Return to ERHA homepage

 Pacific Electric logo Pacific Electric

Pasadena Local Lines



Pasadena, twelve miles northeast of Los Angeles, early on became the second largest city in the county and retained that distinction for many years.  In more recent times, Pasadena has been surpassed in size by other cities, but during most of the Pacific Electric era, Pasadena ranked second only to Los Angeles in passenger traffic importance.

 The San Gabriel Mountains and the San Rafael Hills surround Pasadena on the north and west respectively.  The land upon which the city itself was laid out slopes gradually from the north toward the southeast, and has an average elevation of 859 feet.

Pasadena is bounded on the north by the City of Altadena, largely residential in nature.  On the west, the deep gash of the Arroyo Seco once formed a natural boundary.  To the south are the communities of South Pasadena and San Marino, with no natural boundaries separating them from Pasadena or each other.  Arcadia and Sierra Madre flank Pasadena's eastern border, although considerable open countryside once separated these cities.

Pasadena was served by three railroads: The Santa Fe, the Union Pacific, and the Southern Pacific—the latter two by branch lines only.

Pasadena streets are laid out parallel to meridian and base lines with the exception of a small portion on the west side.  The city blocks are rectangular, with the long measurements running north and south.

The main thoroughfare in Pasadena is Colorado Street, running east and west.  Crossing Colorado at approximate half-mile intervals are secondary streets of importance:

Fair Oaks Avenue

Los Robles Avenue

Lake Avenue

Hill Avenue and

Allen Avenue.

Secondary streets paralleling Colorado Street to the north are:

Orange Grove

Villa Street and

Washington Street;

to the south are Green Street and California Street.

Pasadena was one of the "Great Boom" cities, having been founded in 1886.  In 1904 North Pasadena was annexed, and in 1906 East Pasadena met a similar fate.  San Rafael Heights and Linda Vista were annexed in 1914 and subsequent annexations saw the city's area grow from 5.1 square miles (1886) to 19.68 (1938).  The city is chiefly residential in character, although World War II brought a considerable expansion of manufacturing.  Pasadena is self sufficient to a degree not usually encountered in a smaller city so close to a metropolis; it is remarkably independent in regards to civic, business, financial, recreation and educational activities; its leading university, California Institute of Technology (CALTECH) is world famous.

Population figures cannot take into account the considerable number of people living in county territory adjacent to Pasadena such as Altadena.  However, as of 1920, there were 45,000 residents in the city; in 1930 the figures had grown to 76,086; and in 1937, a good estimate was 82,500.  Adding the county residents, the Pasadena transportation service area that year probably was about 105,000 persons.

No words need be added concerning Pasadena's tourist attractions.  Its Tournament of Roses, Rose Bowl Game, Mt. Wilson Observatory, Santa Anita Racetrack, and Huntington Library keep it continually in the national spotlight.

The Great Merger brought the Pacific Electric Company to Pasadena.  On September 3, 1911, it obtained ownership of a general system of local and interurban rail passenger lines in the Crown City, which had been developed since 1886 by a number of predecessor companies.  Chief among these predecessors were the old Pacific Electric and it’s associated company, the Los Angeles Inter-urban Railway Company, henceforth LAIU.  These companies traced their lineage back to the Los Angeles & Pasadena, the Pasadena & Mt. Lowe, the Pasadena & Los Angeles, plus a host of horse car companies such as the Pasadena Street Railroad, the Highland Railroad, the Colorado Street Railway, the City Railway of Pasadena, and the West Pasadena Railway.

To give a thumbnail sketch of street railway development in Pasadena:


The first horse car line opens; 3'-6" gauge. Pasadena Street Railroad.


The first electric line opens; 3'-6" gauge. City Railway Company.


The Pasadena & Los Angeles Electric Railway purchases all Pasadena street railway companies.


The P&LA opens the first interurban in Southern California:


Pasadena to Los Angeles.


The bulk of the horse car lines are rebuilt and electrified, 3'-6" gauge. Additional electric lines built.


The Los Angeles & Pasadena Electric Railway Company succeeds the P&LA.  By this time the Pasadena city lines had grown to 32.17 equivalent single track miles.


Last horse car line abandoned.


Old Pasadena Electric succeeds the Los Angeles & Pasadena.


Old PE rebuilds practically all Pasadena electric railways, standard gauging (4'-8½") them, laying heavier rail and reconstructing trolley wire.


The Pasadena & Mt. Lowe Railway is absorbed, many new lines built. This was a period of intense activity and when completed, Pasadena had an exemplary completed, local and interurban rail network.


Old PE and LAIU jointly performed this work.


New PE succeeds Old PE and LAIU.


