One of my dad’s earliest, most exciting memories was taking the Los Angeles Railway Yellow Car (LARY, or LA Yellow Car) with his mother from their house on 53rd Street in South Central to downtown LA. There they’d eat at Clifton’s Cafeteria (home to the world’s longest continuously lit neon light). So when the LA Yellow Cars made their final run on Sunday, March 31st 1963, a 16-year old Jim Seal grabbed his Argus camera and took the following photos.
LA’s streetcars clearly captured my dad’s imagination at an impressionable age. Now an independent transportation consultant for private rail and bus operators nationwide, he says he was “enthralled by the architecture of LA’s narrow gauge streetcar network and extensive infrastructure”.
Whether you’re passionate about light rail or not, it’s hard to look at these photos and not curse the Great American Street Car Scandal that helped dismantle the most extensive interurban rail system in the world at the time. Many of these trains, made in the Los Angeles Railway’s own shops in south LA, ended up stacked on top of each other on Terminal Island, in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, or – strangely enough – in Egypt and Chile. The Cairo Transport Authority bought over 133 Yellow Cars in 1965 and used them until 1984 while the Chile Mining Company bought 25 of the cars to be used for transporting miners.