Jack May visits three "modern streetcar" systems

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Jack May visits three "modern streetcar" systems
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, September 09, 2018 4:47 AM
Modern USA Streetcars. Cincinnati
An email message from Andy Sisk reminded me that I still have a backlog of photos of locations that haven't been the subject of any of my trip reports; so I finally got around to recording the details and hope they might be of interest to you.
A number are from visits to cities where "modern streetcar lines" have opened in the past few years.  I don't want to get into a discussion about the semantics of that phrase, as I've always believed there is a continuum to what those in the electric traction hobby and the industry call streetcar, interurban, light rail, rapid transit, light metro, heavy metro, heavy rail, etc.; and few of these terms are exclusive in the sense that we all can agree on into which of these classifications specific lines or systems fall.  But it does seem that today there is some consensus and consistency within the North American transit industry with regard to the differences between streetcars and light rail--so I will go along with that, rather than getting technical.
Thus for the purpose of this series of distributions, I will limit myself to cities that have transit lines that use recently-built rolling stock that the industry considers to be streetcars, as opposed to light rail.  While my age and experience draws me to the conclusion that PCC cars are still modern, especially those that have been rebuilt and air conditioned, and continue to be used in revenue transit service as well as on lines that some classify as "heritage" in nature, these photo essays will be limited to Cincinnati, Kansas City and Detroit.  I have previously sent out photo journals for other such operations--specifically Washington, D. C., Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle and Portland, and if anyone on this list would like copies of the earlier journals I just mentioned, please let me know.  I have not yet seen Salt Lake City's streetcar line and am awaiting the re-inauguration of service in Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, as well as the rebirth of PCC operation in El Paso.
Most of the new streetcar lines, whether they are considered modern or heritage, seem to have been built for more than just transportation purposes, principally as a vehicle (pun intended) for a city or neighborhood's urban redevelopment, investment and/or streng-thening.  This raises many questions, including how one measures their success, but that will fall outside the purview of what I want to write about.
Cincinnati's modern streetcar line was inaugurated on September 9, 2016.  As you will be able to see I visited the Cincinnati Bell Connector, its official name, a mere 2½ weeks later, meeting John Wilkins and Dick Aaron in Indianapolis for a 3-day journey,  including a tour of the Kansas City streetcar and rides on Amtrak's Hoosier State and Southwest Chief.
Cincinnati's line is 3½ miles long (covering 2 miles if you don't count one-way trackage on parallel streets separately), and was quite politically controversial.  Before being sponsored by the local phone company, its 5 CAF Urbos 3 cars were painted in a different color scheme, but I arrived in the Queen City too late to see testing in the original livery (but I've included a photo for comparison taken by Andrew Grahl below).  There are 18 stations, and service runs at a basic headway of 12 to 15 minutes along a line that looks like a stylized figure 8.**
Cincinnati has a population of about 300,000 and is located on the north bank of the Ohio River, which constitutes the border between the states of Ohio and Kentucky.  It is the center of a metropolitan area that numbers over 2 million residents.  Its earlier culture was defined by a large number of German immigrants, and by 1900 some 60 percent of the city's population had German roots. 
But times change, and considering that the Ohio River can be theoretically defined as a western extension of the Mason-Dixon line, a large number of freed slaves began to take root in the Queen City [of the West].  Nowadays, after a large exodus to the suburbs by the descendants of its earliest settlers, the inhabitants of the city are about equally split between black and white.
Cincinnati once had a large streetcar network, and also was a center of longer-distance electric traction service from adjacent areas, including cars that crossed the Ohio River from Newport and Covington, Kentucky, as well as interurban lines that came in from the north, such as the famous Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railway that covered the breadth of Ohio.  In fact a subway was planned and partially built to route interurban cars off the streets of the city (with sections still available for public inspection). 
Its traction heritage also includes inclines, double overhead for current collection (forcing the use of twin poles, like trolleybuses), and being the home of the Cincinnati Car Company, a major manufacturer of streetcars.  The last cars obtained for operation in the city prior to the abandonment of the system in 1951 were PCCs, which eventually totaled 53, both prewar (air-electric) and postwar (all-electric) models.  All but one was sold to Toronto in 1950, where they continued in service for many years. 
The new cars were built by CAF and are numbered 1175-1179, starting right after 1174, the last PCC number (which was a renumbering of car 1000.  The Cincinnati Street Railway had only Pullman-built unit; a well as a Brilliner, and all the rest were manufactured by St. Louis Car).
There are a number of traffic generators on the new line, including the Great America Ball Park (Cincinnati Reds), U. S. Bank Arena, Fountain Square, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Aronoff Performing Arts Center, the main Library, Washington Park and Findlay Market, plus all the downtown skyscrapers.  Nevertheless the line has not yet met its ridership goals and actually the number of passengers declined in 2017.  Among its problems are a great deal of interference by motor traffic, badly parked vehicles and uncoordinated traffic lights--which lead to service unreliability.  Nevertheless, it was fun to ride and photograph on Tuesday, September 27.
Fares are $1 for a single ride and $2 for a day pass, and we purchased the latter from a machine after driving down from Indianapolis (120 miles, 2 hours) in an Enterprise rented Chrysler Jeep that I obtained at Indianapolis Airport the preceding evening.  We parked in the multi-level Central Riverfront Garage at the southern end of the line and spent most of the day riding and walking the line for photos.  We observed many passengers aboard the streetcars, but apparently the ridership has gone down since, probably because of the aforementioned reliability issues and headways that may make it more desirable to walk if the distance to be consumed is small.

