Pacific Electric Railway Company (1901-1965)

The Pacific Electric Railway Company, nicknamed the Red Cars, was a privately owned mass transit system in Southern California consisting of electrically powered streetcars, interurban cars, and buses.

It was the largest electric railway system in the world in the 1920s. Organized around the city centers of Los Angeles and regional urban areas, it connected cities in Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County. It can therefore be considered the precursor to the contemporary Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s Metrolink system.

Context for Pacific Electric chronology in our interactive timeline

Context for Pacific Electric predecessors and successors in our interactive “family tree” transit organization chart

Much more information can be found on the Wikipedia entry for Pacific Electric.


Pacific Electric Railway company records: Our finding aid via Online Archive of California

Manuscripts and reports, as well as information pertaining to maps and routes, public relations, facilities, employees and other records comprising 14 boxes (14.8 linear feet)

Pacific Electric Magazine (1918-1953) employee news magazine issues available here (PDF).

Images: Pacific Electric albums via Flickr

Before and After | Buses | Events | Facilities | Freights | Glendale Line (Rail) | People | Railcars | Rail Lines | Service Guides, Timetables, Tickets | Subway (1925-1955) | World War II

Additional images

Pacific Electric Air Line / Expo Line image directory (1905-1953)

Film and video

Pacific Electric videos via YouTube


1906 | 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1930 | 1935 | 1942

Pacific Electric text resources

1913 July 13: Report of the Chief Inspector of Safety Appliances in re: Investigation of Accident on the Pacific electric railway, Near Los Angeles, Cal, on July 13, 1913 (report dated August 6, 1913)

Our summary / Analysis: The Tragic Accident That Changed Los Angeles Streetcars Forever

1915 May 7: In re: Investigation of a Collision Which Occurred at the Intersection of the Tracks of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and the Pacific Electric Railway at Los Angeles, Calif., May 7, 1915 (report dated June 14, 1915)

1916 May 1: Reproduction of System Time Table in Effect May 1, 1916 (reprinted from 1958 history)

1924 May 3: Tunnel Digging is Begun in Los Angeles (article from Electric Railway Journal, September 6, 1924)

“The Hollywood-Glendale-San Fernando Valley Tunnel will eliminate 1,000 daily car movements from streets in the congested district. An expenditure of approximately $3,500,000 is planned. The length will be 5,025 ft.”

1925 January 14: Report of the Director of the Bureau of Safety in re: Investigation of an Accident which Occurred on the Pacific Electric Railway at Rialto, Calif., on January 14, 1925 (report issued March 7, 1925)

1936 March 23: Report of the Director, Bureau of Safety [on the] Accident on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, Claremont, Calif, March 23, 1936 (report issued June 3, 1936)

1945 October 19: Interstate Commerce Commission, Washington Investigation no. 2940, Pacific Electric Railway Company: report in re: Accident near Athens, Calif., on October 19, 1945 (report issued November 26, 1945)

1950 October 10: Interstate Commerce Commission, Washington Investigation no. 3374, Pacific Electric Railway Company: report in re: Accident at Los Angeles, Calif., on October 10, 1950 (report issued January 5, 1951)

1953 January 26: Interstate Commerce Commission, Washington Investigation no. 3508, Pacific Electric Railway Company: report in re: Accident at Los Angeles, Calif., on October 10, 1950 (report issued April 8, 1953)

1958: A History of the Rail Passenger Service Operated by the Pacific Electric Railway Company since 1911 and by its successors since 1953

1971 January: Pacific Electric Tunnel: A Feasibility Study to Develop the concept of Satellite Parking for the Downtown Area

1981: Inventory of Pacific Electric Routes (prepared by Caltrans District 7, Public Transportation Branch)

More reports on Pacific Electric’s modernization and role in traffic mitigation can be found in our directory of historical traffic, transit and transportation plans.