduled to be scrapped.  However, this was just in time for the start of World War II… the surplus cars were purchased by the U.S. Maritime Commission, moved to Los Angeles, and operated by the local Pacific Electric system’s “Calship Specials” – transporting wartime workers to and from the California Ship Building Corp. shipyard on Terminal Island.  

Victory Ships being fitted out at California Shipbuilding Corp. in 1944

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Consider making a donation to help our museum volunteers restore the trains and improve your  Travel Town experience!

More Interesting Information:

At the end of the War, Pacific Electric acquired ownership of the car and it joined the regular fleet of P.E. “Red Cars” operating on lines throughout the Los Angeles area.   Pacific Electric overhauled and modernized the old car in 1947, giving a new number “435”.  It was regularly assigned to the Long Beach Line, carrying passenger daily between Long Beach, Compton, Watts and Downtown L.A.  

Pacific Electric "Red Car" 435 passes the famous Watts Towers in this Bill Whyte photo, courtesy Steve Crise, PERyhs.org

By the early 1950s, streetcars were quickly becoming an obsolete form of public transportation around Los Angeles, with many trolley lines being replaced by bus service.  In 1953, the remaining Pacific Electric’s streetcar services were taken over by the Metropolitan Coach Lines (a bus operation), which was renamed the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1958.   The LAMTA was a short-lived operation, with the last of the streetcar lines being shut down in 1961.  Red Car 1543 was the only car in the fleet to be repainted to the LAMTA green colors – just a few months before the streetcar service was terminated completely.

Robert Vredenburgh took this shot of LAMTA "Red Cars" in 1961, at the very end of street car service on the Long Beach Line. Look how 1543 stands out in her unique LAMTA green paint.