Southern Pacific Pasadena Station electrified for PE use; access trackage via Broadway electrified.


Numerous extensions and new lines built, also three older line rebuilt.


PE motor coaches replace all but four local rail lines; as these four lines are through-routed, plus two rail lines remain of a strictly local character.


Remaining local rail lines abandoned; PE sells its city lines to Pasadena City Lines, Inc., a National City Lines property.



Pacific Electric official records show the entire history of the car assignments of the Pasadena local service from 1911 to 1941.

Intervening years wherein assignments remained substantially the same as the year or years immediately preceding have been omitted.




Twenty five cars of the 200 Class provided all local service. These were operated by two man crews, as were all Pasadena local cars until the advent of the Birneys in 1920.


Seven of the 120 Class, twenty-two of the 200 Class and six of the 430 Class.


Ten of the 170 Class and twenty of the 300 Class. The 170s were steel, center-entrance & exit. 600-1200 volt cars obtained from Southern Pacific's Oakland Lines. The 300s were the famous "Dragons", steel, center entrance & exit, low step cars designed by New Yorkers. Note that in this year every Pasadena city car was steel, and of modern design—undoubtedly the high spot of equipment assigned to the Crown City.


The Dragons remained—all twenty of them—but the 170s left, needed in 1200-volt territory. Replacing them came one 200 and ten 160s. brought in from Pomona when that part of the PE system went over to 1200 volt operation.(This car assignment remained constant for 1916, 1917 and into 1918; then one of the Dragons was withdrawn, leaving nineteen).


Forty-five Birneys (340 Class) came to town, but still there were ten 160s and six Dragons retained.


Thirty-nine 340s, ten 160s, two 200s.


Birney Safety cars. How the years cut these down in number is noteworthy: 1924 (37); 1928 (36); 1929 (35); 1931 (35); 1933 (23); 1936 (25); 1938 (26)


The following local rail lines were operated by Pacific Electric in Pasadena

Pacific Electric local rail lines in Pasadena were backboned by Colorado Street.  Secondary trunk lines were North Fair Oaks and North Lake.


East Colorado Street Line:
From Fair Oaks Avenue to Daisy Avenue in Lamanda Park, 3.29 miles, of which all was double track except that portion from Lamanda Park Junction to Daisy Avenue, 0.51 mile.

History: Horse car line built between Fair Oaks and city limits, then 688' east of Lake Avenue, in 1886 by Colorado Street Railway Company.  Electrified 1894 by Pasadena & Los Angeles Railway Company.  Standardized and extended to Lamanda Park Junction by Old PE in 1903.  Extended to Daisy Avenue in 1906 by LAIU.  Abandoned 1941 from Lake Avenue to end.  Abandoned 1950 from Fair Oaks to Lake Avenue.


North Fair Oaks Avenue Line:
From Colorado Street north to Mariposa and thence east to Lake Avenue, 4.28 miles, all double track.

History: Horse car line from Colorado to Chestnut built 1886 by Pasadena Street Railroad Company.  Horse car line from Chestnut to Mountain View Avenue built in 1887 by City Railway Company of Pasadena.  Electrified in 1894 by P&LA from Colorado Street to Montana Street.  Standard gauged and extended to Mariposa & Lake by Old PE in 1903; abandoned 1941 from Chestnut to Mariposa; abandoned 1952 from Colorado to Chestnut.


North Lake Avenue Line:
Horse car line built by Highland Railroad Company in 1888 from Villa Street to New York Avenue.  It was later extended to Altadena in vicinity of Mendocino Street.  From Villa south to Colorado built as horse car line at unknown date.  In 1894 electrified by P&LA form Colorado Street to Villa as part of North Loop.  Standard gauged by Old PE 1903 and extended to East Orange Grove Avenue by Old PE 1904.  Extended to Mariposa by LAIU, probably 1906.  Abandoned 1941.

Mileage: 2.32 (Colorado to Mariposa) of which all but 0.49 was double tracked.


Lincoln Avenue Line:
From junction with the North Fair Oaks Line at Chestnut Street to Lincoln & Montana, 2.30 miles, all double tracked.

History: Built new in 1913 by Pacific Electric. Abandoned 1941.


West Colorado & Orange Grove Avenue Line:
From Colorado & Fair Oaks, west on Colorado to Orange Grove, north and east on Orange Grove to Los Robles Avenue, 2.52 miles, of which all was single track except 0.33 mile from Fair Oaks to Vernon on Colorado.

History: Horse car line on Colorado from Fair Oaks to Vernon (U.P. Station) was built in 1891 by West Pasadena Railway Company.  Electrified by P&LA 1894.  Standard gauged 1903 by Old PE and extended to Orange Grove Avenue the same year.  Orange Grove Avenue track built by Old PE in 1903-04 from Colorado to Fair Oaks, and by LAIU in 1907 from Fair Oaks to Los Robles.  Abandoned 1923.


