San Diego Electric Railway
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|San Diego Electric Railway|
San Diego Electric Railways network (interactive version, requires Flash)
A San Diego Class 1 Streetcar at 5th and Broadway, circa 1915
|Dates of operation||1892–1949|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge), 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
|Electrification||600 V DC Overhead line|
|Headquarters||San Diego, California|
The SDERy was established by "sugar heir," developer, and entrepreneur John D. Spreckels in 1892. The railroad's original network consisted of five routes, delineated as follows:
- the Fifth Street and Logan Heights Lines;
- the First and "D" Streets Lines;
- the Depot Line;
- the Ferry Line; and
- the "K" Street Shuttle.
The company would establish additional operating divisions as traffic demands led to the formation of new lines. The company also engaged in limited freight handling primarily as an interchange with Spreckels' San Diego and Arizona Railway (SD&A) from 1923 to 1929.
At its peak, the SDERy's routes would operate throughout the greater San Diego area over some 165 miles (266 km) of track. Steadily declining ridership, due in large part to the phenomenal rise in popularity of the automobile, ultimately led the company to discontinue all streetcar service in favor of bus routes in 1949. The demise of some streetcar companies in the United States has been tied by some to the General Motors streetcar conspiracy, in which a consortium of General Motors, Standard Oil, and others formed a front company, National City Lines, in order to buy streetcar lines, shut them down, and replace them with buses. The plot of Touchstone Pictures' 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit is loosely based on this event.
The few surviving pieces of rolling stock are on display at the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo, the San Diego Electric Railway Association in National City, and the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.
Early years - Predecessors
- July 3, 1886: The first horse-drawn open-air streetcar of the San Diego Street Car Company (SDSCC) (founded by Hamilton Story and Elisa Babcock) makes its run up 5th Street. The fare is five cents.
- November 9, 1887: The first electric-powered streetcar makes a test run on new tracks up Broadway to Kettner Boulevard and on to "Old Town."
- November 19, 1887: Electric streetcar service is inaugurated on the San Diego and Old Town Street Railway, making it the first electric railway on the west coast and the second in the country to use the "ground return" for electric current.
- 1888: The Electric Rapid Transit Company (ERTC) puts an electric streetcar into regular operation in San Diego.
- July 22, 1889: The San Diego Cable Railway (SDCR) is incorporated and takes over the failed ERTC.
- June 7, 1890: Opening day on the SDCR.
- September 9, 1890: The SDCR opens "Mission Cliffs Gardens," a small recreation park (one of San Diego's first public recreation areas) overlooking beautiful Mission Valley, as an end-of-the-line attraction for cable car patrons.
San Diego Electric Railway Company
- November 30, 1891: John D. Spreckels incorporates the San Diego Electric Railway Company (SDERy).
- January 30, 1892: The SDERy purchases the SDSCC and the majority of its assets for $115,000; over the next few years the company will also acquire the competing Park Belt Line and the Ocean Beach Railroad. Plans are made to convert all existing lines to traction, and ten single-truck, single-trolley, open platform wooden cars are subsequently purchased from the J. G. Brill and Company.
- September 19, 1892: Car No. 6 begins shake-down runs on the electrified portion of the line.
- September 21, 1892: Double-decker Car No. 1, the first such electrically operated car in the United States, makes the inaugural run with many of the City's notables aboard.
- October 15, 1892: The SDCR makes its last run, the company having declared bankruptcy earlier in the year.
- December 31, 1892: The line has grown to 16.70 miles (26.88 km) of aggregated system track (12.21 miles or 19.65 kilometres of single electrified track with 4.49 miles or 7.23 kilometres for horse-drawn cars). Many new electrified lines will be constructed during the coming years.
- August 1895: The Citizens Traction Company (CTC) is formed and purchases the remains of the SDCR for $17,600, adapting the line to electric operation in order to compete with the SDERy.
- July 28, 1896: The first converted trolley car runs the entire length of the 4.49-mile (7.23 km) long CTC line
- February 12. 1897: Financial difficulties force the CTC goes into receivership.