 

Here are some photos, working from the northern end of the line southward.

Above and below:  These two views are of equipment in the Cincinnati streetcar shop and storage facility, which handles all five CAF units.  For the top photo, I had to stick my camera lens into a narrow gap in the fence along Henry Street and use a wide-angle setting.  Cars enter the facility from Race Street and leave via Henry.  The lower photo was taken by Andrew Grahl during the period the line was undergoing test operation prior to its inauguration--and therefore before it was renamed and had its livery changed.  That view is exactly opposite in direction to that of the upper photo.





Above and below:  The Philippus United Church of Christ dominates the northern end of Race Street.  The upper view shows a car en route to the Findlay Market stop where it will lay over if it completed its northbound trip early.  A close up view of the church's steeple indicates it is not the middle finger which is held upward, but rather the index finger pointed to the heavens.  Until 1921 services in this kirche were conducted entirely in the German language.
The OTR in the name of the grocery store at right stands for Over The Rhine.  A southbound streetcar on Race Street is about to cross Liberty Street.

The name Over The Rhine (uber den Rhein) comes from the large German population that settled the area during the 19th century, and who colloquially substituted the German river's sobriquet for the Miami and Erie Canal, which constituted the district's southern boundary.  The waterway along the neighborhood's lower boundary, which was partly used for the ill-fated Cincinnati Subway project, was drained and filled in to become Central Parkway.  Residents and workers would cross "over the Rhine" to reach downtown from the area.  Liberty Street, which the streetcar shown above is about to cross, marks the southern edge of today's Cincinnati Brewery District, which now houses the Rhinegeist and Moerline breweries.  The neighborhood fell into hard times and disrepair by the middle of the twentieth century, and its its sturdy building stock is now undergoing extensive reconstruction, partly brought about by the advent of the streetcar line.  I saw cement mixers and other construction vehicles on just about every block while walking and riding through the gentrifying neighborhood.
The building behind the streetcar is the Transept, a wedding and event space containing a two-story ballroom.  It was originally built as St. John's German Reformed Protestant Church (Deutsche Protistantische St. Johannes Kirche) in Over-The-Rhine in 1867.  The northbound car is heading away from the camera and is shown on the south edge of Washington Park, ready to turn along its western side.
Above and below:  Washington Park is featured again, with the previous page lowerr view showing a northbound streetcar heading west along West 12th Street as it crosses Race Street, while the photo below shows a southbound car on Race Street approaching West 12th, to the right (east) of Washington Park.  The steeple in the background adorns the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (1871)


Six-acre Washington Park, in the heart of Over-The-Rhine, is featured in the previous page  photos and the above as well, as streetcar track runs along its western, southern and eastern edges.  It was originally a cemetery, but in 1888 was converted into a park for the Ohio Valley Centennial Exposition.
John Bromley and others pointed out an error in my paragraph about Cincinnati's former PCC cars. With that in mind I've rewritten it as follows: The new cars were built by CAF and are numbered 1175-1179, starting right after 1174, the number of Cincinnati's last PCC car.  No. 1000, the Cincinnati Street Railway's only Pullman-built (in 1939) unit had been renumbered 1127 and the company's Brilliner, No. 1200, built at the same time, was renumbered 1128.  The balance of the PCC fleet (air-electrics 1100-1126 and all-electrics 1150-1174) were manufactured by St. Louis Car.

