100 Years Ago Today: The Tragic Accident That Changed Los Angeles Streetcars Forever


Scene of the Pacific Electric Venice Short Line crash, July 13, 1913

At approximately 9:20 p.m. on this date in 1913, a Pacific Electric streetcar on the Venice Short Line slammed into another one on the same track just 50 feet east of Vineyard Junction.

The accident, near the present-day intersection of Pico Boulevard and West Boulevard, claimed the lives of 14 people and injured approximately 200 more.

The division on which the rear-ending accident occured was a double-track line, operated by time card, without signals or orders and with no means of spacing streetcars expect by vision.

Crash investigation reportThe Chief Inspector of Safety Appliances for the Interstate Commerce Comission conducted an investigation into the crash and issued a comprehensive report on August 6th.

The investigation discovered that while the speed at this spot was limited to 10 mph, the streetcar was likely going closer to 30 mph at the time of impact.

Also, the flagman on duty was considered a “student conductor” and had been hired only 24 days before the accident, had no previous electric or steam railroad experience, and had not been examined on the job despite holding “the position of greatest responsibility on this train.”

The report recommended the application of automatic train-control systems on the Pacific Electric rail network similar to those used elsewhere in the country.

The July 26, 1913 issue of Electric Railway Journal reported on Pacific Electric President Paul Shoups remarks:

“I have recommended the immediate installation of automatic block signals on the Venice Short Line as a beginning.

I am informed that between Vineyard and Venice there has never been a fatality from a collision heretofore thugh millions of people have been handled by that line.”

Indeed, during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1913, Pacific Electric Railway carried 78,796,000 passengers with only one fatality.

The accident also precipitated the end of wooden interurban cars in Los Angeles.

Pacific Electric immediately redesigned its proposed 1200 Class cars to be made of steel.