- March 23, 1898: Elisa Babcock, as agent for the SDERy, buys the properties and franchises of the CTC for $19,000 plus "fees and costs." The track gauge is subsequently widened from 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge).
- 1905: Spreckels builds a new power generating plant to accommodate the additional loads imposed by the expanding streetcar network.
- 1906: Spreckels announces he will form the San Diego and Arizona Railway (SD&A) and build a 148-mile (238 km) line between San Diego and El Centro. The Third Avenue Streetcar Line begins operation. The SDERy logs 798,152 car miles.
- 1907: The Third Avenue Streetcar Line is extended to the future community of Mission Hills, and is briefly renamed the Mission Hills Line.
- 1910: Spreckels forces a ballot initiative to amend his charter with the City of San Diego to give him more than 25 years on his leases to operate streetcar service. With this greater security he is able to acquire major loans for service expansion and infrastructure.
- 1911: The Imperial Avenue operating division is established in downtown. Spreckels builds second power generating plant at Kettner Boulevard and "E" Street when the plant built in 1905 can no longer provide sufficient capacity.
- 1912: Ordered by Spreckles, with guidance by William Clayton, and design by Homer MacNutt and Abel A Butterworth, twenty-four Arts & Crafts style streetcars (to be known as the 'Class 1' streetcar) are delivered to San Diego.
- 1913: Construction of a new brick car barn located at Adams Avenue and Florida Street is completed.
- December 31, 1914: The SDERy owns 38.9 miles (62.6 km) of single track and 22.4 miles (36.0 km) of double track, for a total of 83.7 miles (134.7 km) of "equivalent single track."
- 1915: The Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park spurs the next phase of transportation growth. A new electric car line is constructed up 12th Street to the Park's entrance with 101 new cars from the St. Louis Car Company and the Adams Avenue operating division is established in Normal Heights. San Diego's original Victorian style train depot is demolished and replaced with a new Mission Revival Style Santa Fe depot building. The SDERy logs 3,521,571 car miles.
- 1916: The "Great Flood" washes out several rail lines. World War I increases the cost of railway construction materials by 50 to 150 percent. There is a significant increase in the private ownership of automobiles and the SDERy begins to lose revenue to private "Jitney Buses."
- November 15, 1919: The "golden spike" is driven and construction of the SD&A is ceremonially completed at a cost of $18 million (three times the original estimate).
- 1920: Spreckels announces plans to discontinue service on several rail lines to offset expenses, leading to approval of "zone fares". The SDERy purchases new streetcars that requires only one driver/conductor instead of two; older cars are retrofitted to reduce labor costs. Spreckels sells his power generating plants to the Consolidated Gas and Electric Company.
The first motor buses
- 1921: The first motor bus goes into service operating between National City and Chula Vista. "Number One" has hard rubber tires, two-wheel mechanical brakes, a four-cylinder engine, and a plywood body.
- March 17, 1923: The SDERy begins its last major rail line expansion to Mission Beach ("Belmont Park"), Pacific Beach, and La Jolla. $2.5 million is spent on rails, Mission Revival Style terminals and substations, and Egyptian Revival Style stations, and $800,000 is spent on the acquisition of 50 new cars. Construction is completed in 1925.
- December 18, 1923: Car No. 400, an all-steel model with a closed body and the first on the SDERy to feature a pantograph-type current collector, is delivered. All 50 pantograph-equipped cars would eventually have trolley poles installed at each end due to the pantographs' poor performance.
- 1930: Buses begin to replace street cars from Ocean Beach to La Jolla, and 222 new buses are added to the fleet. Ridership and revenue goes down but the SDERy is able to weather the economic downturn.
- 1935: The California Pacific International Exposition opens in Balboa Park without the need for expanded transit service.
- 1936: The SDERy orders 25 single-end Presidents Conference Committee (P.C.C.) cars from the St. Louis Car Company, and is among the first streetcar systems in the United States to utilize streamlined units. The cars are designated as Class 6. An order for 3 additional units is placed the following year.
