The Pacific Electric Railway – once considered one of the best public transit systems in the world – may now only exist in memories and movies, but a reminder of its heyday was recently unearthed at an Orange construction site.
Construction crews have started digging for a parking structure next to the Orange Metrolink station that will have a level under ground. At about three feet below the surface, the team stumbled on a 100-foot stretch of steel track once used by streetcars passing through Orange.
Long abandoned, the tracks were paved over when the city built the 172-space Lemon Street parking lot, which in turn is now being placed by the 611-space parking structure.
Eric Carpenter, spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority, which is leading the project, said the team knew the railway was once active in the area, but was surprised to find remnants of it just below the surface.
In the early 1900s, the Pacific Electric Railway was the best – and for the vast majority of citizens, only – way of quickly traveling around Southern California. The sprawling tracks once connected Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange County together through a system of electrically powered streetcars and buses.
The iconic “Red Cars” of the railway can be seen in many movies that are set in Southern California between the 1920s and 1940s. Fans of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” might recall the heroes nearly crash into a Pacific Electric streetcar during a chase scene. The demise of the railway also comes up in the film’s climax, as antagonist Judge Doom reveals his nefarious plot to buy out the railway and replace it with a freeway.
It wasn’t Judge Doom’s doing, but…