|Los Angeles Electric Railway|
|Locale||Los Angeles, California and its suburbs|
|Number of lines||25|
|Ended operation||1958 (ceded to LAMTA)|
1963 (rail operations ceased)
|Operator(s)||Los Angeles Railway|
|Track gauge||3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)|
|Electrification||600 V DC overhead line|
The Los Angeles Railway (also known as Yellow Cars, LARy and later Los Angeles Transit Lines) was a system of streetcars that operated in Central Los Angeles and surrounding neighborhoods between 1895 and 1963. The system provided frequent local services which complemented the Pacific Electric "Red Car" system's largely commuter-based interurban routes. The company carried many more passengers than the Red Cars, which served a larger and sparser area of Los Angeles.
Cars operated on 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge tracks, and shared dual gauge trackage with the 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge Pacific Electric system on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles (directly in front of the 6th and Main terminal), on 4th Street, and along Hawthorne Boulevard south of Downtown Los Angeles toward the cities of Hawthorne, Gardena and Torrance.
The first electric railway in Los Angeles was built in 1887 to facilitate the sales of a real estate tract on Pico Street. The Los Angeles Electric Railway used the early Daft overhead system with a crude electric car and trailers. Though the real estate venture was successful, after an explosion in the power station, the Pico Street electric line closed, seemingly for good.
Los Angeles also had significant investments in cable technology. The Los Angeles Cable Railway (later named the Pacific Cable Railway) owned many exclusive franchises agreements to city streets and had constructed several major cable lines crisscrossing the growing downtown area, considered the latest word in cable railway technology. But construction was expensive, legal and operating problems plagued the system, and new technological developments threatened to make the system obsolete.
Development of an effective electric transportation system based on the new Sprague-based technology began in earnest with the arrival in Los Angeles of Moses Sherman, his brother-in-law Eli P. Clark and San Francisco investors late in 1890. Sherman, originally a teacher from Vermont, had moved to the Arizona territory in 1874 where he was involved in business and civic affairs, real estate, and street railways.
Sherman became interested in opportunities in Los Angeles after vacationing there in early 1890. He joined the efforts of a group attempting to resurrect the Second Street Cable Railway, but persuaded them to electrify the line instead. He acquired the line in October, 1890 and renamed it The Belt Line Railroad Company.
Sherman created an Arizona corporation called the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway Company (LACE) on November 12, 1890 with Sherman as President and Clark as General Manager. Frederick Eaton was chosen as Chief Engineer. The firm was incorporated in Arizona because it had certain advantages over California incorporation.
In the fall of 1890, the so-called 5-block law was passed, which enabled a street railway company to use another company's rails for up to five city blocks. This would help Sherman immensely with his plans for LACE.
Sherman and Clark began work immediately. In 1891 alone, they accomplished the following:
Pacific Railway’s problems were such that the company was thrown into receivership in 1891, with James F. Crank appointed as receiver.
In 1892, they electrified the Depot Line, and opened it on August 1.
They also started a line up North Spring and North Broadway Streets, but were forced to build a bridge over the Los Angeles River and Santa Fe rails, which postponed the opening of the line to East Los Angeles (Eastlake Park) until September 26, 1893.
The growth of the electric lines put severe pressure on the Pacific Cable Railway, which also faced other difficulties. The two rail companies began negotiations to possibly combine in August, 1892. On October 4, 1893, the sale of the Pacific Cable Railway was completed, and LACE acquired all of the assets, including their cable and horsecar lines. LACE was now the largest street railway operator in Los Angeles, owning about 90% of all lines.
In 1894, Sherman and Clark began an inter-urban line between LA and Pasadena, The Los Angeles and Pasadena Railway, and acquired all the street railways in Pasadena. But in 1895, Sherman and Clark faced difficulties themselves. In April, 1894 LACE missed a scheduled bond payment. The bondholders, unhappy with Sherman and Clark management and their attention to their new interurban railway, secured control of the company. Sherman managed to retain 49% of the outstanding stock, but he and Clark no longer had any management responsibilities. The bondholders created a new corporation called the Los Angeles Railway (LARy) and March 23, 1895 LARy acquired all of LACE’s assets, except for the Los Angeles and Pacific Railway and the Pasadena street railways.
The new management purchased new cars began converting all the existing horsecar and cable lines to electricity, a task completed by June, 1896.
The system was purchased by railroad and real estate tycoon Henry E. Huntington in 1898. At its height, the system contained over 20 streetcar lines and 1,250 trolleys, most running through the core of Los Angeles and serving such neighborhoods as Crenshaw, West Adams, Leimert Park, Exposition Park, Echo Park, Westlake, Hancock Park, Vernon, Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights.
The system was sold in 1944 by Huntington's estate to American City Lines, Inc., of Chicago, a subsidiary of National City Lines, a holding company that was purchasing transit systems across the country. The sale was announced December 5, 1944, but the purchase price was not disclosed. National City Lines, along with its investors that included Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California (now Chevron Corporation) and General Motors, were later convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to local transit companies controlled by National City Lines and other companies[n 1] in what became known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy. National City Lines purchased Key System, which operated streetcars systems in Northern California, the following year.
The company was renamed as Los Angeles Transit Lines. The new company introduced 40 new ACF-Brill trolley buses which had originally been intended for the Key System streetcar system in Oakland which was being converted by National City Lines to buses in late 1948.
Many lines were converted to buses in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The last remaining lines were taken over by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (a predecessor to the current agency, The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)) along with the remains of the Pacific Electric Railway in 1958. The agency removed the remaining five streetcar lines (J, P, R, S and V) and two trolley bus lines (2 and 3), replacing electric service with diesel buses after March 31, 1963.
Beginning in 1937, Los Angeles Railway began purchasing PCC streetcars to replace the old rolling stock on lines which were too popular to convert to bus operations.
Many cars were simply scrapped after service ended. In 1956, 41 Type H-4 cars were sent to Seoul and Pusan, South Korea as part of an aid program.
The railway was well known for its distinctive yellow streetcars. Initially cars had a two-tone yellow paint scheme with a lighter shade for the roof. Under NCL a three-color "fruit salad" scheme was adopted, with a yellow body, a white roof, and a sea-foam green midsection.
the controlling interest remained part of the Huntington estate until 1945 when the Fitzgerald Brothers purchased those shares. LARy became part of the National City Lines, was renamed the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and eventually the streetcars were phased out, replaced by motor buses.
By the end of World War II, the Huntington estate sold its majority interest to Chicago-based National City Lines. LARY became the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and bigger changes were in store. Many lines were converted to bus operation through the late forties and fifties. Never mind that NCL was partially owned by bus, tire, and gasoline suppliers. Though Federal antitrust action was taken against NCL, the damage was already done. Los Angeles was officially in love with the automobile.