50 Years Ago This Week: The Story And Photos From The Last Day Of Red Car Service & First Day Of Bus Service To Long Beach

This past weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the last “Red Cars” running between Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Interior of LAMTA Red Car on last day of service between Los Angeles and Long Beach: April 9, 1961

The Los Angeles Times ran an article a few days ago reprinting the April 8, 1961 story of how “Red Cars will bow to buses” the following day.

At the time, they wrote “The Metropolitan Transit Authority unsentimentally is launching four new bus lines and closing out rail service.”

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, sometimes referred to as “The First MTA,” began as a planning agency by the State of California in 1951.

It was empowered to fomulate plans and policy for a publicly owned and operated mass transit system that would replace the crumbling infrastructure of privately owned and operated systems.

In 1958, LAMTA acquired the Los Angeles Transit Lines (successor to Los Angeles Railway and Los Angeles Motor Bus companies), Metropolitan Coach Lines (successor to Pacific Electric Railway and other independent bus companies) and Asbury Rapid Transit System to create the first publicly owned and governed transit system in Los Angeles.

Within three years, the Red Cars to Long Beach were gone.

New bus routes and freeway flyer service between Los Angeles and the Long Beach area took the place of passenger rail service that had been in effect since July 4, 1902.

On March 22, 1961, the first of 140 new Dreamliner buses began arriving by rail in L.A.  the April, 1961 issue of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Emblem (16p. PDF) captures the story of the new buses coming to town to help replace passenger rail.

At 4:45am on April 9, the first buses rolled into the MTA Depot at Sixth & Main Streets downtown.  The driver exclaimed, “My bus runs like a million dollars!,” but that was about it for the fanfare. (See photo below).

Just an hour earlier, the last regularly scheduled rail train left the viaduct for Long Beach at 3:45am.

These photos from our collection capture that final day for posterity. (Click to enlarge)

6th & Main Streets Depot.

6th & Main Streets Depot.

“Green Blimp” railcar at 6th & Main Street Depot.

6th & Main Street Depot.

The very first regularly-scheduled bus outbound from Los Angeles to Long Beach, 5:00am, Sunday April 9, 1961