Riding Denver’s Rails: A Mile High Streetcar History

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Riding Denver’s Rails: A Mile High Streetcar History
Series Title:
Riding Denver’s Rails: A Mile High Streetcar History
Albi, Charles
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
Publication Date:

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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Riding Denvers Rails: A Mile High Streetcar History | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:39:36 PM] Home Riding Denvers Rails: A Mile High Streetcar HistoryRiding Denvers Rails: A Mile High Streetcar HistorySubmitted by nwharton on 1-28-2014 05:43 AMAuthor: Kevin Pharris Publishing: Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2013. Reviewer: Charles Albi Trolley cars took a roller coaster ride in America during the twentieth century. By 1890, the use of electricity to power street railways had superseded horse-drawn and cable cars, and during the next twenty-five years thousands of electric cars provided public transport in every major city and many minor ones. The extensive systems were integral to the lives of all citizens and were the means of expanding urban and suburban residential neighborhoods. Then Henry Ford came chugging down the street in his black Model T, the first automobile that everyone could afford, and a long decline began. By 1960, only a handful of urban railway systems survived. But street railways had continued to thrive in Europe, and in the late 1970s the trolley car was reborn in the United States in its new form as a light rail vehicle or LRV. An efficient public transit network was seen as a part of addressing a variety of congestion, energy, land use, and urban redevelopment problems. The first LRV system in the United States opened in San Diego in 1981, and now over twenty-five cities have them, with more being built or planned. Kevin Pharris devotes the first part of his fine book to recounting Denvers transit history from the first Larimer Street horse car up to the last day of the last streetcar, June 3, 1950. He does this in the context of national trends and developments throughout the industry. Many familiar Colorado historical names appear, such as John Evans, William N. Byers, David Moffat, Henry C. Brown, Robert Speer, and Frederick Bonfils. There are humorous incidents like University of Denver professor Sidney Shorts early experiments with an electric third rail. Most pedestrians remembered to avoid stepping on it, but it caused many a horse to run amok down the street. The great blizzard of 1913, the bloody 1920 Tramway strike, and the aging trams struggle to carry World War II crowds are all discussed. The economic, social, and political pressures that led to their replacement with diesel buses may be summarized in young Mayor Quigg Newtons 1948 campaign promise: Up-to-date cities have modern, rubber tired transportation. The second chapter is devoted to personal reminiscences of those who remember riding or working on the cars when they were as much a part of everyday life as freeway traffic congestion is today. (Full disclosure: this reviewer is the Charles A. quoted on pages 66.) Since many of them were quite young at the end of the Tramway era, they recall their encounters as happy childhood memories. Others more clearly remember the noisy rough track, rush-hour crowding, and the risks of boarding in mid-street. In their last years, the lumbering streetcars and careless auto drivers did not mix well. The 1940 municipal traffic code reproduced on page 57 should be required reading today. EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanNow, thats wrong! Some of these Japanese are citizens of the United States. Colorado Gov. Ralph Carrs response to Executive Order 9066 forcing Japanese into internment camps during WWII.


Riding Denvers Rails: A Mile High Streetcar History | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:39:36 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us The final chapter covers the revival of Denvers public transit from the end of the private Denver Tramway Company in 1971, through the establishment and early years of RTD and the opening of the first light rail line in 1994, right up to the current FasTracks project. The author discusses the continued progress of what is one of the nations most ambitious transit expansion efforts as it deals with all the varied governmental, funding, and neighborhood issues being encountered. His conclusion is that, despite the usual naysayers, local politicians and citizens have come to realize what the value of the completed system will be. One illustration of this is the benefit to be derived from commercial and residential development adjacent to the rail stations. He points out that this repeats what happened a century ago. Most of todays thriving neighborhood business centers, such as Old South Gaylord, South Broadway, Tennyson Street, and 32nd & Lowell, were once along streetcar tracks. Riding Denvers Rails is an entertaining and informative trip through the citys transit history for those whose interest in the topic is not up to the detail of Don Robertsons monumental three-volume Denvers Street Railways The look and feel of old Denver is evident in many of the photographs. The index is too brief to be of much use, but there is a foreword by Kenton Forrest, the doyen of Denver transit historians, and a fine bibliography. Reviewer Info: Charles Albi is a Colorado native who has spent a lifetime studying the history of the American West. He edited Colorado Railroad Museums Colorado Rail Annuals for many years and served as executive director of the museum for twelve years. Albi has also coauthored books on Colorado railroading and Denvers Union Station. He volunteers at the Colorado Railroad Museum and at Denver Public Librarys Western History/Genealogy Department.