We now focus on the lower half of the Cincinnati Streetcar line, where it traverses the Queen City's business district.  Thus, here are some additional photos, featuring the southern end of the Cincinnati Bell Connector.    See http://www.cincinnatibellconnector.com/uploads/streetcar%20map_stations_parking_RedBike_10_17.jpg?1509735461237 for a map.
Southbound cars use Central Parkway between Race and Walnut Streets.  The broad boulevard was once the Miami and Erie Canal, and portions of the still-born Cincinnati subway, including stations, lie below the surface.
A southbound car stops at the Aronoff Center station on Walnut Street just above Seventh.  The website of the performing arts complex (Proctor & Gamble Hall) provides driving directions and the location of nearby parking lots, but contains nary a word about the Cincinnati Bell Connector and other transit access.  In the background, the 18-story American Building stands on the north side of Central Parkway, putting it officially in Over-The-Rhine.  It is said that the 1928-built Art Deco edifice was inspired by the Empire State Building.  Its website indicates it now hosts 42 luxury condominioms.

A view from the pedestrian overpass of Walnut Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets that leads to the Fifth Third Bank headquarters at 38 Fountain Square.
We took a break from our activities for a lunchtime snack at Fountain Square
Fountain Square with its centerpiece statue is an oasis of tranquility in the midst of Cincinnati's largest concentration of skyscrapers.  The 1871-built Genius of Water fountain showers the pool from hundreds of jets pierced through her outstretched fingers.  Located at Fifth and Walnut Streets and surrounded by food vendor trucks and tents, it offers office workers and tourists a respite from the hustle and bustle of the adjacent area.  Some may recall the 9-foot high statue and the words, "To the People of Cincinnati," as a recurring sight in the introduction of the former weekly TV series, "WKRP in Cincinnati." 
Above and below:  Two views on the downward grade toward the river with the upper photo showing a southbound streetcar on Walnut Street at Third.  A parking deck on Vine Street allowed the photographer to gain some altitude when recording a northbound unit proceeding from Third Street to Fourth.
Above and below:  Two views at Walnut at Second, where a streetcar is waiting for the traffic signal to allow it to turn sharply left to reach its southern terminal, The Banks.  Taken only a moment or two apart, the lower photo utilized a wide-angle lens to include a portion of Cincinnati's skyline.  At the far left is the PNC (Pittsburgh National Bank) Tower (1913, 31 stories); and behind it to the right is the Art Deco Carew Tower (1930, 49 stories). 

