August 22nd in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1926, the 7:15 p.m. Pacific Electric red car west bound on the Seal Beach to Long Beach line made an unexpected detour at First Street and Ocean Avenue. 

Normally, the red car would continue across the Ocean Avenue bridge to the Long Beach Peninsula. This time it took an unexpected turn on the sharply curved spur tracks into the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation steam plant property. It crashed through the gates, but the motorman was able to slow the car enough to avoid derailment, and the only injury was his bruised elbow.

This March 11, 1933 photo shows the spur tracks into the steam plant property in the asphalt at lower left bottom. (You can also see damage to the steam plant from the Long Beach earthquake.)

This March 11, 1933 photo shows the spur tracks into the steam plant property in the asphalt in the bottom left half of the photo. You can also see damage from the Long Beach earthquake.

Philip A. Stanton, founder of Seal Beach, witnessed the incident from the front porch of his home on the corner of that intersection. He had actually seen a man with a young boy turn the switch immediately in front of his house a few minutes earlier, but Stanton had assumed the man was a Pacific Electric employee.

1933-1940s DWP copy copy

A better view of the Stanton house from where he saw the incident. The switch in front of the house appears to have been removed. This photo was taken after the taller steam plant stack was replaced with this shorter one due to the 1933 earthquake damage.

The Pacific Electric abandoned this line in February of 1940, the bridge to the Long Beach peninsula was removed in 1955, and the steam plant was torn down in 1967. The Pacific Electric tracks of the spur leading into the power plant property still remained well into the seventies — decades past when the last red car rode down Ocean Avenue.

Addendum – There seems to be more little curiosity about the steam plant in response to today’s post. You can find links to earlier posts and photos (including footage and photos from the demolition from Joyce Kucera) here.

– Michael Dobkins

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2 Responses to August 22nd in Seal Beach History

  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting! But don’t I remember the plant there long after that?


    • Michael Dobkins says:

      The power plant was there until 1967, but it was shut down earlier in the fifties.

      We have a few steam plant posts on the blog, including footage and photos of the steam plant’s demolition in 1967 from Joyce Kucera. I’ll add links in the post itself if you want to see more.


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