In The Pipeline: The ghost of the Red Car trains

March 12, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • The depot at Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, circa 1950.
The depot at Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, circa… (HB Independent )

I will never forget, several years ago, when a friend directed me down to the beach adjacent to about Ninth Street to discover a vital piece of Huntington Beach history. There, embedded in the ground, are remnants of the old train tracks that supported the Pacific Electric Red Cars that started running here more than 100 years ago.

My son Charles, a USC sophomore who is working on his first history book (which comes out later this year) had an idea recently based on the Red Car trains.

He said, "Dad, a lot of people are familiar with the trolley that ran up and down the coast because of how prominent it was and also because of the many photographs. But there were other train lines through Huntington Beach. How about a column that trace the other routes?"

Great idea, son! And so with his research, I will talk about them in this column.


Some background: As you may know, railroad magnate Henry Huntington ran his trains down here and in exchange, "Pacific City" became "Huntington Beach." Huntington was smart. He was less concerned about mass transportation and more concerned with making it easy for people to visit places he was developing so that he could increase real estate sales. In the 1940s, Los Angeles actually had more than 900 Red Cars that covered more than 1,100 miles all throughout the Southland (the last Red Cars in Southern California ran in 1961).

Here in Huntington Beach, we had a big depot located right at Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street. That was there until the early 1950s at which point it moved over to Atlanta for several years and then was torn down.

But if we were back in the 1940s, just where could you have hopped one of the trains in and around Huntington Beach?

Here's how it broke out. Starting in Seal Beach, along the Newport/Balboa line, was the East Side station stop near Seal Beach Boulevard. Then came the Pensla stop, the Bridgeport stop, and the Surfside Colony stop across from what used to be Sam's Seafood.

Continuing south was the Bayview stop, 23rd Street, Sunset Beach near 16th and Pacific Avenue, the Ninth Street stop and a Fifth Street stop. In the traffic circle, where today Warner dead ends at PCH near Jack in the Box, was the Los Patos stop.

Now you are in Huntington Beach. There was a Bolsa Chica stop either at the old gun club or where the current beach pay station is, we are not quite sure. Just south of Sea Point was the Stolco stop and then the Rocamp stop near Dog Beach.

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