During the early fall, long shadows come early, and we decided to leave the Queen City a little after 3 p.m.  The two-hour drive to Indianapolis was easy, and even gave us a glance at the northern portals of the subway.  We drove directly to our Holiday Inn Express near the city center and the Amtrak station, where we planned to spend the night.  Upon our arrival at the property we were informed that our reserved Studio Suite accommodation for 3 was unavailable, but the hotel would be glad to put us up in two adjacent rooms for only a slight additional payment.  Since we couldn't do anything about it we accepted the change.  Further, it would be nice to have three full beds in two separate rooms instead of having just one room--with a couch that converted into a bed--at least until I saw that my credit card was debited with an amount twice the price of the original room.  The Holiday Inn refused to lower the bill (as they stated I had "agreed" to substitute the two rooms for the one).  But since I had originally made the reservation through Booking.com, I notified them and they stepped in and had the charges corrected, but it took a week with several phone calls and email exchanges.
We dropped the car off downtown just before the Enterprise agency closed at 6 p.m., walked back to the Holiday Inn, and had a nice dinner nearby.  On the following morning we were up too early for the hotel's breakfast, as we had to get to the Amtrak station in time to ride the Hoosier State to Chicago, which was scheduled to depart at 6:00 a.m.  We taxied over and found a waiting room filled with very sleepy people.
I had been looking forward to riding this train, as it was being operated by the Iowa Pacific Railroad, a company set up by Ed Ellis to offer an alternative to Amtrak's run-of-the-mill intercity rail service.  He contracted with the State of Indiana and Amtrak to take over the operation of the train, which runs four days each week to supplement the Cardinal, Amtrak's tri-weekly long-distance service between Chicago and Washington D. C./New York City.  Rather than simple coach seats with a snack bar dispensing food, we would have breakfast in a dome diner, as the amenity was included in the price of the business class tickets we purchased.  The heritage coaches from the golden era of lightweight streamliners, the dome car and the locomotive were painted in the snappy Illinois Central Railroad color scheme of yore and we looked forward to our ride.
And we were not disappointed; everything was as promised.  The meals were cooked fresh in the kitchen of the dome car and served by a very personable and attentive staff, and we enjoyed riding upstairs so much that we stayed in our dome seats for the entire journey.  We left on the advertised at 6:00 a.m. and remained virtually on time for the entire [leisurely] journey, arriving on track 16 at Chicago's Union Station, 196 miles away, at 9:42, 23 minutes early (no doubt the result of padding in the schedule to avoid lateness from unforeseen problems).  Since we moved from Eastern to Central time, the trip actually took 4 hours and 42 minutes, resulting in an average speed of around 40 mph.  For the record, the train's rolling stock specifically consisted of dome Summit View and coaches Durant, Du Quoin and Dyersberg.
I feel very fortunate to have ridden this intercity train, as the State of Indiana's experiment with Iowa Pacific came to an end on February 28, 2017, when the private company could no longer afford to operate it under the terms of its contract.  I think Ed Ellis tried very hard, but probably bit off more than he was able to chew.  At least for a time he restored the type of excellent service that rail passengers in the 1950s expected--and got.
Unlike the previous day, Wednesday, September 28 was gloomy with periods of rain.  While Dick went home (he lives in Chicago), John and I spent the time before our departure for Kansas City riding Metra.  We took a bus over to Millenium station and rode the next double-deck eMU to Blue Island over the former Illinois Central Electric.  The underground terminal looked good, not at all the like the gloomy basement it was in the old days.  I've taken this excursion, which includes returning to the Loop over the old Rock Island, on many an occasion in the past, and it was just as enjoyable as ever.  For the record, we left on the 11:15 local, which switched onto the mostly single-track electrified branch after Kensington at 11:48, and arrived on time at our destination in Blue Island at 12:02.  Unfortunately, we didn't pass a South Shore Line train, as one was arriving just as we boarded the Metra double-decker.  My nose was glued to the front window after Kensington, as I've always enjoyed riding this backyard-style line, which appeared to be in very good shape.  After crossing the busy pavement to the Vermont Street station of the former Rock Island (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRmdS76oXw4), we rode the 1:03 train that arrived from Joliet on time and used the "suburban" route to downtown Chicago (rather than the mainline).  Unlike the outbound electric train, this inbound run was highly patronized and we arrived at the platforms of the former La Salle Street station at 1:48.  Both trains operated on time; I did not take any photos because of the poor weather.
Dick soon joined us at Union Station and we boarded the Amtrak's Southwest Chief, which also was parked on track 16, the same one used when we arrived on the Hoosier State.  It too operated on time, leaving at 3:00 and arriving in Kansas City, 437 miles away, at 10:03 (10:11) for an average of about 63 mph.  The seats in the Superliner coach were very comfortable and our dinner in the full-service diner was excellent.  By the time we arrived the skies had turned clear, a good omen for our plans to ride and photograph Kansas City's streetcar line on the following day.
We taxied to our Hampton Inn in the Country Club section of town, where we occupied a room for three (I used the sofabed) and were offered a good complimentary breakfast in the morning.

