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Photos: When the Red Car Rolled Through Orange County

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A trolley car along the Pacific Electric's Newport-Balboa Line. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A trolley car along the Pacific Electric's Newport-Balboa Line. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives

How important was the Pacific Electric's arrival to Orange County? When its red cars first rolled into Pacific City in 1904, a small beachside community renamed itself after the railway's owner. We know it today as Huntington Beach. But Henry Huntington's influence was felt far beyond the coastal settlements. His railway served as a catalyst for real estate development all along its three intra-county lines that pierced the Orange Curtain. A new line to the county seat, Santa Ana, gave rise to the towns of Stanton and Cypress. The extension of the Whittier line to Yorba Linda spurred the early growth of Brea (then known as Randolph). Later, the railway's Santa Ana line would become one of its most successful, as its straight, diagonal path across the Los Angeles Basin provided a more direct route between Los Angeles and Orange counties than the highways that meandered from town to town. Nearly 2.5 million passengers rode that line in 1945. But the Orange County's red cars ultimately suffered the same fate as the rest of the system, which after World War II suffered from aging equipment and a steep decline in ridership. Regular passenger rail service to Orange County ended in 1950.

A 1925 map of the Pacific Electric interurban system. The railway also stretched into Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Courtesy of the Map Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.
A 1925 map of the Pacific Electric interurban system. The railway also stretched into  Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Courtesy of the Map Collection - Los Angeles Public Library
Pacific Electric trolley tracks through Huntington Beach, circa 1908. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
Pacific Electric trolley tracks through Huntington Beach, circa 1908.  Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A Pacific Electric trolley at Fourth and Main in downtown Santa Ana in 1910. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A Pacific Electric trolley at Fourth and Main in downtown Santa Ana in 1910.  Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A Santa Ana-bound car at the Pacific Electric's downtown L.A. terminal. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
A Santa Ana-bound car at the Pacific Electric's downtown L.A. terminal.  Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
A Pacific Electric car in downtown Santa Ana, circa 1940s. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A Pacific Electric car in downtown Santa Ana, circa 1940s.  Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A July 1927 train derailment along the branch line from Santa Ana to Orange. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A July 1927 train derailment along the branch line from Santa Ana to Orange.  Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
The Pacific Electric's Newport Beach depot. The railroad's arrival in 1906 spurred the three towns of Balboa, Newport Beach, and East Newport to incorporate as the City of Newport Beach in 1906. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
The Pacific Electric's Newport Beach depot. The railroad's arrival in 1906 spurred the three towns of Balboa,  Newport Beach, and East Newport to incorporate as the City of Newport Beach in 1906.  Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A Pacific Electric red car in Santa Ana in 1948, shortly before rail service to Orange County ended. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
A Pacific Electric red car in Santa Ana in 1948, shortly before rail service to Orange County ended.  Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

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An image of the French district in downtown Los Angeles. The image shows Aliso Street in downtown Los Angeles, California, with signs labeling buildings "Griffins Transfer and Storage Co." and "Cafe des Alpes" next to "Eden Hotel," which are located on opposite corners of Aliso and Alameda Streets. A Pacific Electric streetcar sign reads "Sierra Madre" and automobiles and horse-drawn wagons are seen in the dirt road.

What Cinco de Mayo Has to do with the French in Early L.A.

Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated wrongly as Mexican Independence Day, but a dig into the historical landscape of Los Angeles in the early 19th century reveals a complex relationship of French émigrés with a Mexican Los Angeles.
Close up of the Los Angeles Oil Field

A Walk Along L.A.'s Original Borders Reveals Surprising Remnants from the City's Past

To walk the border of the sprawling City of Los Angeles as it is today (about 503 square miles) seems an inconceivable feat for most. But what if that walk circumnavigated the city as it was in 1781 or 1850, when Los Angeles was square-shaped measuring four square leagues?
A black and white postcard photo of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union Home in Eagle Rock probably taken a few years after the home opened in 1928. The four-story main building is in the shape of a Maltese cross with Churrigueresque ornamentation over the main door, an the elevator in the center and four wings reaching out.

A Haven for Early Feminists: Eagle Rock's Home of Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Founded by middle-and-upper-class women to push for abstinence and prohibition laws, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union at Eagle Rock became a major force for societal change and a hub for feminist activity in Los Angeles.