Overview of the Collection
Scope and Contents
Restrictions on Access
Overview of the Collection
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA
Title: Pacific Electric Railway Company Photographs
Dates: ca. 1870s-1950s
Dates: bulk 1910s-1940s
Quantity: 21.59 linear ft., 27
Abstract: The collection consists of 3396 black and
white photographs (many with corresponding original and copy negatives), 116 unprinted glass
plate negatives, memos, correspondence, press releases, and notes related to the Pacific
Electric Railway, ca. 1870s-1950s. The collection provides a comprehensive overview of the
routes and areas served by the Railway during the years of its operation, and thus a picture of
the growth of Southern California during the first half of the twentieth century.
Identification: photCL 91
Language of Material: English
The Pacific Electric Railway was established by railroad and real estate tycoon Henry E.
Huntington in 1901; it grew out of Huntington’s early ventures in both real estate and
transportation in the Los Angeles area. In 1898, Huntington and a group of investors purchased
the financially strapped Los Angeles and Pasadena Electric Railway; this company operated the
first interurban rail line in Los Angeles, running between Central Los Angeles and Pasadena.
Huntington, seeing an opportunity to invest in the still small public transportation market in
southern California, began buying land in growing areas not yet reached by existing public
transportation. The Pacific Electric was designed to serve these areas.
Only a few years after the company’s formation, most of Pacific Electric’s stock was
purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad, of which Huntington’s uncle, Collis P. Huntington,
was a founder. Henry Huntington had tried and failed to gain control of the Southern Pacific a
decade earlier; in 1911, Southern Pacific bought him out completely and also purchased several
other passenger railway operators in the Los Angeles area resulting in the “Great Merger” of
1911. Henry Huntington purchased the Los Angeles Railway (LARy), which provided local streetcar
service to Los Angeles and nearby communities.
As a result of the Great Merger, the Pacific Electric became the nation’s largest interurban
electric transport system with over 1000 miles of track. The first interurban line constructed
by the Railway ran from Los Angeles to Long Beach, and opened July 4, 1902. By 1914, riders
could go from downtown Los Angeles to San Bernardino, Santa Ana, San Pedro or San Fernando.
Pacific Electric offered low cost trips to a variety of southern California destinations. One of
the most popular was the Mount Lowe trolley trip, which included a narrow-gauge cable car ride
to the top of Echo Mountain. The Pacific Electric also ran frequent freight trains under
electric power throughout its service area, and was responsible for an innovation in grade
crossing safety that was adopted by other railroads, a fully automatic electromechanical grade
crossing signal nicknamed the “wigwag.”
In 1905, Huntington opened the Pacific Electric Building at 6th and Main Streets in Los
Angeles. At the time, it was the largest building in the city. The Pacific Electric Building
housed office and commercial space and served as the terminal for many of the interurban routes.
Twenty years later, the Pacific Electric opened the Subway Terminal Building at 4th and Hill
Streets, and completed a mile-long subway (the “Hollywood Subway”) as a means of avoiding the
growing automobile congestion in downtown Los Angeles.
The 1920s witnessed the rise of automobiles, and ridership on the Pacific Electric’s lines
was down. Tracks were being paved over and trains had to yield their high speed rights of way to
traffic crossings. The onset of World War II, however, saw an increase in ridership, but by the
1950s it was clear that the automobile would become the primary means of transportation in the
region. The last Pacific Electric line in operation, the Los Angeles to Long Beach trolley,
ceased operation on April 8, 1961.
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of 3396 black and white photographs (many with corresponding original
and copy negatives), 116 unprinted glass plate negatives, memos, correspondence, press releases,
and notes related to the Pacific Electric Railway, ca. 1870s-1950s. The collection provides a
comprehensive overview of the routes and areas served by the Railway during the years of its
operation, and thus a picture of the growth of Southern California during the first half of the
The images include views of landscape along, and towns served by, the Pacific Electric
routes, including Central Los Angeles; Pacific Electric track and stations; Pacific Electric
advertising, publicity, and public relations photographs; Los Angeles and surrounding area
parks; Pacific Electric employees and employee activities; construction of Pacific Electric
facilities, such as the Hollywood subway, the 6th and Main Street terminal, and the Subway
Terminal Building; and Pacific Electric trolley cars and buses.
