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Buses on the Railway – Los Angeles Public Transit in 1932

  • Two Los Angeles Railway coaches getting service at the 16th Street garage grease pit on September 26, 1932.

Mention Los Angeles passenger transportation to most people and the first thing they think of is the automobile. But in the days before the freeways were built, the city had an extensive public transportation system. At least 220 private and public companies have come and gone over the years since the first service was inaugurated in 1873, but the largest by far was the Los Angeles Railway. They operated streetcars and buses between downtown and neighborhoods within a six mile radius from 1895 to 1945 and maintained about 642 miles of track in their peak year, 1924.

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  • L to R: Whites and Twin Coach Model 40′s crowd the Los Angeles Railway’s 16th St. yard, a big 58 passenger Fageol double-decker on Sunset Blvd., and a Mack BK showing some wear and tear.

One of the buses that was popular in Los Angeles was the Fageol. In 1921, they became the first company to build a bus from the ground up, as opposed to placing a passenger body onto an existing truck chassis. Initially called the “Safety Bus”, this new design had a wider track and lower center of gravity than other contemporary coaches. You can see this clearly in our top photo compared to the more conventional White on the left. The idea behind the design was to build a bus that was more resistant to overturning and easier for passengers to enter and exit. Following their successful introduction, these buses were renamed “Safety Coaches”.

  • A Los Angeles Railway White on the proving stand. The ducted fan on the left forced sufficient cooling air through the radiator during an engine test.

The Fageol Model 40′s were some of the first forward control transit buses, although they still used front mounted engines. Mack and Yellow Coach would also introduce their snub-nosed models in this era. All offered improved visibility for drivers and better maneuverability in city traffic than the older conventional coaches. Those would slowly fade from the scene in the ensuing years and be all but gone by the end of the decade. You’ll find many more posts about early buses and trucks on The Old Motor as well as information about some very unusual vehicles built by the Fageol brothers. Our photos today are courtesy of the Los Angeles Metro Transportion Library.

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