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marta12Much is being made of a rail line connection to Emory; presumably this will be a light-rail line from Lindbergh Station which will follow the CSX tracks to the Emory campus.  I even suggested as much a while back, but the prevailing thought at that time was that a heavy rail line should be built along that same route.  The old metric for a heavy rail line was $400 million per mile unless there was extraordinary construction such as hard rock tunneling.  I’m sure that it is more expensive now.

However, there is another alternative that while costing the same, may actually serve more people than just Emory.  In its original design for the heavy rail system, several branches were incorporated into the design that allowed for future expansion.  At the time of original construction of the heavy rail lines, structures were placed at several locations.  These structures typically were short tunnels which “went nowhere”.  There are several.  One is just north of Arts Center station for expansion to the NW.  There is another, an underpass just south of the East Point station for a line to Hapeville.

One is actually being used.  Just west of the Ashby Station, there is a line that goes all of one mile up to Bankhead Station as the Green Line.  This was originally the “Perry Homes Line”, and a portion of it actually got built after lots of local political pressure so that “people living in Perry Homes could get to their jobs”.  Of course, the irony is that Perry Homes no longer exists and is a statement to the fact that heavy-rail construction takes a lot of time in addition to costing a lot of money.  So, for the moment, the Green Line is an operational anomaly, serving one unique station and duplicating the balance of its route on the Blue Line.

Right now, the Green Line runs through downtown, terminating at Edgewood Candler Park station.  It then switches over to a center track passing siding, allowing Blue Line trains to pass by.  The operator walks to the other end of the train and the Green Line train then proceeds westward to Bankhead.  However, just a bit east from Candler Park station, the other end of the passing siding there is an expansion point where the Green Line train could go into a short tunnel, passing under the CSX Railroad.  Like so many other MARTA heavy rail rights of way, the Green Line would then be parallel to the CSX tracks which lead to Tucker and beyond.

atlantamap-mod

So, the Green Line, which is currently underutilized, could be expanded up to the Emory area by following the CSX tracks northward.  By doing so, at least two DeKalb County neighborhoods would have MARTA stations, which could also include the Veteran’s Administration Hospital on Clairmont Road.  After passing under North Decatur Road, the MARTA Green Line would then turn westward, again following the CSX right of way, connecting the main campus of Emory University, Emory Hospital and the CDC facility on Clifton Road.  Emory already has circulator buses in the general vicinity, and perhaps a light rail circulator line could serve not only Emory but also CDC and relieve a bad traffic situation.

Will it get built?  I’ve given up trying to predict this sort of stuff.  Should it be built?  Maybe.

Lemonade

photos.medleyphoto.8182786

Six years ago, I opined that the Atlanta Streetcar project was destined for failure.  At that time, I was criticized for “Not getting “IT””.  The notion of “IT” is a handy one when you don’t have a coherent argument.  Telling someone that they don’t get “IT” makes the speaker look wise and also makes the target of the matter look like a dolt.  In other words,  you are not only so stupid that you don’t get “IT”, but there’s not enough time to teach you just what “IT” is and why it is important.  “IT” sounds very good in faculty lounges across our great Republic.

This is not an “I told you so” piece.  Rather, it is a theoretical discussion about what can be done to salvage this misbegotten project.  And, let’s face it, the Atlanta Streetcar project is so poorly conceived that graffiti “artists” (pictured above) were able to successfully tag at least two of the Streetcar’s vehicles.  Their “work” took a fair bit of time and occurred at the operation’s maintenance facility.  Either the Streetcar’s employees did not know or did not care about what was going on, not a good omen.  That said, let’s talk about what to do.

Needless to say, there are those who feel that the whole project should be abandoned.  The three Siemens S70 cars have some sort of resale value since there are a good number of these cars operating on other system in the United States.  And, the City of Atlanta could take the same approach as the last time that Atlanta gave up on streetcars; take down the overhead wires and sell them for scrap, then pave over the rails and move on to buses.  Frankly, abandonment of the Streetcar is not an option.

So, what to do?  Ultimately, any solution calls for spending more money, a difficult task given the disastrous results so far.  Almost $100 million has been spent and by most measures, the outcome was unsuccessful.  There is one excessively cheerful individual who repeatedly insists that massive development has occurred as a result of the Streetcar.  Say what they will,  the real measure is at the farebox.  And by that measure, the Streetcar is a failure.  When asked to pay for their ride, the market for the Atlanta Streetcar evaporated.  Yes, I know that farebox receipts don’t fully cover the costs of operation, but if you look at any of the cars when they are in operation, you will know that the car does nothing but bleed money.  If only the Streetcar actually did something.

