History of Streetcars in Los Angeles

The last streetcar run through East Los Angeles on 1st Street was on March 30, 1963 – almost 46 years ago.  The Los Angeles Railway’s “P” (for Pico) Line ran from the Pico/Rimpau transit center, across Pico Boulevard (pre-freeway, one of LA’s most congested streets), north through downtown and then out to East Los Angeles on First Street.

 The earliest railway on First Street to East Los Angeles from Downtown was built and operated by the Los Angeles Cable Railway Company, service began in 1889.  The Westlake Park/Boyle Heights line opened August 3rd, 1889 on east First Street from Spring to Chicago. The line was extended on September 28th, 1889 along East First from Chicago to Evergreen.  Its powerhouse was located at East First & Chicago.  See drawings of the Cable Railway here http://www.erha.org/lacrc.htm    

 Four years later, in 1893, the cable car company went bankrupt.  The assets were sold and the line was it was converted to faster electrically powered rail cars with overhead catenary wire.  The company became the Pacific Railway Company, and later sold to Henry E. Huntington.  During the “Great Merger” of 1911, the many rail lines throughout the Los Angeles area were reorganized and consolidated with service divided up among the Pacific Electric Railway Company (the Red Cars) and the Los Angeles Railway (the Yellow Cars).  The Red Cars connected long distance outlying areas with the central business district (much like Metrolink does today) and the Yellow Cars connected points within about 6 miles north, south, east and west of Downtown with the central business district.  The P Line became a Los Angeles Railway yellow car line.  Henry E. Huntington ran Los Angeles Railway until his death in 1927. 

 The Huntington Estate continued to run Los Angeles Railway until 1945 when they sold the company and its assets to Los Angeles Transit Lines.  Los Angeles Transit Lines was later acquired in 1958 by the first publicly governed transit agency, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.  There were no subsides for public transportation then, everything was operated by farebox revenues only.  Unable to afford to replace aging equipment and power generating systems, buses were the only affordable alternative at a time when the public had turned its attention to freeways and the automobile.  The last five streetcar lines in Los Angeles, including the “P” line that served East Los Angeles, pulled in to their carhouses on Saturday night, March 30, 1963 and buses known as the “Silver Liners” pulled out on Sunday morning, March 31, 1963.