Fullerton Heritage Present: The Pacific Electric Railway Depot



136 East Commonwealth Avenue – LOCAL LANDMARK NO. 5

Although the smallest of the three train depots in the Fullerton Transportation Center, the former Pacific Electric Railway Depot played an equally important role in the city’s development. The Pacific Electric (P.E.) was founded by Henry Huntington in Los Angeles in 1900 and extended into Huntington Beach in 1904, becoming California’s third-largest freight carrier by 1906.

The company spent $425,000 to establish the line from Fullerton to La Habra and $10,000 to construct the new depot in late 1917. The austere Mission Revival building was designed by Pacific Electric’s in-house engineers and built by The Kling Company of Los Angeles, owned by three brothers: George, Spencer, and Wayland Kling. The first scheduled train left Fullerton on February 1, 1918, and the last passenger train ran on January 22, 1938.

The P. E. found the passenger line to be a money loser but quickly discovered that it could generate considerable revenue by shipment of locally grown citrus produce, which eventually grew to eighty percent of its income. In 1936, the depot expanded its transportation offerings by adding Pacific Greyhound Bus service, which lasted until 1976.

The building was acquired by the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency in 1978 and rehabilitated for use as a restaurant, and since then has been used as a privately operated eating establishment. Although the P.E. abandoned the line in 1938, the Southern Pacific continued to operate trains on part of the route until around 1962. The train actually went through Fullerton College almost nightly down what was called “Boxcar Avenue” after crossing over the former “Welcome to Fullerton” bridge over Harbor Blvd.

The last remaining vacant parcels of former track right-of-way were recently sold by the College to developer Tony Bushala, who relocated two historic homes formerly owned by the College to the parcels in 2020 and is currently restoring them. Segments of the original tracks were discovered on Santa Fe Avenue near the depot during past development projects in the Transportation Center.