North Loop Line:
From North Los Robles & Colorado Street north on single track on North Los Robles to Villa Street, thence east to Lake on double track, north on Lake to East Orange Grove Avenue, and east on Orange Grove on single track to Allen Avenue.  Cars on this line operated on Colorado Street to Vernon Avenue.

Mileage: 1.70 from Colorado & North Los Robles to Villa & Lake, of which 0.47 was double track and 1.09 on Orange Grove East.  Remainder of route was shared.
Trackage on Villa and North Los Robles was built in 1888 as a horse car line by Highland Railroad; electrified in 1894 by P&LA at which time it was a true loop, running via Los Robles, Villa, Lake and Colorado.  Old PE standard-gauged the North Loop in 1904.  LAIU built the East Orange Grove extension in 1907.  Abandoned 1923.


East Washington Street:
Shared trackage from Colorado & Fair Oaks via Colorado and North Los Robles to Willa Street.  Thence on own tracks, north on Los Robles to Washington, east on Washington to Tierra Alta.

Mileage: 3.24 from Villa Street, all single track.  The portion from Villa on North Robles to Washington and on Washington to Lake was built in 1906 by LAIU; New PE built the Lake-Tierra Alta segment on Washington in 1912.  The Line was abandoned in 1923.


Mendocino Avenue Line:
From Lake Avenue on Mendocino to Allen Avenue, 1.17 miles, all single track.
Built 1913 by New PE; abandoned 1932.  This was not a true line, but an extension of the North Lake Avenue Line.


South Loop Line:
From Colorado & South Los Robles via South Los Robles to California Street, thence east to Tournament Park, 0.77 miles of single track and 0.85 of double track.  Los Robles from Colorado to California and California from Los Robles to Lake was built in 1888 by the Colorado Street Railway Company.  This trackage was rebuilt and electrified by P&LA in 1894 and operated as a true loop, continuing north on Lake to Colorado, thence west to Fair Oaks.  The Tournament Park extension was opened on December 18, 1904. The South Loop was standard gauged that same year by Old PE.  The South Loop Line became the Tournament Park Line in the late Teens and was abandoned in 1923.


Arroyo Seco Line:
On Raymond Avenue from Colorado Street to California Street, thence west on California to Arroyo Drive on the brink of Arroyo Seco, 1.73 miles of which 1.04 was double track.  Prior to 1914, this line's downtown terminus was at Broadway & Colorado alongside the SP Depot; route from there was south on Broadway to Bellevue, east to Raymond, thence as above.  The Highland Railroad built trackage on Raymond Avenue from Colorado Street to Glenarm Street in 1888.  In 1889 Raymond between Bellevue and Glenarm was abandoned.  P&LA rebuilt and electrified Raymond from Bellevue to Chestnut in 1894.  Old PE standard gauged this portion in 1904.  In 1904 new double track was constructed by LAIU on Raymond between Bellevue and California Street, and on California Street from Raymond Avenue to Arroyo Drive, all double track except the outer end.  This line was abandoned in 1923.


Columbia Street Line:
On Columbia Street between South Fair Oaks and Fair View Street, 0.77 miles, double track.  Built 1894 by P&LA as part of the original interurban line between Los Angeles and Pasadena.  Replaced by new trackage on Mission Street in South Pasadena in 1903 and Columbia Street was abandoned on May 23, 1912.  In the interim one car daily had been operated between the Raymond Hotel (South Fair Oaks) and the Santa Fe's South Pasadena Station.


Broadway Line: (Arroyo Seco Line)

This trackage on Broadway between Bellevue and Colorado Street was built in 1904 by LAIU as part of the Arroyo Seco Line.  In 1912 PE leased the paralleling SP track on Broadway, electrified it, and used it thereafter.  PE abandoned its own Broadway track on May 23, 1912.


South Lake Avenue, South Fair Oaks Avenue:
Interurban cars to Los Angeles operated over these tracks and picked up local passengers within Pasadena city limits.  After the sale of PE local lines in Pasadena in 1941, PE made payments to Pasadena City Lines for local passengers carried on its interurban lines.  Interurban operation on South Lake Avenue was ended on October 6, 1950, and terminated on South Fair Oaks Avenue on September 30, 1951.