There are at least three things that the Streetcar could do.  The politicians hold out for a connection to the Atlanta Beltline which, in my mind, is more high-pie-in-the-sky stuff that brought us the first 2.7 miles.  In due time, this may be a viable option, but it will be years down the road.  Consider some other possibilities:

  • Student Transit 1.  Georgia State is now well involved with development around the former Braves stadium. Already, there are massive parking lots for the University’s students and faculty, with much more to come.  For the moment, buses take care of things, but why not extend the Streetcar line out to Turner Field?  And, while they’re at that, extend the line further into the local neighborhood?
  • Student Transit 2.  At the other end of the Streetcar route, extend the line up Luckie Street to North Avenue, serving Georgia Tech and Coca-Cola?
  • Football Transit.  Yes, the new stadium will be served by the MARTA Blue and Green lines, but a lot of people come to town and stay in nearby hotels.  A special branch could serve the World Congress Center and the stadium, being used only when sufficient passenger traffic is present.

And, since we’re talking about this, how about a real high-pie-in-the-sky project?  Close Peachtree Street to automobile traffic from 14th Street south through town to Garnett Street.  Maybe even on to West End?  Turn it into a transit / pedestrian / bicycle thoroughfare.  Most auto traffic already uses Juniper Street southbound and West Peachtree Street northbound.  A Peachtree Corridor project would serve a number of prominent locations such as the Fox Theater, Crawford Long Hospital, the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, and a host of others, making for a true public relations jewel.

Hey, it could happen.

The Gate City Street Railroad Company (variously 1881 or 1884) ran from near Five Points downtown to Ponce de Leon Springs. Opera house owner Laurent de Give was an investor.  Pages 6 and 7 of Martin’s Mule to MARTA, Volume 1, show photos of the line’s car(s).  Little else is known about this line, which later became the Union Street Railroad.

Index

Lithia Springs Railway

I have included the Lithia Springs Railway in this list, but I am reluctant to do so.  Several sources cite the existence of this car line, but there is little to support it.  It is not the Bowden Lithia Springs Shortline Railroad.

In my research, I have only come across one entry (using Google Books):

lithia springs 1894

Listed as “6 miles of railroad, 5 cars”, originating at the Post Office, sharing track with Atlanta Consolidated for some distance. Headed westward toward the Chattahoochee River.

As I mentioned initially, the railway journal listings from the 1800’s need to be taken with a grain of salt since: “These journals would report transit activities in Atlanta, but need to be considered with a minor degree of skepticism since they also reported on the hopes and dreams of various promoters.

Index

The West End & Atlanta Street Railroad (1872) was a horse car line which ran between downtown Atlanta, West End and Westview Cemetery.  By 1883, the line had electrified, with these later cars shown in the Harold E. Cox list of cars manufactured by Brill:

  • 4 closed, two-axle cars, Order number 3266, 12/1890
  • 1 open, two-axle car, Order number 3267, 12/1890

The “two axle car” of that era was very similar to the horsecar designs, with an open platform at each end and a heavier frame to support the electrical equipment.

The line was merged into the Atlanta Consolidated Railway, owned by Joel Hurt, in 1891.

Index

 

 

Atlanta Street Railway – Founded 1872 (Adair & Peters)

 Atlanta’s first streetcar line used animal drawn cars, similar to this:

mulecar

This line initially operated between Five Points downtown and West End.  Three additional lines were added in 1873 and 1874.  According to the Atlanta Street Railway’s Wikipedia entry, in 1889: “….the line owned 15 miles (24 km) of track, fifty streetcars and 200 horses and mules.

Two years later, in 1891, the Atlanta Street Railway was absorbed into the Atlanta Consolidated Railway. Presumably the mules and their horse cars were retired, with the routes continuing as improved electric car lines.

Animal drawn cars had the operational advantages of steel wheel on steel rail, along with low start up costs.  Typically, the horse cars were built by stagecoach builders and the like.  The car bodies themselves were wood with metal wheels.

The animals represented significant operating overhead, along with the commensurate waste left in the streets.  The horse car lines had also been decimated by the Great Epizootic of 1872, when hundreds of horses succumbed to Equine Influenza.  The horse car lines had a considerable investment in their animals, and as passenger traffic on the horse car lines grew, popular concern about the welfare of the animals became a greater concern.  As horse drawn vehicles slowly were phased out, the horse car lines switch to electric traction.

Little is known of the Atlanta Street Railway car roster, but Atlanta Transit / MARTA had a rubber-tired promotional car that captured the spirit:

LBCB015-065a

Index

earlymap

Early Atlanta Streetcar Companies

There are two definitive books about the Atlanta streetcar systems:

  • Mule to MARTA, Vol 1 and Vol 2.  Written by Jean Martin and published by the Atlanta Historical Society, these two volumes cover the transit scene in Atlanta.  There was supposed to have been a third volume which would have covered the equipment used by the various streetcar companies, but it never made it to print.
  • The Trolley Titans.  Written by O. E. Carson and published by Interurban Press, this book also covers the Atlanta streetcar scene.  And again the streetcar equipment roster remains unreported.

