Los Angeles Railway

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Los Angeles Electric Railway
LARy logo.jpg
LocaleLos Angeles, California and its suburbs
Transit typeStreetcar
Number of lines25
Began operation1901[citation needed]
Ended operation1963
Operator(s)Los Angeles Railway
Reporting marksLARy
Track gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)

The Los Angeles Railway (also known as Yellow Cars, LARy and later Los Angeles Transit Lines) was a system of streetcars that operated in Central Los Angeles and surrounding neighborhoods between 1901 and 1963. It operated on 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge tracks. The company carried many more passengers than the Pacific Electric Railway's Red Cars, which served a larger area of Los Angeles.

The system shared dual gauge track with the 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge Pacific Electric, "Red Car," system on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles (directly in front of the 6th and Main terminal), on 4th Street, and along Hawthorne Boulevard south of Downtown Los Angeles toward the cities of Hawthorne, Gardena and Torrance.


Early years[edit]

The system was purchased by railroad and real estate tycoon Henry E. Huntington in 1898 and started operation in 1901. At its height, the system contained over 20 streetcar lines and 1,250 trolleys, most running through the core of Los Angeles and serving such neighborhoods as Crenshaw, West Adams, Leimert Park, Exposition Park, Echo Park, Westlake, Hancock Park, Vernon, Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights.


Los Angeles Railway route map (cover), 1942
Los Angeles Railway (Yellow Cars) network (interactive version)

The system was sold in 1944 by Huntington's estate to American City Lines, Inc., of Chicago, a subsidiary of National City Lines, a holding company that was purchasing transit systems across the country.[1] The sale was announced December 5, 1944, but the purchase price was not disclosed.[2] National City Lines, along with its investors that included Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California (now Chevron Corporation) and General Motors, were later convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to local transit companies controlled by National City Lines and other companies[n 1] in what became known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy. National City Lines purchased Key System, which operated streetcars systems in Northern California, the following year.

The company was renamed as Los Angeles Transit Lines.[3] The new company introduced 40 new ACF-Brill trolley buses which had originally been intended for the Key System streetcar system in Oakland which was being converted by National City Lines to buses in late 1948.

Many lines were converted to buses in the late 1940s and early 1950s.[3]

Public ownership and finale[edit]

The last remaining lines were taken over by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (a predecessor to the current agency, The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)) along with the remains of the Pacific Electric Railway in 1958. The agency removed the remaining five streetcar lines (J, P, R, S and V) and two trolley bus lines (2 and 3), replacing electric service with diesel buses on March 31, 1963.[4]

List of routes[edit]

Map of the post-1921 numbered routes


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Finding Aid for the Los Angeles Railway Corporation Legal Records and Correspondence". the controlling interest remained part of the Huntington estate until 1945 when the Fitzgerald Brothers purchased those shares. LARy became part of the National City Lines, was renamed the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and eventually the streetcars were phased out, replaced by motor buses.
  2. ^ Associated Press, “Chicago Firm Buys L. A. Streetcar Line”, The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Wednesday 6 December 1944, Volume 51, page 5.
  3. ^ a b "Book Review: Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars". Archived from the original on 2013-08-13. Retrieved 2010-10-26. By the end of World War II, the Huntington estate sold its majority interest to Chicago-based National City Lines. LARY became the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and bigger changes were in store. Many lines were converted to bus operation through the late forties and fifties. Never mind that NCL was partially owned by bus, tire, and gasoline suppliers. Though Federal antitrust action was taken against NCL, the damage was already done. Los Angeles was officially in love with the automobile.
  4. ^ "Streetcars Go for Last Ride". Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1963, Page N5. Link via ProQuest.
  5. ^ Jeff Wattenhofer (Oct 20, 2015). "Looking Back at Court Flight, Downtown LA's Little Lost Railway". Curbed L.A.


Further reading[edit]

  • Bottles, Scott (1991). Los Angeles and the Automobile: The Making of the Modern City. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07395-9.
  • Copeland, P. Allen (2002). California Trolleys In Color, Volume 1: San Diego and Los Angeles. Scotch Plains, NJ: Morning Sun Books, Inc. ISBN 1-58248-076-1.
  • Easlon, Steven L. (1973). Los Angeles Railway Through the Years. Anaheim, CA: Easlon Publications.
  • Fogelson, Robert (1967). The Fragmented Metropolis Los Angeles: 1850-1930. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Freidricks, William B. (1992). Henry Huntington and the Creation of Southern California. Columbus, OH.: Ohio University Press. ISBN 0-8142-0553-4.
  • Hendricks, William O. (1971). Moses Sherman: A Pioneer Developer of the Pacific Southwest. Corona Del Mar, CA: The Sherman Foundation.
  • Longstreth, Richard (1997). City Center to Regional Mall: Architecture, the Automobile, and Retailing in Los Angeles, 1920-1950. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  • Moreau, Jeffrey (1964). The Los Angeles Railway Pictorial. Los Angeles, CA: Pacific Bookwork.
  • Perry, Louis B. & Richard S Perry (1963). A History of the Los Angeles Labor Movement, 1911-1941. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
  • Post, Robert C. (September 1970). "The Fair Fare Fight: An Episode in Los Angeles History". Southern California Quarterly. Historical Society of Southern California. 52 (3): 275–298. doi:10.2307/41170300. JSTOR 41170300.
  • Post, Robert C. (1989). Street Railways and the Growth of Los Angeles. San Marino, CA: Golden West Books. ISBN 0-87095-104-1.
  • Sitton, Tom (2005). Los Angeles Transformed: Fletcher Bowron's Urban Reform Revival, 1938-1953. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Sitton, Tom (1992). John Randolph Haynes; California Progressive. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Squier, Gerald (October 2013). "Los Angeles Railway". Motor Coach Age. Motor Bus Society.
  • Squier, Gerald (January 2015). "Los Angeles Transit Lines". Motor Coach Age. Motor Bus Society.
  • Stimson, Grace Heliman (1955). Rise of the Labor Movement in Los Angeles. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Swett, Ira (1951). Los Angeles Railway; Interurbans Special #11. Los Angeles, CA: Interurban Press.
  • Swett, Ira (1952). Los Angeles Railway All-time Roster; Interurbans Special #12. Los Angeles, CA: Interurban Press.
  • Swett, Ira (1962). Los Angeles Railway Pre-Huntington Cars 1890-1902; Interurbans Special #22. Los Angeles, CA: Interurban Press.
  • Swett, Ira (1964). Die Day In LA; Interurbans Special #35. Los Angeles, CA: Interurban Press.
  • Thorpe, James (1994). Henry Edwards Huntington: A Biography. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Walker, Jim (1977). The Yellow Cars of Los Angeles. Glendale, CA: Interurban Press. ISBN 0-916374-25-4.
  • Walker, Jim (2007). Images of Rail Series: Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.
  • Wilson, Jane (1990). Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Lawyers: An Early History. Torrance, CA: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

External links[edit]