Thursday, June 15, 2006

End of the Line: 60th Anniversary of the End of Several Streetcar Routes

End of the Line: 60th Anniversary of the End of Several Streetcar Routes

The Chicago Transit & Railfan web site by Bill Vandervoort has surprisingly extensive information about the history of St. Louis' public transit system.

Compare information from his site with today's MetroBus routes and schedules, the Metro Redefined restructuring plans, and other historical resources like Andrew D. Young's excellent books Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis: A Sentimental Journey and The St. Louis Streetcar Story. You'll notice many, many significant changes in the transit system -- but, nevertheless, some definite continuity as well.

I've identified eight (8) present day MetroBus routes -- all of which will continue to exist under the Metro Redefined plans -- that date at least as far back as the 1923 streetcar route map on the Vandervoort site. They are also listed on his Concise History of St. Louis Transit Routes.

These routes cover largely the same territory, with the exact same route number and very similar route name, as they did in 1923! (But to be clear, as Vandervoort notes on his site, "Route numbers were introduced in 1928.")

They are in route number order. All links are to the Metro Redefined versions of the PDF route maps:

#13 Union-Shaw (PDF). This route has been extended south and reconfigured on that segment several times; but the core route on Union Blvd. from West Florissant Ave. to Waterman Blvd. remains unchanged from the old #13 Union car. This streetcar route was replaced with buses on June 15, 1946 -- 60 years ago today!

#15 Hodiamont (PDF). The segment east of Vandeventer into downtown (or, now, ending at Grand MetroLink station) has been shifted and reconfigured many times. Likewise, in 1993 the western terminus was shifted from Wellston Loop to Rock Road MetroLink station; and then in 2001, it changed again to terminate at Wellston MetroLink station via Etzel. But the core route of the last streetcar line to operate in the city remains, along its private right-of-way from the 3900 block of Enright Ave. to Hamilton Blvd. This streetcar route was replaced with buses on May 21, 1966 - a little more than 40 years ago.

(Initially I included the #16 City Limits on this list, but it turns out that streetcar route was mostly part of the old #01 Kirkwood-Ferguson line. Sometime in the 1930s, that route was cut in two, forming the #01 Kirkwood 'dinky' discontinued August 2, 1950; and the #16 City Limits-Ferguson, replaced with buses February 21, 1948.)

#18 Taylor (PDF). Again, the southernmost segment of the route has changed several times. The streetcar route ran on Euclid and the old S. Kingshighway, ending at Manchester. For many years, the bus route went even further, to Forest Park Community College via Manchester and Macklind. But the core route via Taylor from Olive to Maffitt, Maffitt from Taylor to Newstead, Newstead from Maffitt to Carter/Pope, then via Pope, West Florissant, and finally back to Taylor to end at North Broadway, remains intact. This streetcar route was replaced with buses on June 15, 1946 -- 60 years ago today!

#32 Wellston-MLK (PDF). This line has changed many times in and around the downtown area, most notably in 2001 when it was shifted off MLK Drive east of Grand, to instead replace the old #30 Cass on Cass Avenue from Grand to 9th Street. And of course, the original streetcar route ended at Wellston Loop. The segment from Grand to Wellston Loop, though, remains the same.

Service further west was provided on the old #65 Woodson Road streetcar line (turned over to St. Louis County Bus Company on December 28, 1948), and still further west on the old #64 St. Charles streetcar line. (Streetcar service to St. Charles, MO via the old Route 115 bridge lastest less than thirty years! May 10, 1904 to January 18, 1932.) The #32 hung on as a streetcar until July 28, 1963 (on the original Easton Ave. - Franklin Ave. route into downtown of course).

#40 Broadway (PDF). This venerable old route -- a favorite of mine since I used to ride the Broadway bus on a daily basis -- still traverses the city along the same corridor it has for decades. Quite simply, it runs from Catalan Loop in the south end of the city, to Baden in the north end of the city, via Broadway. This route lost streetcars on August 19, 1956 -- almost 50 years ago.

In downtown, there will be a significant deviation to provide a better connection with MetroLink under the new route plan. And in the county, its branches have changed a lot over the years. For many years, the Broadway bus ended at River Roads Shopping Center in Jennings. Now that it has closed, the end has moved back into the city, to the soon to be built Riverview-Hall Transit Center. Also, service farther north through Moline Acres, Castle Pointe, all the way to Flower Valley Shopping Center on North Lindbergh and New Halls Ferry, was truncated and made into a separate shuttle route several years ago.

