March 4, 1907: Los Angeles’ sainted streetcar system has a bad day.
Beacon and 6th streets, minus the streetcars, via Google Street View.
One of the most deeply held and ardently expressed beliefs about Los Angeles’ past is the shadowy conspiracy that did away with its magnificent streetcar system.
The truth is that the streetcar system was problematic — like this 1907 accident in which Inter-Urban car No. 603 sped out of control down a hill on Beacon Street in San Pedro, jumped the tracks at the 6th Street curve and crashed into a line of utility poles that prevented it from overturning.
Ten passengers were hurt — none seriously, The Times says — but motorman R.C. Gill had to have his right foot amputated after he jumped from the speeding car and fell, with the car running over his foot.
Wow, that sounds like a horrible accident. Horrible. Then again the car itself seems remarkably intact. Probably due to its superior engineering. And my best guess is the passengers would have largely avoided even their minor injuries if they’d had seatbelts but, of course, this is 1907. To even get to the events which have been characterized by some as a conspiracy we’re going to have to cross two world wars and a depression. Judging from the pic, I think motorman Gill might have been better served to stay at his post.
Buses, trains, cars, and subways have accidents every day, we should get rid of them then, because they’re unreliable and people will be hurt.
And people shouldn’t walk either, a bus, car, streetcar, or el train could run off the road and strike them, or they could trip over a broken sidewalk, or even a tree could fall on them.
Our host is on one of his riffs against the Red Car legend. For me, I would have cherished living in Raymond Chandler’s L.A. riding streetcars whenever I could. Even today, here in San Francisco I choose light rail lines for their ease and my twisted sense of romance. We even trot out vintage streetcars on several lines.