|Owner||Loop Trolley Transportation Development District|
|Operator(s)||Loop Trolley Company|
|Line length||2.2 mi (3.5 km)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||600 V DC|
The Loop Trolley, also known as the Delmar Loop Trolley, is a 2.2-mile (3.5 km) heritage trolley line under construction that will serve the Delmar Loop district in St. Louis, Missouri, and University City, Missouri. The line will have 10 stations and serve the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, Washington University in St. Louis, two MetroLink stations (Forest Park–DeBaliviere station and Delmar Loop station), University City City Hall, and all the Delmar Loop attractions. The system will use two replica-historic streetcars, and one ex-Melbourne streetcar from Seattle instead of earlier plans to use two Peter Witt-type streetcars that were acquired and placed on display to promote the project in the mid-2000s. A grant of $25 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding for the project was approved in July 2010, and additional funding was secured from other sources. Construction began in March 2015 and was completed in late 2016. As of July 2017, project officials were hoping the line would be ready to open for service in mid-October 2017, after completion of testing and training, but in early October it was reported that late November was now appearing to be the earliest the line might be ready to open, and in mid-November another delay was announced. As of April 2018, the line was forecast to open in "late spring".
St. Louis ran Peter Witt-type streetcars from 1927 to 1951 (by United Railways and later by the St. Louis Public Service Company), and later added PCC streetcars manufactured by the St. Louis Car Company. The Delmar Loop originally got its name from the streetcar turnaround which occupied two oblong blocks on the north side of Delmar east from Kingsland Avenue. The loop was used by the Olive-Delmar line. The Creve Coeur line coming south up Kingsland also terminated at the Loop, with the cars backing into it from Kingsland. The loop originally was located adjacent to the Delmar Gardens amusement park, a vestige of which are Eastgate and Westgate avenues, located at the east and west gates of the park. Another streetcar line, the Kirkwood-Ferguson line, traveled north and south a few blocks east of the Loop. And a private line to what is now University City Hall extended west down Delmar.
When the streetcars were replaced with buses the Loop retained its name. Years later, the idea of bringing back streetcars found a champion in Joe Edwards, the owner of Blueberry Hill, The Pageant, and a number of other Loop businesses. Edwards secured the purchase of two restored Peter Witt streetcars that once operated in Milan, Italy, and has led the initiative for a new line in conjunction with Citizens for Modern Transit.
The two Peter Witt cars were refurbished by the Gomaco Trolley Company in 2005 and placed on long-term display along the route—one on Delmar by Commerce Bank, and the other at the History Museum—which helped to publicize the then-only-proposed Loop Trolley line. Originally, it was planned that they would also be used for the service, if the project came to fruition, along with other cars that were expected to be acquired later. However, plans to use the two Peter Witt streetcars were dropped in 2015 after it was determined that it would be too expensive to renovate them and carry out the work needed to make them operational.
A grant of $25 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding for the project was approved in July 2010, as part of the FTA's Urban Circulator Grant Program. Additional funding was obtained from other federal agencies and from St. Louis-area entities. The overall construction budget is $51 million.
Construction began in March 2015, and the last major construction was completed in November 2016. The first of three streetcars being refurbished and modified for the line was delivered on February 16, 2017. As of March 2017, the line was targeted to open for service in late summer 2017, but by July the estimated opening date was pushed back to mid-October at the earliest, due mainly to delays in completion of the third trolley car. By October, it had slipped again. In March 2018, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the opening was forecast to take place in the spring, but that an exact date had not yet been set.
Normal, scheduled service will require two trolley cars in operation, with a third available as a spare, or substitute. In 2017–2018, Loop Trolley officials delayed the line's opening several times as completion of the third trolley fell further and further behind schedule, preferring not to begin service before having a third, spare, trolley. However, by late April 2018, with the third car still not delivered – and not expected to be available until August or later – it was decided to open the line with just the two cars already available. However, it is planned to operate a temporarily reduced schedule until the third trolley is available. A precise opening date has not been set, but the Post-Dispatch reported on April 23 that Loop Trolley officials were saying "late spring" for the opening.
The Loop Trolley Transportation Development District, which managed the project, is the owner of the line and trolley cars. However, the service will be operated by a separate, non-profit entity called the Loop Trolley Company. A one-cent sales tax collected by businesses along and near the line will provide the largest source of revenue to fund the service. Other revenue sources will include fares and advertising.
