Last weekend to ride Old Pueblo Trolley
October 28, 2011
By Teya Vitu
Will the Old Pueblo Trolley return for the Modern Streetcar era, now targeted for October 2013?
For now, the one thing for sure is Old Pueblo’s two historic streetcars will make their last runs on 4th Avenue and University Boulevard on Oct. 31.
OPT service will stop to make way for, first, the 8th Street Drainage Project just now starting, and then Modern Streetcar track construction.
OPT’s last runs this month are Fridays from 6 to midnight, Saturdays from noon to midnight and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. with a final Monday outing on Halloween from 6 to 10 p.m.
Whether Old Pueblo Trolley will be back for the Modern Streetcar hinges upon the overhead conductor cables that provide power for the streetcars, said Dick Guthrie, an Old Pueblo Trolley founder and its president emeritus.
Guthrie said there are two schools for conductors: street railway and light railway. OPT installed half-inch street railway conductors for its 1.1-mile route, and the city plans to remove OPT’s conductors and install much larger and heavier 9/10-inch light railway conductors.
The problem is OPT’s 1953 Kyoto, Japan and 1903 Brussels, Belgium streetcars use a pole that only works with the street railway conductors. They would have to convert to pentagraphs to operate on the Modern Streetcar line.
Guthrie said converting to pentagraphs would cost $75,000 for each streetcar.
“I think we’ll send the city a bill,” Guthrie said. “We certainly don’t have $75,000 a car. We have about $80,000 invested in each car. This doubles the cost.”
The thing is, Guthrie said, the city’s Modern Streetcar could function on the half-inch street railway conductors as well as the light railway conductor. He said OPT wants the city to switch to street railway conductors.
“Right now, we’re waiting for the city to talk to us, and they haven’t,” Guthrie said. “We have been working with the city for seven years on the streetcar. We had meetings three or four times a year. The meetings got to be farther and farther apart. We were duped into thinking we had some influence in what was going on.
“We quickly realized the city had no knowledge of street railway systems. They said ‘we want to be like Portland.’ San Francisco has the same infrastructure we have (for the Muni trains). They helped us with our track and overhead.”
Guthrie said OPT is banking on the city to switch to the San Francisco-style overhead conductors. He said OPT has no Plan B.
“We’ll have to go back to the drawing boards,” Guthrie said. “We have no plan set if they don’t go to street railway. The option is do not run or get someone to donate the pentagraph. “What really bothers us is we planned all this out but they look at us as ‘you’re amateurs.”
Guthrie was among 10 founders of Old Pueblo Trolley in 1983. The organization started streetcar restoration in 1985 and laying track in 1987. The trolley has been in service since April 17, 1993.
Guthrie estimates the city could save up to $750,000 by installing street railway conductors rather than light rail conductors.
“Unfortunately, the city’s consultant come up with a plan that is light rail not street railway. The consultants are very good light rail engineers,” Guthrie said.
Old Pueblo Trolley service ends Oct. 31 because the next day the 8th Street Drainage Project will remove the conductor cable and streetcar tracks at 7th Street and 4th Avenue for a 7th Street drainage spur that runs from 3rd to 5th Avenue.
And in January, the drainage work will tear out two of the three sets of tracks on 8th Street right in front of the trolley barn.