Next, I record our experiences in Kansas City on the next day.
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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 5:17 AM
Thursday, September 29 turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, and we made the best of it.  First thing after breakfast Dick rented a car, which allowed us a place to stash our bags between hotel check out and our late afternoon flights.  Knowing there would be no good reason to chase the line by auto, since it could easily be followed by riding, we drove to the northern end and first visited the office/carhouse/shop, where we were treated royally.  Then we deposited the car in a parking lot and spent the rest of the day riding and photographing.
Kansas City is a name that applies to two municipalities positioned across the Missouri River from each other, located in the states of Kansas and Missouri.  I've met foreigners who confuse the two, but most Americans (at least those educated before the millennium) know that the smaller city is in Kansas (population 150,000), while the Missouri version is a real metropolis, the state's largest city, with a population just under a half million.
St. Louis is now Missouri's second city, with only a little over 300,000 inhabitants.  If one tallies population totals for official metropolitan areas, which include suburbs and points in Illinois for St. Louis and points in Kansas for Kansas City, St. Louis comes in first with just under 3 million, while Kansas City is just a tad above 2 million.  The population of the City of St. Louis has declined from 850,000 in 1950, while the number of residents of Kansas City has remained pretty stable over the past 70 years.
So, taking the liberty to modify Oscar Hammerstein's words from 1943, I'd say that Everything's Still Up to Date in Kansas City, and that certainly is reflected by the creation of the city's streetcar line.  The line opened on May 6, 2016 and stretches for a little over 2 miles with 10 stops.  From south to north the line starts at Union Station and then follows Main Street toward the Missouri River until after it crosses the barrier posed by Interstate highways I-35 and I-70, where it then operates in a counter-clockwise loop through a district called River Market, the location of its offices, carhouse, and shop (see map at http://kcstreetcar.org/route-map/).  Herzog operates the line under contract to the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.  Rides are free and cars run on a 10-minute headway in rush hours and every 12 to 18 minutes at other times.
Like Cincinnati (see chapters 1 and 2), the line is served by 100-percent low-floor 3-section CAF Urbos streetcars.  KC has 4 of these units (as opposed to 5 in Cincinnati), numbered 801 to 804.  And much in tune with the Ohio city, the car numbers picked up from the end of the last series of PCCs operated by the legacy company, Kansas City Public Service (No. 799 was the highest number assigned).  KC's streetcar system operated for a good 6 years longer than Cincinnati's, with abandonment taking place on June 23, 1957.  Another similarity between the two river cities is that both operated air-electric (prewar) and all-electric (postwar) streamliners, and a large portion of the respective cities' PCC fleets were sold to Toronto.*  But there is one important major difference between the two, as ridership in Kansas City keeps growing, and there are plans for extensions at both ends of the existing line.  Right now average daily ridership is about 5,500, quite a bit more than the 2,700 originally projected.  Interestingly, patronage of the free service really booms on Saturdays, with ridership on the first day of every weekend consistently greater than 10,000.
Tampico and Philadelphia were also beneficiaries of Kansas City PCCs, where they continued in service for many years.  Interestingly, many of Toronto's ex-Kansas City cars were later sent to Philadelphia, where they spent the final part of their life with their brethren.  Kansas City owned 184 PCCs, while Cincinnati had 53.
Here are some photos of the southern end of the line, working from Union Station, the city's handsome passenger terminal.
Above and below:  Union station is the southernmost point on the Kansas City streetcar.  Upon its completion in 1914, the Beaux-Arts structure became the second largest railroad station in the U. S.  With the decline of passenger train operations throughout America the building was repurposed, although it still serves a single daily Amtrak train, the Southwest Limited.  The renovated edifice is now a major traffic generator, hosting restaurants, exhibits, a large 3-D movie theater, a stage for live theater and a science museum with planetarium.  Streetcars lay over under a pedestrian overpass at the station before crossing between sides of Main Street on a single track.  Pershing Road and the National World War One Museum and Memorial Tower appear directly behind the streetcar in the upper photo.
With Kansas City's skyline in the background, a southbound car is shown traversing the long viaduct that crosses over the Kansas City Terminal Railway, which serves all of the trunk lines running through the city and was the former owner and operator of Union Station.
 
Above and below:  These views of Kansas City's skyline feature four major buildings.  The upper photo was taken at 18th Street, while the lower one involved the use of a wide-angle lens from Truman Road, three blocks further north and closer to the heart of the business district.  From left to right on the lower photo:  the 34-story Kansas City Power and Light Building constructed in 1931, the tallest building west of the Mississippi until 1962 (Space Needle--Seattle) or 1976 (One U. S. Bank Plaza--St. Louis).  It now houses apartments.  To its right is the Hilton President Hotel (1926-1980 in first incarnation; refurbished and reopened in 2006).  The dark, brooding behemoth is One Kansas City Place, the city's tallest building (42 stories, 1987).  Lastly, the circular building at right is H & R Block's World Headquarters, 17 floors, built in 2006.  The vertical "Mainstreet" sign marks the location of today's Alamo Drafthouse Theater, a renovation of the 1921-built Mainstreet theater that was connected to the President Hotel by tunnel, which, it is said, allowed actors and prohibition-denied materials to move easily between the two establishments.
 
 
Above and below:  Views of both sides of Main Street, from 13th and 12th Streets, respectively.  The pedestrian overpass is at 11th.
 
We continue our survey of the Kansas City Streetcar with three views from the upper end of the line, beginning at the northern edge of Kansas City's business district, on Main Street between 9th and 8th (see map at http://kcstreetcar.org/route-map/). 
After passing Kansas City's Central Library at 9th Street, Main divides into separate northbound and southbound lanes separated by an island.  The Muse of Missouri Fountain, with 200 spouts of water, is located in that space.  It was built in 1963 and the "Missouri" refers to the river as opposed to the state.  The fish heads below the net resemble bluefish, which are not found in that body of water, as the sculptor felt that native catfish were too ugly to craft. 
Main ascends into Delaware Street in order to cross the I-35 and I-70 freeways and enter Kansas City's River Market district, where the line splits into a one-way counter clockwise loop.  This charming area is home to many diverse shops and restaurants, which have been mutually aided by the popularity of the streetcar line.  It was the perfect place to grab a bite for lunch.