Car Miles


Revenue/Car Mile














































































































































* Calendar year.
r: Rail
b: bus


One of PE's earliest large-scale abandonments of electric railway lines in favor of busses took place in Pasadena in 1923.  This action came about due to the following causes:

By 1922 PE was suffering from directly paralleling bus competition in Pasadena.  To make matters worse, not enough traffic existed to support the competing operations.  PE was faced with the necessity of making an expenditure of approximately $750,000 for track renewals.  A vociferous faction opposed elimination of competing busses.  Another faction endorsed the city's bonding itself to establish a municipal bus system, which would supplant PE's rail operations entirely in the local field.  An election was called on a municipal bus system proposal and after a spirited campaign; the bus issue was defeated by a two-to-one margin.

With the air thus cleared, PE and the city were able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.  All paralleling bus competition within the city was eliminated.  A 6 cents local fare was established (ten tickets for 50 cents) with free transfers within the city limits.  Track was rehabilitated on the heavier lines, but under a temporary permit, PE bus operation was established on Los Robles Avenue where track renewal would have cost $350,000.  This "temporary" substitution became permanent, and other lightly patronized rail lines were similarly converted.

Lines involved and dates they were converted to bus operation:

North Loop (July 3, 1923)

Tournament Park (July 22, 1923)

North Orange Grove (July 29, 1923)

East Washington (July 29, 1923)

Arroyo Seco (September 6, 1923)

To establish a bus system in Pasadena, PE spent $500,000 for a garage and parking area at Broadway and Bellevue, plus 45 new busses.


On January 19, 1941, PE sold its Pasadena local lines, rail and bus, to Pasadena City Lines, a new company and a subsidiary of Pacific City Lines, a National City Lines subsidiary.  Busses were in readiness to take over the four local rail lines:

Lincoln Avenue, Altadena, North Lake Avenue and East Colorado Street and local rail service, except for the few local riders on the two interurban lines, ceased as of this date.  Pasadena City Lines paid PE $223,400 for its rails, overhead, Altadena substation, garage with equipment, and busses.  The Birney cars were not included, nor was property still required for operation of the Oak Knoll and Short Line interurban services.  Pacific City Lines also purchased local PE bus lines in the city of Glendale at the same time.  Previously, Pacific City Lines had purchased other Southern Pacific-owned streetcar companies in San Jose, Fresno and Stockton—all of which properties were speedily converted to 100% bus operation.


A survey of trackage to be sold was made by PE in 1940 and revealed:

Lincoln Ave Line:

128 lb. girder rail between Fair Oaks and Grove Avenue, about 2,125 feet, then 72 and 75 rail to Prospect Boulevard, approximately 3,160 feet, from here to Forest Avenue, 128 lb. and 93 lb. rail, a distance of 176 feet; then 128 lb. girder rail to end, Montana Street, 6,724 feet, in concrete pavement.  Total: 4.66 Equivalent single track miles.


Colorado Street Line, east from Lake Avenue:

A total of 9,100 feet of 128 girder rail in asphaltic concrete pavement to Huntington Drive (Lamanda Park Junction.); then 184 feet of 93 lb. rail crossing the Sierra Madre Line; followed by 2,665 feet of single track, 128 lb. girder rail to end of Daisy Avenue.  Total: 4.02 Equivalent Single Track miles.


Lake Avenue Line:

302 feet of 128 lb. girder rail at Colorado Street, followed by 66 feet of 91 lb. rail; then 8,199 feet of 75 lb. rail to Washington Street, followed by 3,042 feet of 128 lb. girder rail to Woodbury Road; here single track began, continuing north 3,845 feet to Mendocino Street, including substation spur, then came 428 ft. of double track 60 lb. rail to Mariposa, junction with Altadena Line. Total: 5.29 E.S.T. miles.


Altadena Line:

11,566 ft. of 128 girder rail from Walnut Street to Montana Street except 70 ft. of 72 lb. rail at Chestnut Street, then 2,569 ft. of 60 lb. rail from Montana Street to Mountain View Avenue, followed 1,486 ft of 70 lb. rail to Mariposa; then 5,948 ft. of 60 lb. rail on Mariposa to end of Lake Avenue.  Total: 8.20 E.S.T. miles.


All of the above trackage and PE's interest in overhead facilities were sold in place to Pasadena City Lines and that company then resold them to scrap dealers who effected their removal—EXCEPT Lake Avenue north from Woodbury Road (north city limits of Pasadena) to beginning of private way at Las Flores Avenue was quitclaimed to the County of Los Angeles and abandoned in place.  The Birney cars were taken to Torrance Shops and either scrapped or turned back to SP.

After the 1941 abandonment, no more cars were stored at the South Fair Oaks Yard, and the Railway Express Agency box motors were handled at Pasadena Car House, enabling abandonment of trackage on Broadway and on Bellevue.  Trackage on Raymond from Bellevue to the Car House was also abandoned and the Car House was then, perforce, single end.

Return to ERHA homepage