- 1941: World War II turns San Diego into a "boom town" again. Defense related industries revitalize the city, as does an influx of military personnel. Ridership on public transit increases 600 percent during the war years. Used transit vehicles are purchased from around the nation, and more electrical power is needed and substations are built (one in the basement of the Spreckels Theatre Building on Broadway). The $2.5 million rail line built in the 1920s to the beaches is ripped out along with the elaborate stations and terminals and replaced with a bus line.
- 1942: The combined streetcar and bus lines carry 94 million people. Additional streetcars are brought in on loan from New York City, Salt Lake City, Utah and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to help keep up with demand.
- 1944: Combined ridership increases lead to more than 146 million trips.
- 1945: Cars No. 502 and No. 503 are painted red and blue (in lieu of the standard golden yellow) to the American Red Cross blood donation campaign.
- 1946: The SDERy begins to phase out streetcar lines and replace them with bus routes. By the following year, only 3 street car lines will remain in operation.
New owners and systematic conversion to buses
- July 26, 1948: The Western Transit Company (WTC) which was owned by Jesse Haugh bought SDERy for $5.5 million. Haugh was also president of Key System and an executive of Pacific Electric Railway - see Great American Streetcar Scandal
- August 1948: 13 new 45-passenger buses are placed into service.
- September 9, 1948: The WTC announces that the SDERy will henceforth be known as the San Diego Transit System (SDTS). A new emblem (consisting of a pair of wings with a shield in the center) and slogan, "Safety, Courtesy, Service," are adopted.
- January 13, 1949: The SDTS borrows $720,000 for the purchase of additional new buses, and makes an application to the State Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to discontinue streetcar service.
- March 3, 1949: The PUC grants authority to the SDTS to abandon its remaining streetcar lines.
- March 27, 1949: A "farewell to the streetcars" excursion, operated over the remaining trackage, is sponsored by the Pacific Railroad Society of Los Angeles.
- April 23, 1949: 45 new GM buses (each costing $20,000) parade down Broadway to mark the retirement of the street cars; free rides are offered during the procession.
- April 24, 1949: Rail service on the SDERy comes to an end at 5:45 a.m. as Car No. 446 pulls into the Adams Avenue car barn, making San Diego the first major Southwestern United States city to eliminate streetcars and convert to an all-bus transit system.
- May 23, 1949: Work crews begin removing the overhead trolley lines and tracks on the loop at downtown's Union Station.
- 1950: 17 of the P.C.C. model cars are sold to the El Paso City Lines (EPCL) for service on the international loop between El Paso, Texas, and the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.
- 1952: Three more P.C.C.'s are sold to EPCL. All remaining Class 5 cars and the 3 "service" cars are purchased by the Allied Salvage Company for scrap.
- August 1957: The 8 remaining P.C.C.'s are purchased by the San Diego Mill Supply Company. Car No. 508 is acquired by the Orange Empire Traction Company for display at its museum in Perris, California, and Car No. 528 is obtained by the Railway Historical Society of San Diego for preservation and exhibition.
- July 19, 1981: After years of planning and development, the "San Diego Trolley" (a new interurban light rail mass transit system) makes its inaugural run on the 15.9-mile (25.6 km) long "South Line" between the U.S. International Border and Centre City San Diego.
- July 26, 1981: The San Diego Trolley begins revenue service; San Diego will become known in transit circles as "The city that started the 'light rail craze' in the United States."
- August 1996: Three "Class 1" streetcars are saved for San Diego. These cars, numbered 126, 128, and 138, were ordered by JD Spreckles specifically for San Diego and in anticipation of the 1915 Panama California Exposition. The logo of the SDERy is still visible.
- 1997: The San Diego Historic Site Board recognized the three native "Class 1" streetcars with the official designation of San Diego Landmark #339.
- February 14, 2005: The San Diego Electric Railway Association salvages the body shell of Car No. 357 (formerly of the Bellingham, Washington streetcar system) from a Centre City San Diego restaurant site where it had been used as a "dining room" since 1972.
- December 14, 2005: The San Diego Vintage Trolley Co. purchases two former San Francisco Municipal Railway PCC cars (529-530). The cars are expected to run on a loop around Centre City using existing San Diego Trolley tracks; service planned to start in 2011. #529 is readied; 3 others: 1 from SF Muni & 2 from SEPTA (531-533) purchased.