Above and below:  These two photos from a block further up were taken from a garage that occupies the lower floors of the 30-story former Commerce Bank Tower, now apartments.  The lower view shows the viaduct that brings Main Street over the gully used by Interstate highways I-35 and I-70.
The Kansas City Streetcar descends the grade along 5th Street after turning right from Delaware Street.  The hill looks steeper than it really is due to the use of a telephoto lens. 
Car 803 is about to turn back onto Delaware Street from 3rd, having begun to operate as an inbound unit after it laid over at the end of the line at 3rd and Grand a few blocks back.
As mentioned earlier Dick, John and I were treated very well on our visit to the offices of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.  It lies on a spur track leading from 3rd and Grand northward toward the river, which then turns east onto prw at the end of 2nd Street.
After receiving maps and other literature we were shown the Singleton shops, where the four CAF-built cars are stored and maintained.  Our hostess and guide was a refugee from New York City, so it was old home week for me.  Since this visit two more cars have been ordered from CAF to be used for a forthcoming expansion of service.
  
Double-ended CAF-built three-section articulated low-floor car 801 is shown undergoing maintenance on one of the hoists in the Streetcar Authority's Singleton shop.
Once our "work" (labor of love) was completed we rode to the northern end of the line and retrieved the car, and headed for the airport.  Mine was the first flight out so Dick and John dropped me at Delta before returning the vehicle after our very successful day.
The three circular-style terminal buildings at Kansas City International Airport date from 1972, prior to the security concerns that came with hijacking and September 11, and they display designs that were advanced for their time, but became terribly outdated quickly.  Built on the site of the former Mid-Continent Airport (that's why its code is MCI), the terminals were based on TWA's concept of bringing motor traffic as close to the gates and aircraft as possible.  Thus almost all services in the buildings were decentralized--from shops and restaurants to ATMs to even restrooms, and central checkpoints for the screening of passengers and luggage had to be jury rigged.  This is also an unfortunate feature of hexagonally-shaped Tegel Airport in [West] Berlin.
I had been able to secure low fares for my open-jaw trip by purchasing tickets (to Indianapolis and back from Kansas City) as two one-ways, but that meant for economic reasons my return trip was not non-stop, but instead included a change of aircraft  It was only a 35-minute stopover in Atlanta, but as a result, it wasn't until after midnight that I reached Newark Airport (on time) and was able to retrieve my car from my favorite off-airport parking lot (Vista) at the Howard Johnson motor lodge.  I was soon home after what I considered to be an enjoyable and very successful trip.
Next a report on my visit to Detroit, home of the last of the three new streetcar lines that opened in 2016 and 2017.
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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 12:53 PM
he news that a new streetcar line would be opening in Detroit on Friday, May 12, 2017 came as no surprise, but it encouraged me to include that city in a list of places I'd want to visit in the summer.  I rejected the idea of going to the inauguration of the Q-Line, as I don't care for large crowds and prefer as little outside interference as possible while taking photos.  Thus, despite being urged to join some friends who would attend (similar to what occurred when the lines in Norfolk and Washington begun operations--whose openings I also passed up, but eventually visited), I decided to forgo the opportunity for the time being.
But that radically changed on Thursday, May 11 when I received an e-mail message from Frontier Airlines that included an offer I couldn't refuse--a round trip from Trenton Mercer Airport to Detroit for a mere $58!  It applied to an outbound flight on Sunday, May 14 and a return on Tuesday, May 16.  After quickly checking with Clare, I jumped at the opportunity (hoping it wouldn't sell out quickly) and bought my ticket.
I notified several other traction enthusiasts that I would be coming out, suggesting I might see them if their visits extended to the 14th or 15th.  Among them was long-time friend and fellow railfan Julien Wolfe, who has lived for many decades in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit.  He said he and his wife Martha could arrange accommodations for me in his condominium building, and that he would be happy to join me riding, inspecting and photographing the new line.  I happily agreed, and he indicated he would pick me up at Detroit Metro Airport after my flight landed, which was scheduled for 3:24 p.m. on Sunday.
The logistics worked out well.  I left home at 10:45 and reached the airport a few minutes after 12 noon, where I had to struggle a little to find a parking spot, finally settling for one in an overflow area serviced by a free shuttle bus.  Parking would be $8.00 per 24-hour period.  I had not opted to pay for a reserved seat and so had to check in at the Frontier desk on the upper level, where I was assigned to a window seat and received my boarding pass.  Frontier charges for both checked baggage and carry-ons (the former is cheaper than the latter), but all I was taking with me was a "personal item" (my camera bag into which I stuffed my film, camera, toiletry kit, a clean shirt and two changes of underwear).  The airport is small, and passengers descend by escalator to the security checkpoint and then enter the waiting room.  All of that took virtually no time, and soon enough loading began through a door leading to the waiting A-320 aircraft on the tarmac.
The 80-percent full plane departed on time and arrived in Detroit a few minutes early, similar to my Frontier flights in previous years from Trenton to Charlotte and Atlanta.  Julien and I found each other quickly as planned, and soon we were on his way to the outer terminal of the new streetcar line, where we found a curbside parking spot on a side street close to Woodward Avenue.
