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Charlotte - October 2000

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Charlotte, NC — Heritage Trolley Update

Rail Transit Online, October 2000

The region around Charlotte is showing incredible growth, causing increasing traffic congestion and stimulating plans for both commuter rail and light rail systems (see RTOL, Aug. 2000). A vintage trolley, already in operation, has gotten incredible support from the city, which sees it as a means of reviving a declining corridor.  Contributing Editor Van Wilkins recently visited Charlotte and filed the following report:

Duke Power ran its last streetcar in Charlotte in 1938. Drive down South Boulevard today and for two miles each lamppost carries a banner proclaiming “Charlotte Trolley-Welcome Back.” Formed in 1994, this vintage operation has convinced the political and business community that it is a potent tool in re-vitalizing the South End area.  The trolley uses two miles of a city-owned former Southern Railway right-of-way that runs through the thriving Uptown district — downtown in any other city — to the edge of town.  It’s one operating streetcar, Duke Power 85, was built in Charlotte in 1928 from Perley Thomas plans, ran until 1938, and then became part of a residence.  The body has been nicely restored and equipped with a pair of Melbourne W2 trucks.  As there is wire only in the shop area at Atherton Mill, a pushed/towed generator provides power.  The car operates on a 30-minute headway Friday, Saturday and Sunday with about 1,000 boardings a week.  The fare is $1.00 each way.  One Wednesday evening a month a local pub-crawl is run.  For this a single $5.00 fare allows riders to board and leave the car as often they want. 

Also on hand and nearly ready to enter service is a tiny single truck car from Athens, Greece, also nicely restored.  It was donated by the local Greek community.  It has no air brakes, but is equipped with dynamic braking, with the final stop done with a hand brake.  Three other cars are on hand.  Ex-Ft. Collins, Colorado, Birney 25, which originally ran in Richmond, Virginia, has been cosmetically restored but needs mechanical and electrical work.  Ex-Asheville, North Carolina, Birney 117 lacks a truck.  Philadelphia Red Arrow PCC-style 13 also lacks running gear, although a pair of Boston Elevated trucks is on hand.  Both bodies require much restoration. 

The city has committed $19.7 million to upgrade the track, install overhead and otherwise refurbish the ROW.  A bridge is also to be restored and the line extended directly through a new convention center — the trolley will actually run through the building — and then eventually along the existing, unused line through the center of Uptown.  However, work has been suspended while plans are reviewed to ensure they are compatible with a light rail line in this corridor to Pineville, 10 miles south of Charlotte, and possibly continuing across the state line to Rock Hill, South Carolina.  The review will ensure that all work done for the trolley will also be suitable for light rail, and that trolley operation will not be interrupted by light rail construction.  This has delayed the target date for completing the convention center trolley extension to 2002 instead of 2001.  That's probably a good thing, as it gives Charlotte Transit an additional year to restore rolling stock to handle anticipated demand.  The idea is to transport occupants of existing and now-building apartments to Uptown, and convention goers to the shops, restaurants, and night spots now developing as far south as the trolley museum.  The South End area is indeed being revitalized, and CT Executive Director Ms Hank Ingebretsen is absolutely sure the trolley is a major factor.  She must be right, or the city wouldn't be willing to invest in it.  Half the money has been donated for a new, 11-car replica of the old Duke Power carbarn.  All this sounds very optimistic — especially the initial trolley service, but there is certainly enough backing from the business/political community to pull it off. 


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