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From the Archives: A mountain of red cars

After World War ll, the Pacific Electric Railway system was slowly dismantled -- replaced by buses and freeways.

As reported in the March 19, 1956, Los Angeles Times, many of the cars were broken up for scrap:

A host of ghosts hovers over a monumental boneyard on Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor. There at the National Metal & Steel Corp. junkyard the hulks of hundreds of ancient streetcars are coming to rest at an acetylene torch-dissecting demons….

Currently some 200 old Pacific Electric red cars are piled three or four high in a mountain of rolling stock junk awaiting the searing knife flame of the torch.

The cars, most of which rolled to their doom on their own wheels down Harbor Belt Line tracks to the yard are stockpiled near the water's edge. One at a time gantry cranes lift them down to the waiting men with torches and huge alligator-jawed cutting machines…

After being dismantled, the scrap metal was sold locally or shipped overseas. The recycling continued for several years, with a similar photo and story running in the Los Angeles Times Southern Communities Section on June 7, 1959.

The last rail line, Los Angeles to Long Beach, was closed on April 9, 1961.

Several cars are on display at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.

This post was originally published on May 16, 2011.

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