Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct dates that were inaccurately rendered in the print edition.
The Seal Beach Lions Club formally and officially signed over ownership of the Red Car to the Seal Beach Historic Resources Foundation on Sunday, April 23.
The sale was for $1.
Deb Machen of the Seal Beach Historical Resources Foundation and Lions President Scott Weir were both dressed in 1920s-themed attire as they carried out the ceremony on the Greenbelt, next to the Centennial Cottage and adjacent to the Mary Wilson Library. By the way: The Centennial House, a beach cottage from the early 20th century, has been redecorated. Long-time Lion Esther Kenyon was responsible for the period decorations.
They even used a pen that looked like a red quill for the signing of the papers.
The Los Alamitos High School band was setting up as the ceremony got underway. Each of the five City Council members was present. Mayor/District Two Councilman Tom Moore was dressed for the 1920s theme of the event.
The Red Car was open to the public for the first time in years.
As the formal ceremony got underway, Machen called it a fun and simple 1920s celebration. “This is Sunday in the park with the Red Car,” she said.
She thanked the Lions and members of the Lions’ Red Car Committee.
Mayor Moore said the council created the Historical Resources Foundation in 2021. Moore said Sunday’s event was a testament to the hard work of the Foundation board. “On behalf of the council, congratulations,” Moore said.
The colors were then presented by Cub Scout Pack 667.
Machen called Lions President Weir to the podium, which was set up on a table temporarily stationed next to the Red Car.
Weir said the Pacific Electric line was completed in 1902. He said the Red Car began service in 1904. He said the town was incorporated in 1915 and renamed Seal Beach.
He got a call from Scott Newton in 2021. He said there were rumors that the Red Car might go away. He said there were “ugly” stories in the paper. (For some of those stories, visit sunnews.org and search for “Red Car”.)
Weir said the Lions club made sure the Red Car stayed in Seal Beach.
Weir said the first project was the railroad crossing sign. “The only things holding that up were the termites,” he said.
“What happened before cannot happen again,” Weir said.
He said if something happened to the Historical Resources Foundation, the Red Car would go back to the Lions. (Machen later confirmed this.)
Esther Kenyon spoke briefly about the Centennial House, which was relocated from 12th Street to the Greenbelt in 2015.
Jim Quinlan, of the Lions, said the Red Car was not being moved. He said the Red Car needs love. According to Quinlan, there’s a leak in the roof. The Red Car also has issues with termites and dry rot.
Local Historian Larry Strawther went into the history of the Red Car. He said the Red Car was successful at first—for only the first 20 years. It was more successful on the freight side of the railroad business, according to Strawther. He credited the quaintness of Seal Beach to the Red Car.
Machen said the Red Car needed donations.
Machen said the inside of the Red Car was not there yet, but more exhibits were coming in.
The Los Alamitos High School band performed for the guests. Children heard stories about the Red Car. People had old fashioned treats. A balloon twister was also present.
The Red Car has had an eventful history in recent years. In a letter dated Dec. 22, 2021, the city offered to buy the Red Car Museum from the Seal Beach Historical Society for $10,000. At the time, the Historical Society paid Seal Beach $1 a year to lease the land. In early 2021, the city canceled the lease. In February, the Historical Society removed the contents of the Red Car Museum as the property of the society.
In early March 2021, the Lions Club announced the club had purchased the Red Car for the reported price of $1,501 for the Red Car, the tracks, the railroad crossing sign, and some non-historical items.