To the south, service in South County has changed several times. From 1896 to March 6, 1932, there was direct streetcar service to Jefferson Barracks (along South Broadway through Lemay) via the #43 Barracks line. This was replaced by the #114 Barracks bus line, which some years later was integrated into the Broadway line.

As late as the 1990s, the Broadway had two branches in South County: one, the more common, was directly via S. Broadway, Kingston Dr., Telegraph Rd., Pottle Ave., Robert Koch Hospital Rd., and Koch Rd. to serve both the City's Koch (Quarantine) Hospital and the VA Hospital. Of course, Koch Hospital has long since closed and been demolished. The other branch provided mid-day service to South County Mall via Marceau Street, Alabama/Lemay Ferry, Military Road, S. Broadway, Ripa Ave., Telegraph, Sappington Barracks, Barracksview, S. Lindbergh, and Lemay Ferry to the mall.

Today the south end of the #40 serves the mall six days a week, but via a very different route. Instead of ending at the VA Hospital, it's just a stopping point (except on Sundays). The route is via S. Broadway, Kingston, Telegraph, then to Kinswood Lane (I-255's south outer road), Koch Road, loop into the VA, then back to Koch, then to Robert Koch Hospital, to Pottle, straight into Forder Road, and then via Lemay Ferry to the mall.

#41 Lee (PDF). Another venerable Northside trunk line, the Lee has changed the streets it uses east of Grand several times, but generally it runs along the N. 20th St. corridor. The streetcar line used to end at Kingshighway and Lee, but the bus has for many years extended into Walnut Park and to Halls Ferry Circle, until recently ending at River Roads. Streetcar service ceased almost 60 years ago: July 6, 1946.

#42 Sarah (PDF). The Sarah line at one time came as far south as Shenandoah and Tower Grove in the Shaw neighborhood. There's now a house where the old streetcar loop was. These days the southern end falls at the Grand MetroLink station, but the core of the route along Sarah Street, and then along Fair Avenue near Fairgrounds Park, is pretty much the same. This streetcar route was replaced with buses on June 15, 1946 -- 60 years ago today!

#70 Grand (PDF). The best-known and best-used of all bus routes remains the #70 Grand. It mostly traces the original #70 Grand streetcar route, although with some noteworthy changes. Of course, the North Grand Water Tower is a natural terminus; but sometimes the bus extends a few blocks further to connect with the #40 Broadway, ending at Bulwer and Gano off North Broadway. In the south, the original terminal loop was located just off Meramec Street, I believe on Minnesota Avenue. In the late 1970s, Dutchtown activists got the bus line extended to the old South Broadway bus garage; and more recently, it was extended to Jefferson/Chippewa/Broadway. Another branch came when the old #05 Gravois was eliminated, necessitating adding far south Grand to the #70 route. Every third run or so of the #70 now operates directly via Grand to Iron Street near Carondelet Park.

The #70 Grand streetcar was replaced with buses on January 3, 1960, in preparation for the demolition of the old Grand viaduct across the Mill Creek Valley. Ironically, it was not construction of the highways that killed it; the Market Street Bypass (now part of Highway 40/Interstate 64) built in 1955 included streetcar tracks on Grand, at much expense to the streetcar company.


urban Review said...

Great post!!! I pour over the same books and sites all the time. I know the buses were the modern thing to do at the time but I wish someone here would have insisted we keep the streetcars running.

I think we need to organize an event on August 19th where we all ride the #40 Broadway bus in memory of the old streetcar.

Old Toad said...

Oh the gentle rocking rythum of the streetcars! Gone. The ding ding ding, silent! I recall the yellow lines defining the boarding spaces in the street where you stood waiting for the car to approach, it is a wonder that more people were not run over by autos. The waiting spaces were further defined by domes the size of old hupcaps at the corners of the space. Often the rod connecting the car to the overhead power source would come unhooked, the conductor had a wooden long pole he used to reach up and re-connect. I would think that nowadays some would object to the overhead lines as not being visually correct, there were also lines that held the lines in place. I was a daily rider of the cars, the Jefferson, Grand, Olive and Hodiamont I had two dimes in my penny loafers for fare. The Grand car turned around behing what is now Java Joe's at Meramec and Virginia.

Wayne Brasler said...

The Kirkwood line wasn't a dinkey. Dinkeys were double-ended streetcars serving lines with no loops at one or both ends of the route. The Kirkwood line looped at Big Bend Boulevard and Millbrook at one end and using streets in Kirkwood at the other. The line originally went far past Kirkwood to Meramec Highlands in Osage Beach and is still easily traceable.