Monday, November 9, 2015

The Militant's Pacific Electric Archaeology Map

P to tha E, yo.
So how was your Summer? You might have watched the hottest blockbusters, attended some awesome outdoor concerts or spent some time at the beach...

...But The Militant hardly did any of those things.

Now, you may to may not know that The Militant has written things like his insanely popular Epic CicLAvia Tour posts, of which he has done for every single CicLAvia route in the last five years. And he has also dedicated an entire week of special posts to places like Long Beach or the San Gabriel Valley (Okay, he didn't do an entire week for the SGV, but he owes you 626ers another one, he promises!). He has even done posts throughout September 2011 dedicated to our native people, flora and fauna.

The Militant has spent the past five months hard at work on his most epic of epic works ever. His passion project, if you will. Something he's shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears over (but mostly gas, TAP card value, pedal power, hiking mileage and solitary reading): An interactive map detailing all of the existing remnants of the Pacific Electric Railway.

This is not the map you're looking for. You can hardly read it :P
Now, if you don't know what the Pacific Electric is, then you might as well close the browser window right now. But just in case you've suffered amnesia, the Pacific Electric was the 1,100-mile rail transit system that spanned across Southern California before the era of freeways. Its legendary "Big Red Cars," as their trains were affectionately known round these here parts, not only transported people, but played an unprecedented role in So Cal's population, economy, culture, growth and human geography. For the sake of reference, The Militant will use the terms "Pacific Electric," "PE" and "Red Cars" interchangeably. As a corporate entity, the Pacific Electric lasted from 1901 to 1953. But the rail system and infrastructure that comprised the PE stretched to as far back as the 1880s, and the Red Cars themselves, though no longer painted red, rolled on our local rails until 1961. And even today's Metro Rail system, unfairly compared to its older and much more expansive predecessor, is still, by all intents and purposes, a direct descendant of the PE (more on this later).

Throughout this week, The Militant will be doing posts on various aspects of the PE that you may or may not have known before, including some things that will totally change the way you see Los Angeles, like forever.

For now, though, let's get to that map.

The Pacific Electric was perhaps the main reason The Militant Angeleno became a Militant Angeleno in the first place (after seeing an article in the old Los Angeles Reader in the late 1980s). After learning gradually about locations where remnant tracks or stations remained, he had always wanted to create a list or map -- as comprehensive as possible -- with their exact locations.

The advent of Google's Google Maps changed the game, and this playa wanted to throw down.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, natives and transplants, here it is, at long last: The Militant Angeleno's Pacific Electric Archaeology Map [cue the John Williams score]:

The full-size version of The Militant Angeleno's Pacific Electric Archaeology Map can be seen here so you can inevitably add it to your Bookmarks (you know you want to):

How To Use This Map
This is an interactive Google Map, which means you can click, drag, and zoom using your navigational device of choice. The Militant highly recommends you zoom in as close as possible, as some icon locations are directly next to each other, and might not be visible in the zoomed-out views of the map.

The map features various elements: Track and Track Remnants, Stations and Depots, Infrastructure, Electric Power Substations, Public Art, Surviving Red Cars and the PE Lines themselves. Click on the icon representing each of them and a pop-up window featuring a photograph of the location (Virtually all visited and taken by The Militant himself unless otherwise specified) which features the address and a description.  Think of all of Southern California as a living Pacific Electric museum, and this is your guide to the exhibits. And this map is by no means a passive virtual coffee table pictorial. The Militant encourages -- no -- commands you to go out and visit these locations yourself, to see with your own eyes and experience the ghosts of the Pacific Electric first-hand (and sure, The Militant doesn't mind at all if you take PE selfies (please hashtag #PacificElectric though).

Track and Track Remnants 
Click on the purple track icon to view the locations of known remaining Pacific Electric track. Many of them are still peeking out of the pavement in the street, some are hardly visible. But some tracks are fully intact. A great deal of the track is abandoned, though several miles of former PE track have been re-purposed as freight track and is still in use. The thing about railroad track is that the rails themselves, when still in use, are replaced over time. Often times, the rails have the year that the steel was forged embossed on the rails themselves. But the wooden ties the rails sit on could be originals from the PE era, though they themselves can also be easily replaced. The Militant used his best judgment according to research and the visual condition of the tracks. All of the track sections on the map represent the ones still existing from the PE era. Removed or fully-covered track is not represented. A number of streets still have PE track buried in the pavement (Hollywood Boulevard, The Militant is looking at you), but unless at least the tops of the rails can be seen, they do not qualify for inclusion in the map.

