The Pacific Electric Paradox

Researching the Pacific Electric freight operations has proven to be way more difficult than I could have ever imagined. For a railroad that has been documented to the point that you can find out anything about it online, and there is more information in books, it amazes me that I can not find a decent picture of the West Long Beach Freight Station. I can find images of a blimp at Santa Anita or a Fast 12 running through Seal Beach in a heartbeat, but look for a picture of an SW1 in PE lettering or a dated photo of caboose 1965. Well, it is a dig through old books, and only a handful will have a year.

I started to research the Pacific Electric caboose fleet, and getting any information on letting has been difficult. I have discovered that all of the PE bobber caboose fleet was scrapped by WWII, and they replaced the fleet, starting in 1938 with a group of ten clones of a Southern Pacific C-30-2 without a cupola. They were followed by second hand cabooses from the LS&MS, the LV, and the R&FP.

The photographic record of these cabooses is not the best, and if you do a Google search, only five historical images come up. With a lot of digging, I might have a dozen historical caboose images.

I am sure that all Pacific Electric cabooses were painted Mineral Red. Before WWII, the lettering was simple, the top line was just the initials P.E. with the road number below. As with standard Southern Pacific practices, the railroad Roman letters were overscored and the numbers were underscored. Sometime after the war, the lettering changed to have the entire road name spelled out (still overscored), and nothing else changed. A few more years passed and the ends of the handrails and the grab irons were painted white. The final paint and letting changes seem to have only been applied to the ex R&FP cabooses, such as 1984. These caboose were still Mineral Red, but had orange ends, and sans serifs lettering. The road name was spelled out in upper case letters, however the first letter of each name was in a larger font.

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