- March 2011: San Diego Metropolitan Transit System begins work on a study to evaluate the feasibility of reconnecting Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo and Downtown San Diego through a fixed-guideway, electrified streetcar line.
- August 27, 2011: San Diego Metropolitan Transit System begins weekend and holiday service of the Silver Line, which operates around Downtown San Diego and features renovated PCC streetcars with a partnership with the San Diego historic streetcar society.
Routes in 1925 - roughly the system's largest extent - were as follows:
- 1 - 5th Ave. to Hillcrest, then via University - Park Blvd. - Adams to 30th St. (just west of Normal Heights)
- 2 - east on Broadway South Park - via 30th St. to North Park
- 3 - via Washington and Fort Stockton Ave. to Mission Hills
- 4 - Imperial Ave. to 33rd and Commercial, Stockton
- 5 - north from downtown on 1st Ave.; east form downtown on Market, south on 25th St., east on Ocean View Blvd. to 39th St. in Mountain View
- 7 - via Park Blvd. through Balboa Park to Hillcrest, then east along University Ave. through North Park to City Heights, then known as East San Diego
- 9 - serving marina at end of Market St.
- 11 - via 5th Ave. to Hillcrest, then via University, and 30th to Adams Ave.; along the length of Adams to Normal Heights and Kensington
- 12 - Logan Heights, National City to Chula Vista
- 13 - Kettner/Hancock to Rosecrans to La Playa, Point Loma
- 14 - Ocean Beach
- 15 - reserved for holiday use to Mission Beach Amusement Park
- 16 - Ocean Beach - Mission Beach - La Jolla
- Copeland, P. Allen (2002). California Trolleys In Color, Volume 1: San Diego and Los Angeles. Scotch Plains, NJ: Morning Sun Books, Inc. ISBN 1-58248-076-1.
- Dodge, Richard V. (1960). Rails of the Silver Gate. San Marino, CA: Golden West Books. ISBN 0-87095-019-3.
- Thompson, Gregory Lee (1993). The Passenger Train in the Motor Age: California's Rail and Bus Industries, 1910–1941. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. ISBN 0-8142-0609-3.
- Demoro, Harre W. (1986). California's Electric Railways. Glendale, California: Interurban Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-916374-74-2.
- "Transit in San Diego: ASCE Anniversary Project". "Jesse Haugh's Western Transit Company bought SDERy for $5.5 million, July 26, 1948."
- "MTS City/Park Streetcar Feasibility Study". Retrieved July 6, 2011.
- Line numbers taken from "Evolution of the San Diego Cityscape" by W.J. Hermiston[dead link]; detailed description of routes taken by each line from San Diego Electric Railway 1925 map
- Zelma Bays Locker, "Remember old number 16? Recollections of the La Jolla Street Car Line", Journal of San Diego History, Fall 1977, Volume 23, Number 4
- The Home of the Historic San Diego Class 1 Streetcars
- "Feasibility of the Historic Streetcar" (PDF). North Park Main Street Association. Retrieved November 29, 2005. — report documents the efforts of the North Park Main Street Association to reintroduce "Class 1" streetcar service along a historic 3.5 mile line in the San Diego community of North Park.
- "General Motors' Destruction of California Transit Systems". Modern Transit Society, Inc. Retrieved November 29, 2005. — documentation of GM front companies and hostile takeovers of "Key System" transit companies in California.
- "San Diego's Early Streetcars". San Diego Historical Society. Retrieved November 29, 2005. — photos and text from an article in the January, 1956 issue of The Journal of San Diego History.
- "Metropolitan Transit Development Board". Retrieved November 29, 2005.
- "Orange Empire Railway Museum". Retrieved November 29, 2005.
- "Pacific Railroad Society". Retrieved November 29, 2005.
- "Pacific Southwest Railway Museum". Retrieved November 29, 2005.
- "San Diego Electric Railway Association". Retrieved November 29, 2005.
- "San Diego Historical Society". Retrieved November 29, 2005.