L.A. on the Nile

[Image: From the Los Angeles Times photographic archive at UCLA Library; copyright Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library].

The above image, originally published by the L.A. Times in 1965 and now in a collection at UCLA, shows “electric streetcars that once carried passengers on Los Angeles streets” being loaded by crane onto “the Liberian ship Santa Helena at Long Beach Harbor.” The boat soon thereafter set sail for Cairo, Egypt, as the streetcars had been purchased by that city’s own Transportation Co. “The streetcars will be used,” the caption adds, “in Alexandria, Egypt.” So, like something out of a story by Ignacio Padilla, if you want to experience a lost chapter in Los Angeles public transportation history, perhaps you need to book a flight to Cairo and head north toward the Mediterranean Sea.

7 thoughts on “L.A. on the Nile”

  1. I don't remember how I found this, actually – I just spent the morning cleaning out old links dating back to last summer and stumbled on this story (and about two dozen others I'll hopefully post about soon).

    If I found it on someone's blog back then, I apologize!

  2. The F line down Market St. in San Francisco has old trolley cars from many cities including Los Angeles. A little closer than Cairo.

  3. The L.A. cars were a type developed in the1930s by a committee called the Presidents' Conference Committee (referring to presidents of transit companies nationwide) and were therefore known as PCC cars. They were the most modern streetcars developed up to that time, and ran in many cities in N. America. Although intended to be a standard car, there were many variations from the basic design, according to the needs of the companies that purchased them, as well as evolution of the basic design throughout the years of production, which ended around 1950. The L.A. cars ran on narrow gauge (42") wheelsets—standard gauge is 56.5"(4 ft. 8-1/2 inches). They undoubtedly had to be regauged to run on the Cairo system.

  4. FYI, googling "alexandria tram" brings up quite a few photographs of their rolling stock, but I couldn't find any that look exactly like these PCC cars. If they're still in use they may have been modified extensively.

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