Tony's LA: Streetcars Are Back On LA Streets - Fox 2 News Headlines

Tony's LA: Streetcars Are Back On LA Streets

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Los Angeles, CA -

(FOX 11) In this edition of his Fox 11 Special, "Tony's LA" host Tony Valdez meets the people and takes us to the places that make Los Angeles so unique.

The Traction Club: Streetcars back on the streets of Los Angeles thanks to the nearly magical work of the enthusiasts.

Metrorail's Expo Line, opened not quite a year ago, runs mostly at street level, but it's really a new light rail system built on top of an old street car line that stopped carrying passengers in 1958.

What the old and the new have in common, besides the route, is that overhead wire provides the power for the electric motors that drive the cars.

To ride a real streetcar nowadays, a Los Angeles Transit Lines yellow car in this case, requires what can be a long drive to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, about 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles City Hall.

But to have the full street car experience, moving in stop and go traffic in a crowded city, requires a trip to San Francisco and a ride on the Muni's F Line between The Castro and Fisherman's Wharf.

This brief shot shows a streetcar painted in Pacific Electric red that's occasionally in service on Market Street.

Back here in Los Angeles, there is a place where streetcars still run amid high rise buildings, providing reliable mass transit at nearly every street corner.

It takes moments like these to make us realize that what we're looking at are very realistic HO scale models of our beloved red cars, yellow cars, and some green cars that look a lot like the ones that used to run in Philadelphia.

This is the very unusual traveling streetcar display built by the Southern California Traction Club.

"It's called a modular layout, it's made up of pieces that are transported and set up for shows, for special events, then taken down and put away until the next time we use them," said John McWhirter of the club. "...which is about 8 to 10 times a year in places as far away as Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay area."

When all the modules are put together, the Southern California Traction Club's layout measures 16 by 26 feet, way too big to move from place to place in one piece.

Another thing that makes the Southern California Traction Club unique is its insistence on realism.

Absolutely everything on the layout has to be a perfectly scaled miniature.

It's something club member George Jones is adamant about.

"Just because it looks right, to me, to see a model truck out there with the wheels 11 feet wide across the back of the truck with an 8 foot bed, you can't have it on the highway so why have it on the layout."

When George puts it that way, the club's insistence on realism and super detailing makes sense. Which is why we have waited until now to introduce you to George Huckaby, one of the Southern California Traction Club's founding members.

"I'm the overhead wire hanger, all the overhead wire that you see on the layout, I'm the one that does that," he said.

By now you've probably figured out that the demand for realism on the Southern California Traction Club's layout means those miniature overhead wires, which are easier to see here on one of the club's workbenches, provide the electricity which drives the model streetcars, exactly the same way as in the full-sized world.

"There are so many things that can excite you doing this, hanging wire, painting a car, researching what the correct number is, researching what's the correct destination sign for a car, you could even get to the point of saying Car 717 was only used out of this barn and used on those routes!" George said.

Members of the Southern California Traction Club are usually working on new modules, including a HO scale model of a subway. Appropriately enough, it fits underneath the regular layout at the perfect height for kids.

"They love it, in fact you'll see there are lots of nose prints from little kids who will stand at this, not letting the adults even get a view, they love to just watch the trains go through there."

Ultimately it is all about love, although the guys in the Southern California Traction Club might be a little uncomfortable using that word.

It's their love of streetcars, large and small, their loving attention to details on everything from the electrical wires to the people who populate their layout.

And not to be overlooked is their passion for sharing their love of all these things.

In a word, it's all about real.


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