Stations and Depots
Click on the circular Pacific Electric logo icon to see the two dozen station structures, ranging from large buildings, to depots, to simple passenger shelters, still in existence. Some have been moved from their original location, but as long as they still exist, their present location is listed on the map (their original location is listed in their description). Some have been preserved to their original look, but others have been re-purposed as restaurants or other businesses. In many cases, historical plaques and some sort of historical designation can be found on or near these remaining structures, as they are still proud elements of the histories of their respective communities.

Click on the black bridge icon to see the over 40 extant bridges, foundations, abutments, bridge supports, tunnel portals and non-station structures from the Pacific Electric. Some of these are obvious sights, easily seen from a street, such as Torrance's iconic El Prado Bridge, but many of them are quite off the beaten path, such as various bridges over the Los Angeles, San Gabriel and Santa Ana rivers (in those cases, they are accessible from bike trails). You may or may not have seen some of these structures before and have never known they were PE artifacts! Note that the PE also ran a bus system called Motor Coach Lines. Though some of their structures are still existing as well, The Militant did not include them in this map (Rail bias, yeah).

Electric Power Substations
Click on the red lightning bolt icon to see the 10 remaining electric power substations. The substations were buildings that housed the transformer systems that took electricity from the regional Southern California Edison or Los Angeles DWP power grid and converted the juice to the 600 or 1200 volts that fed the overhead wires to power the Red Cars. They literally put the "Electric" in "Pacific Electric." And since they were all built in the early decades of the 1900s, they are far more architecturally ornate than their modern-day, utilitarian Metro Rail counterparts (which are also much smaller due to advances in technology).

Public Art
Click on the artist's palette to view the many PE-related public art installations scattered around the Southland. Though not a part of the Pacific Electric per se,  the legend and legacy of the PE has inspired artists throughout Southern California to create murals, sculptures and other art installations that were inspired by or pay homage to the iconic Big Red Cars. Most of these pieces were created in the 21st century -- indicative of both the importance of public art in today's world, as well as the historic and cultural stature of the PE. Nearly all of these art pieces pay homage to the PE lines that ran in the exact location or in the vicinity that the artwork is located in. Mural-wise, many of the pieces were done by three artists: Atwater Village's Rafael Escamilla, Long Beach's Jose M. Loza and Art Mortimer, who painted period-piece murals in the coastal and inland extremes of the PE system. The PE-inspired public art is a key element in conveying the history of our old transportation system.

Surviving Red Cars
Click on the red trolley car icon to see where over 40 remaining Red Cars can still be found, in some form, in Southern California. Most of the beloved Red Cars, upon the system's decline, were either sold off to transit systems overseas (such as Buenos Aires, Argentina and Cairo, Egypt), or unceremoniously buried at sea off the coast to create artificial reefs. But some Red Cars still survive. Most can not only be seen but can be ridden at Perris' Orange Empire Railway Museum, and a few are scattered around Southern California as historical display items, or even re-purposed as buildings. The two replica Red Cars that ran in the recently-closed San Pedro Waterfront Red Car line are included, as they did run on an original PE route and virtually carry PE DNA through their dimensions and functions. However, the little Red Cars that run around Disney's California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, though a heartwarming Disney-fied tribute, are not included in this section, as they did not run on any original PE line, nor are they accurate replicas of original cars. They are included in the "Public Art" category, though.

The Lines
Click on the red lines on the map to see exactly where the PE passenger routes went (there were also PE freight lines, many of which shared track with corporate parent Southern Pacific, but those are not listed on the map, and likewise the PE's Motor Coach Lines bus network is not part of this map). Another thing that must be mentioned is the separate-but-related Los Angeles Railway (LARy) system (a.k.a. The Yellow Cars), also founded by Huntington. Those lines were not included on this map (Sit tight, folks, The Militant might make his own map for the LARy one day). Many historic maps of the PE exist, but none give the exact locations of the routes. This map was meant to get Southern Californians to understand were exactly the lines ran. You might live or work right near, or even along a former Red Car line and have never even known it! The lines were meant to represent all of the locations where the PE's tracks ran at one time or another. Keep in mind that not all of the lines existed all at once -- some lines were shut down as early as the 1920s. Also, most of the lines on the map are a comprehensive representation of the entire route. The PE network used trunk lines that were shares by multiple routes, which then branched out into various destinations. The full route is listed in the description. This was perhaps the most research-intensive part of this map-making process. The Militant used the Electric Railway Historical Society of Southern California's PE website, Harry Marnell's PE line pages, Abandoned, various PE books, the maps archive at the Los Angeles Central Library and the 1981 Caltrans Inventory of Pacific Electric Routes (thank you Dorothy Peyton Grey Metro Library!) as main sources of information.

You can also view larger-sized photos, plus additional pics at The Militant's Photobucket site:

So there it is, take it. If you happen to find any errors, or know of another location where PE artifacts can be found that have not been included in this map, please contact The Militant ASAP at