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Seal Beach's Big 'Red Car'

August 05, 1989|Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich and Elena Brunet / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

To view the most extensive collection of memorabilia from Seal Beach's past, one need only step aboard a restored Pacific Electric Railway "red car." The unique Red Car Museum houses photographs, clothing, shells and other items collected over the years that detail the city's history.

The "red cars" themselves are an important part of Seal Beach's development. When the Pacific Electric Railway reached Bay City (now Seal Beach) in 1904, those who lived in the inland parts of Orange County could begin to visit the coastal areas by rail. Although the seaside route would eventually extend from Long Beach to Newport Beach, it was the lure of Seal Beach's "Fun Zone"--an amusement area complete with Ferris wheel and other rides--that brought thousands of sightseers from throughout the area flocking to the city via the "red cars."

One of the cars was purchased by the Seal Beach Historical Society in 1976 and placed where it now sits in Heritage Square, according to Barbara Rountree, president of the Seal Beach Historical Society. Originally a "tower" (work car) that serviced the Pacific Electric Railway lines, Car No. 1734 opened as a museum in 1981 after a lengthy restoration by local volunteers.

Items on view in the museum include a collection of shells found on Seal Beach, some dating back 45 years, Indian artifacts discovered on Marina Hill, and more than 1,000 photographs of historical interest dating from 1888 to 1960. There is also a rare collection of photographs, books and magazines from and about the Pacific Electric Railway.

"We have tried to be very local in what we gather," Rountree said. "We realized that if we ourselves did not collect things (from Seal Beach's history), no one would."

The historical society is currently going through 30 boxes of writings and items to be used to put together an oral history of Seal Beach. When finished, it will be housed in the museum.

Hours:The museum is open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. It is also open by appointment to any interested group.

Address: Heritage Square, Electric Avenue and Main Street, Seal Beach

Telephone: Contact Barbara Rountree at (213) 431-7435.

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