First, a little bit about the line and the city.  Detroit has suffered painfully over the last half-century, mostly driven by the loss of jobs in the automotive industry, white flight to the suburbs and the tearing up of neighborhoods for freeways, which resulted in a high crime rate and large amounts of urban decay.  In 1950 it was the nation's fifth largest city with a population of about 1.8 million, but by 2010 the number of the city's inhabitants had dropped to considerably less than half, just over 700,000.  Despite the construction of the Renaissance Center in 1977 and other attempts at revitalization, including the construction of ballparks, arenas and even a people mover, the city center suffered greatly, especially with the abandonment of tall office buildings, hotels and the like.
But that may be in the process of reversal, as many downtown structures were not razed, but instead are now being renovated, both for commercial and residential purposes.  And another sign pointing to Detroit's revival is its new 3.3-mile long streetcar line, which is the subject of this report. 
The city's public transit system deteriorated hand-in-hand with its decline.  Like most large metropolitan areas Detroit had an extensive network of streetcar routes, but the system was abandoned after World War II, despite its utilization of a large fleet of PCC cars.  Some 186 modern streamliners were purchased new from St. Louis Car, but all were replaced by buses by the middle of 1956 (in the post-war era how could the stalwart automobile companies headquartered in the area countenance an effective transit system?).  Detroit's first two PCCs were diverted from a 1944 order for Pittsburgh, making them the only air-electric units to operate in the Motor City.  All but one of the remaining [all-electric] cars were sold to Mexico City, where I rode them on many occasions.  (Julien Wolfe informs me that No. 2268 was returned to the U. S. back in 1984, and I wonder if preservationists south of the border have saved any of the others.) 
Other blows to transit in the Motor City included the abandonment of the Grand Trunk Western Railway's commuter service in the Detroit-Pontiac corridor (and a small similar operation on the former New York Central to Ann Arbor) and the refusal of the city to accept becoming part of a unified regional bus system that included the suburbs, which meant it was not included in the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA), now SMART.  The creation of a heritage streetcar operation, using mainly vintage streetcars from Lisbon occurred in 1976 as part of the bicentennial, but it withered away due to indifference and neglect by 2003.  The creation of a single-track elevated people mover system was an attempt to reverse the decline.  The automated line, which loops through Detroit's business center, opened in 1987, using technology that was pioneered in Toronto (Scarborough) and Vancouver.  Considered by many to be a white elephant at the time, it now aids mobility and tourism in the city center.
Anyway, about a decade ago a new breed of local philanthropic and entrepreneurial business leaders decried the horrendous waste of people and resources that riddled Detroit and began the city's revitalization.  Among them was Dan Gilbert, a local resident who was the founder of Quicken Loans, who never lost faith in his city.  He decided to invest in the urban core and brought in casino gambling to raise funds, while purchasing a great deal of the abandoned real estate along with its infrastructure.  Similarly other leaders, including Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesar's Pizza and owner of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings, Roger Penske (Penske truck rental/leasing), and the Kresge Foundation (Detroit was S. S. Kresge's home town) did the same, and created organizations to guide the redevelopment.  Detroit's banks, old line automobile companies and a new city administration installed after the city's bankruptcy cooperated.
To make a long complicated story short, things look much brighter in Detroit, and the streetcar line is a major catalyst.  It runs for a little over 3 miles along Woodward Avenue, the city's historic main artery, from Congress Street, just short of the Detroit River in downtown, northward to Grand Boulevard.  Much of the line, which uses six 3-section, 100-percent low-floor Brookville Liberty streetcars, is wireless, and so the rolling stock has its batteries charged while traveling along stretches under the wire and when laying up.  Its southern terminal has overhead, while at the northern end of the line, between the terminal station at Grand Boulevard and the 3-track carhouse (which is wire free) there is a spot where cars can raise their pantographs to obtain power.  Just like in Cincinnati and Kansas City, the numbers for the new rolling stock picked up where the legacy system left off, in this case No. 287-292, as Detroit's last PCC was numbered 286. 
Originally called the M-1 line (Woodward Avenue is Michigan state highway 1) and planned as a publicly financed project with support and some funding from the private sector, it received FTA money for a DEIS.  But in 2011 it morphed into a much larger plan for BRT under the aegis of the Mayor, Governor and the federal government, based on their [mistaken] opinion that it would be more affordable because operational costs for a rubber-tired system would be less than for steel-wheeled surface transit.  This left no governmental entity supporting rail, but did not stop the consortium of corporate executives that had been involved to continue to plan a rail line, albeit a pared-down one.  This effort garnered a great deal of impetus when the FTA-supported BRT nonsense became moot, as the public voted and defeated the regional tax plan that was needed to provide the project's local share.  Thus the privately created, more affordable, carefully thought-out streetcar line became the only option, albeit for only for a much smaller portion of the corridor.  Gilbert and Quicken Loans took over sponsorship by buying naming rights prior to its opening, and as a result it is called the Q-Line.  The public-private partnership that runs it, M-1 Rail, contracts out its operation to Transdev (also runnig the Cincinnati Bell Connector).
The line has 12 stops and is 60 percent free of 750-volt DC overhead wire.  Its double track runs both in the center and along the curbs of Woodward Avenue for almost its entire length, the exception being a short stretch of uni-directional single track around Campus Martius Park (Cadillac Square) near its southern end.  There are many traffic generators along the line, and some will be highlighted in the captions of the photos below (and in chapter 6).  For a diagrammatic map see
 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6p5kZzKRHCBeW9SVTU5RDhvZ0U/view

