Old line red car unearthed

Glendale News Press

An old red car that once rode the rails into Glendale has been uncovered in Crestline, a mountain community above San Bernardino, where it has been hidden away for decades.

The red cars first arrived in Glendale in 1904 and for some 50 years provided quick service to and from Los Angeles and the rest of the region.

As part of the Pacific Electric system, the cars transformed Glendale from a small village into a fast-growing suburb of Los Angeles.

This particular car, Model PE 530, was built in 1909 by the St. Louis Car Company. It was later retired, sold and taken to Crestline for use as a small cabin.

"The trolley house has been a local landmark for years, for those who knew of its existence," wrote Rhea-Frances Tetley in her column "Those Were the Days" in The Alpenhorn News, which serves Crestline and the Lake Arrowhead area.

Later, a small house was built adjacent to the car and connected via a hallway at the center of the car. Since then it has served as a kitchen and eating area.

"With two long sides with windows, it was easy for those who drove by to recognize it as a red car trolley. And it was also painted red, just in case anyone wondered," Tetley said.

Some time ago, the property owners demolished the house and began a rebuilding project. They presented the trolley to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, the premier West Coast facility for old trains and trolleys, Tetley wrote.

"The museum people were very excited when they visited the car before dismantling began," she added. "One of the workers said it was the best preserved trolley they had seen in a long time."

Moving the car, which once carried 48 passengers, from its home of so many years presented a challenge, according to the museum's website. The car, weighing more than 58,000 pounds, was jacked up off its foundation, repositioned, then placed on rollers to move it onto a flat platform trailer for its trip to the museum.

The trolley arrived at the museum facility in August 2007, and was put in Carhouse Seven, awaiting restoration, including wheels and seats, said John Smatlak, a museum spokesman, who confirmed that it would have ridden on the Glendale line.

"It also traveled all over the system as did all the cars," he said. "It's a remarkable find."

He speculated that there are a number of similar cars up in Crestline.

"We got two other cars from that area years ago and we know of at least two others still up there," he said. "They were sold cheaply when they were retired. The company had a choice of burning them or selling them. They could make more by selling them."

The PE 530 is not on display but can be seen on request, Smatlak said.

The museum celebrates Pacific Electric Weekend this Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.oerm.org.

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