Thanks to voters approving a measure on the ballot in the 1980s to fund something called "Metro Rail," streetcars made something of a comeback in 1990 in Los Angeles. Only now they referred to this new rail system as "light rail." Not sure why, being that it operated on the same type of track and gauge as "heavy rail." But for a whole new generation, it was something new. Other light rail lines have been built and are planned for the L.A. area, though it's unlikely that the Metro Rail system will ever reach the number of track miles that Pacific Electric operated.
The wave of nostalgia about these old cars has inspired a few "comeback" rail lines. There are restored Red Cars operating at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA. I've been out there and got to ride several classic railcars as well as the caboose of a freight train. At some point, I'll have to write a report of that adventure. Actually, I don't know why I haven't. I guess sometimes things pop into my head and stay there, and sometimes they don't. Perhaps I need to reapply some of that Cerebellum™ brand adhesive inside of my head...
Last year I took a ride on Metro's newest light rail line, the Expo Line. I wrote a blog entry about that ride. If you're interested, you can read it by clicking here.
You're all still awake, right?
OK, so I made plans to go ride the Port of Los Angeles Waterfront Red Car Line. I got out of bed one fine Saturday afternoon (long story—I'll write about that sometime) and decided that despite the much later hour, I'd still be able to do this. The Port of Los Angeles is about 75 miles from home, and I figured that without traffic, it ought to take just over an hour to get there. But I had to take the notorious I-405. Known for having among the worst traffic in the country, I made sure to check Sigalert.com to see how bad the traffic was. (If you live or work in Southern California and you have a smartphone, it's a good site to bookmark.) To my surprise, the map showed that route as green, meaning that traffic was flowing at or near the posted speed limit. And it turned out to be true for the most part. Once I reached I-110, I turned south on it to reach the port. This is the same way that we get to the Catalina Terminal, so I really already knew where to go. It didn't take long to reach the Harbor Blvd. exit and take a 1.5-mile trip south to reach the Red Car station at 22nd street and Marina.
|This is the place.|
|The adventure begins here.|
There is no posted schedule anywhere, but there is information posted at each of the four stations. You can see it here, but probably can't read it:
Of course there are rules—and you'd better follow them.
There weren't many people waiting to ride when I arrived at about 3:45. One person said that the trolley seemed to be running about every 30 minutes, so I figured that all I could do was to wait with the rest of them. It gave me the opportunity to take some of the photos that you see here, including the one above. (Note that there was no rule against taking pictures of signs.)
I took the opportunity to go to the end of the line (literally) to get this shot:
It might have been better for me to take this photo when the car was at the station, but if I had waited, it may have taken off without me. Of course, it ended up staying for 10 or 15 minutes. Go figure.
Once Car 501 arrived, all of us wanting to ride were already on the platform waiting to board. Conductor Jay told us that there was no fare being charged today. Not like a dollar was going to break the bank, but a buck's a buck.
|Classic looking streetcar. You can't tell that it's only ten years old.|
We got underway for our 1.5-mile journey just after everyone boarded. The craftsmen who built this car did a great job making it look like one that actually ran in the early 20th Century.
|The attention to detail is evident here.|
Sitting inside this car, I could see straight out the front window. I got a kick out of the office chair that the motorman was sitting on. Later on when I was talking to her, I joked that they should give them a chair that is bolted to the floor so they won't roll all over the place. Of course she agreed, but it's out of her hands.
|Well, I guess this is her office...|
There are four stops along this 1.5-mile route, and we stopped at all of them. But at a couple of the stops, no one got off or on, so we simply proceeded to the next one.
Along the way, I struck up a conversation with a nice gentleman who I learned was from Arcadia, the same town where many of my family members live. Bishop R. A. Mckinley is the pastor of Golden West Baptist Church in Temple City, and was kind enough to give me his card when we got back to where we started. I was going to get off, but decided to take another round trip. Without Mr. McKinley aboard, I didn't have anyone else to talk to. It was a quieter ride, but a ride along the rails is enjoyable in itself. Good conversation just makes it better.
|A nice view out is had out the front window.|
After my second round trip, I decided that it was time to get going. I saw all there was to see and it was time to get something to eat. Since it was sort of on the way home, I stopped at good old Henry's Tacos for a combo burrito, and I even got another one to take home for another night. Instead of hopping on the freeway for home, I stopped at my mom's house for a few