The views along the Pacific Electric routes include beach communities such as San Pedro, Long
Beach, Newport Beach, Redondo Beach, Laguna Beach, Venice, Ocean Park and Santa Monica. These
images include views of the coastline, the towns, and the amusement areas of Long Beach, Redondo
Beach, Venice, and Ocean Park. Also included are many photographs of Mount Lowe—the cable
incline railway, the trolley up to Ye Alpine Tavern, the Tavern itself, and the Mount Lowe
Tavern. The Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange County views document the landscape and
popular sites in and around the towns served by the Railway; these include the Glenwood Mission
Inn and Rubidoux Drive summit. Also of note are the photographs documenting activities of
Pacific Electric employees, including construction of and activities in the Pacific Electric
Club and outings sponsored by the Railway; and the construction of the Pacific Electric and
Subway Terminal Buildings.
Cards for individual items are filed in the subject, geographical and portrait sections of
the Photo Catalog. Some duplication exists.
The collection remains in its numerical order and is described at the folder level. The first
half of the collection is generally arranged by route; the remainder seems to be arranged by
general subject. There is some chronological logic to the arrangement; photographs with later
dates are placed later in the collection. Numbers 2559-2581 are open numbers with no photographs
assigned. Some folders contain memos, correspondence, press releases, or notes; their presence
is noted. Every attempt has been made to be as inclusive as possible in the description of the
folder contents; some folders, labeled “Miscellaneous”, contain images that span two or more
The collection has also been intellectually described by subject matter, and this arrangement
follows the Container List. Entries are arranged alphabetically.
Identifier/Call Number: photCL 176,
Balloon Route Excursion, ca.
Identifier/Call Number: photCL 194,
Mount Lowe Railroad Construction,
Identifier/Call Number: photCL 209,
Pacific Electric Advertising and
Identifier/Call Number: photCL 65,
Pacific Electric Railroad Southern
California Scenes, 1910.
Identifier/Call Number: photCL 75,
Pacific Electric Views, ca. 1910.
For construction of the Pacific Electric building and the Jonathan Club, see finding aid
for photCL 400 volume 10, Historical Society of Southern California Collection: Architectural
Work from the Office of Thornton Fitzhugh, 1895-ca. 1928.
For local Los Angeles streetcar transport, see finding aid for photCL 58, Los Angeles
Railway Corporation Photographs, 1851-1939.
The collection originally included ephemeral materials such as timetables and
promotional materials. Consult the Curator of Historical Prints and Ephemera for access to these
Casa Verdugo (Glendale,
Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles,
Motor Transit Co. (Los Angeles,
Electric railroads—Design and
Electric railroads—Maintenance and
Railroad bridges—Los Angeles—Photographs.
Railroad repair shops—Photographs.
Strikes and lockouts—Railroads—Los
Hollywood (Los Angeles,
Laguna Beach (Calif.)—Photographs.
Long Beach (Calif.)—Photographs.
Los Angeles (Calif.)—Photographs
Lowe, Mount (Los Angeles County,
Newport Beach (Calif.)—Photographs.
Redondo Beach (Calif.)—Photographs.
Riverside County (Calif.)—Photographs.
San Bernardino County
San Pedro (Los Angeles,
Santa Ana (Calif.)—Photographs.
Santa Monica (Calif.)—Photographs.
Sierra Madre (Calif.)—Photographs.
Venice (Los Angeles,
Genres and Forms of Material
Restrictions on Access
Access is granted to qualified researchers and by appointment.
All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator
of Photographs. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Huntington as the owner of
the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder,
which must also be obtained.
photCL 91, Pacific Electric Railway Company Photographs, ca. 1870s-1950s.
Donated to The Huntington Library by the Pacific Electric Company, April 1955.
The collection was rehoused and the original finding aid created in February 2006 by Sue