As of mid-2016, Loop Trolley service is planned to be provided a fleet of three used vintage or replica-vintage streetcars: two from Portland, Oregon, and one from Seattle, the latter having been acquired more recently than the others, around the end of 2015.
In fall 2015, when the project was early into its construction, the planned fleet had comprised only two streetcars: two Gomaco-built Brill-replica streetcars which until 2014 were used on the Portland Vintage Trolley service (in Portland, Oregon). Those two cars were designed to look like 1903 streetcars but were actually built in 1991 (car 511) and 1992 (car 512), and feature steel frames under their wooden bodies and more-modern propulsion equipment (including rebuilt 1940s trucks). They are being modified for wheelchair accessibility, to meet ADA regulations, with the installation of wheelchair lifts (one per side). Gomaco was hired to carry out those and other modifications, and the work began at Gomaco's Ida Grove, Iowa, plant in August 2015. Loop Trolley project officials had intended to include one of the two Peter Witt streetcars in the 2015 refurbishment contract, but found that the work would be cost-prohibitive, in part because of deterioration caused by weather exposure from their long period of outdoor display.
In January 2016, it was announced that the city of St. Louis had purchased three vintage trolleys from Seattle for use on the Loop Trolley line. They are three ex-Melbourne, Australia, W2-type cars that had been operated on Seattle's Waterfront Streetcar line until it shut down in 2005. Only one of the three is planned to be used on the Loop Trolley line when it opens next year, and for the foreseeable future, because the available funding was only enough to refurbish and modify one Seattle car. The necessary modifications include restoring doors on one side of the car, restoring the steps at all doors (Seattle's line used high-platform stations, so the steps at the doorways had been removed), installing two wheelchair lifts, one on each side, and replacement of the car's trolley poles with a pantograph. The three cars were all moved from Seattle in early June 2016, cars 482 and 518 taken to St. Louis and car 512 taken to the Iowa plant of Gomaco, to be refurbished and modified. Gomaco was awarded a $676,750 contract for the work on Seattle car 512 in May 2016. As mentioned above, Gomaco is also rebuilding Loop Trolley's two ex-Portland trolley cars. Seattle cars 482 and 518 are now in indefinite storage, for possible future modification and use.
When the Loop Trolley line opens for service in 2018, the operational fleet is planned to include three cars: two ex-Portland Brill replica cars (Portland Nos. 511–512) and one ex-Seattle, ex-Melbourne car (No. 512). With two cars numbered 512, a renumbering of the cars was necessary. Ex-Portland cars 511–512 were renumbered 002 and 001, respectively, and ex-Seattle, ex-Melbourne car 512 was renumbered 003. Car 001 was delivered by Gomaco on February 16, 2017. On March 26, it was towed along the tracks, over the full line, to check the tracks and clearances at station platforms, becoming the first streetcar to be moved along the Loop Trolley line (but not under its own power). As of late April 2018, car 003 had yet to be delivered, and was still at the Iowa plant of Gomaco, where completion of its renovation and modification was 14 months behind schedule, partly because of delays in getting parts from Germany.
Route and schedule
The line starts at the Missouri History Museum and runs north on DeBaliviere Avenue in St. Louis, past the Forest Park–DeBaliviere MetroLink station. It then turns west on Delmar Boulevard to the Delmar Loop MetroLink station and crosses the St. Louis City/County Boundary to University City to serve the Delmar Loop district. The western terminus is located at the University City Library, on Delmar Blvd. west of Kingsland Avenue.
The line is due to operate seven days a week, and after the third trolley car becomes available, service is planned to run from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:00 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. However, because of delays in completion of car 003, a temporarily reduced schedule is now planned initially, with Loop Trolley Company's executive director, Kevin Barbeau, quoted by the Post-Dispatch as saying it would be "only about two-thirds of those hours".
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- Schlinkmann, Mark (March 8, 2018). "Emergency Loop Trolley drills to close parts of Delmar Saturday, Sunday mornings". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
- "Seattle trolleys arrive in St. Louis for Loop Trolley". Loop Trolley Transportation Development District. June 9, 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
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- Thorsen, Leah (March 24, 2017). "Loop Trolley testing to start early Sunday". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
- "Route Map". Loop Trolley TDD. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
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