Additionally, there are at least two web pages that also cover the subject of Atlanta streetcars:

and

This blog section is meant to serve as a supplemental reference for these books and webpages.  While there has been coverage about Atlanta’s streetcar systems, there has been scant coverage as to the equipment which these systems used.

Many of Atlanta’s early streetcar lines were operated with cars that were pulled by either horses or mules.  At that point, circa 1870, that was all that they had available.  Steel wheel on steel rail was an established technology, thanks to the steam powered railroads, but the motive power was like most other vehicles on the streets in that era.  Horses.

The first successful electric powered streetcar line was Frank Sprague‘s Richmond, Virginia system.  That was 1888, and as pointed out in the Wikipedia article about Sprague, there had been over 7o attempts at electric powered streetcars up to that point.  The Atlanta and Edgewood Street Railroad first operated in 1889, three years after the formation of the company and one year after Richmond began operations.  The electric trolley industry was born.

Below is probably the most popular image used to illustrate the early days of streetcars in Atlanta.  It is the Inman Park car barn of the A&E, and through the grace of God and the efforts of countless civic minded preservationists, it still stands.  A rare quantity for modernity-driven Atlanta.

2121715-Trolley_barn_Inman_Park_1889_Atlanta

Inman Park Trolley Car Barn

While the carbarn itself still stands, who manufactured the streetcar, and how many of them were there?  What is missing from the books and articles is a list of what equipment each of the individual systems used to transport passengers around Atlanta.

Not that there hasn’t been talk about it.  And not that it is an easy matter.  Like other historical subjects, there often is no corporate sentimentality about preserving company records for the benefit of posterity.  Things changed, and there was little or no need to save outdated records.  And so, into the trash.

I have my own theory as to why Jean Martin’s Mule to MARTA stopped dead in its tracks, but I did have an interesting telephone conversation with Mr. Carson.  He has thoroughly researched the various equipment rosters, but it’s like a lot of other things in life, things get done in their own time.  Or not.  Mr. Carson had been active for many years with the Shoreline Trolley Museum, located in Connecticut.  This museum holds the one active Atlanta streetcar, No. 948:

grl119

Georgia Railway & Power City Car

Gene Carson was responsible for the preservation of 948.  And he has thoroughly researched the streetcar rosters of Atlanta, both the predecessor companies and Georgia Railway and Power’s (later Atlanta Transit).  But there is the minor matter of his publisher, Interurban Press, going out of business.

And it is hard to get a train book published in the United States.  Not impossible, but still hard.  Not to mention the time and energy needed for such a project.  Mr. Carson is retired and has moved to the Wine County of California to live with his daughter and granddaughter.  I say that that is fair enough.  The Shoreline has his research materials, and perhaps, in due time, his efforts will see print.

But, for the moment, all you’ve got is me.  I’ll do my best.  This section of my blog will cover the equipment rosters of the individual companies that led up to the consolidation in the form of the Georgia Railway & Power Company.

Resources

Much of my research on the Atlanta equipment rosters is sourced from the Martin books and the Carson book.  In addition, the late Harold E. Cox, of Virginia, compiled substantial information about streetcars manufactured by a variety of companies such as Cincinnati, Brill, Laconia and others.   So, it was possible to search the manufactured car list for the various Atlanta car lines.  There was also significant help from the miracle of Google Books, a trove of old railway journals and the like.  These journals would report transit activities in Atlanta, but need to be considered with a minor degree of skepticism since they also reported on the hopes and dreams of various promoters.

There’s a nice timeline, located here.

This timeline is a little simplistic since there were a number of mergers that eventually led to the Atlanta Consolidated system, which led to “The Second Battle of Atlanta”, where two great financial forces in the City fought it out for control.

There are also a number of “shell” companies that were formed.  This was typically the first step in accumulating capital to start a transit operation; sometimes insufficient capital was available and these proposed companies would quietly disappear.  To my knowledge, these existed on paper only:

  • Southside Street Railroad Company – 1882
  • Capital Street Railroad Company – 1884
  • Baltimore Place & Peters Park Railroad Company – 1885
  • Atlanta City & Suburban Streetcar Company – 1887
  • Marietta Street Railroad Company – 1888
  • West Atlanta Street Railroad Company – 1888
Trolley Private Right of Way

Trolley Private Right of Way

http://www.dot.ga.gov/BuildSmart/research/Documents/GAStreetcar.pdf

http://www.dot.ga.gov/BuildSmart/research/Documents/GAStreetcar.pdf