Overview of the Collection
Scope and Contents
Related materials in the Huntington Library
Overview of the Collection
Title: Pacific Electric Railway Company Photographs
Dates (inclusive): approximately 1870s-1950s
Bulk dates: 1910s-1940s
Collection Number: photCL 91
Pacific Electric Railway Company.
boxes (21.59 linear ft.)
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
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.
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material,
nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and
obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
Pacific Electric Railway Company Photographs. The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
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
Luftschein. The collection originally included ephemeral materials such as timetables and
promotional materials which were moved to the Library's Prints and Ephemera Collection. Consult the Curator of Historical
Prints and Ephemera for access to these
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.
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 in a "Subject List" in this finding aid. Entries
are arranged alphabetically.
Related materials in the Huntington Library
For materials related to the Pacific Electric Railroad:
- Balloon Route Excursion, approximately 1900-1910 (photCL 176)
- Mount Lowe Railroad Construction, 1892-1893 (photCL 194)
- Pacific Electric Advertising and Employees (photCL 209)
- Pacific Electric Railroad Southern California Scenes, 1910 (photCL 65)
- Pacific Electric Views, ca. 1910. (photCL 75)
- Califorina Ephemera: Pacific Electric Railroad (Rare Books Department)
For construction of the Pacific Electric building and the Jonathan Club:
For local Los Angeles streetcar transport:
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