This text of this portion of my trip report is becoming very long and I haven't even gotten to the narrative of my stay in the Detroit area.  Thus I will leave that for the next chapter, and instead display some of my photos below.  These cover the northernmost portion of the line.  The first three were taken just beyond the line's Grand Boulevard terminal, near the intersection of Woodward and Lothrop (also was the name of a famous department store chain in the Washington, D. C. area).
 This Brookville Liberty car is shown returning to the Grand Boulevard terminal to begin a southbound run after having its batteries charged in the area adjacent to the traffic signals at right.   The double-track merges into one before fanning out again to enter the carhouse.  Close-up views are below.
 

Above and below: .  This Brookville Liberty streetcar had to be positioned carefully so its pantograph could be raised to allow its batteries to be charged from 750-volt DC overhead.  The car will be battery-propelled from this point southward until it reaches the Ferry Street station and enters upon a stretch containing poles and wire.  It is said that the use of ugly overhead on streetcar and light rail lines can destroy the quality of the views in the area.  The upper photo shows the tracks turning left (eastward) into the Penske Tech Center, where rolling stock is maintained and stored overnight.  This approach to charging batteries is also used on the Dallas Streetcar, but is accomplished during the period while revenue cars lay over in the terminal station. 
M-1 Rail states that the tech center is the only wireless facility in the U.S.  One more track branches off one of the main tracks inside, to give a 3 track facility.


The Grand Boulevard terminal with car 289 discharging passengers before heading further northward to charge its batteries and then turn back.  The station furniture is simple, and attractive.
Looking toward downtown at a northbound car is shown just below the Grand Boulevard terminal.  The overpass in the distance carries Amtrak Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago trains.  The passenger station is just to the west of Woodward Avenue, a very short walk from the QLine's next stop, Baltimore Street.


Just south of the Amsterdam Street stop, the tracks transition between the curb and center of Woodward Avenue.  It is odd that this outbound car was displaying the last part of its "Congress Street" destination, as it is heading in the opposite direction.  The steeple in the background is atop the Romanesque Our Lady of the Rosary Parish church, whose stone walls were built in 1896.
 
Detroit's Art Deco Fisher Building looms in the background of this photo.  Located along Grand Boulevard, a few blocks west of the line's northern terminal in a section of Detroit now known as New Center, the 30-story skyscraper was built by the seven Fisher brothers with funds realized from the sale of the automobile body company their uncle started to General Motors in 1926.  It is noted for an ornate three-story lobby and its interior theater, which is Detroit's home for road productions of Broadway shows.  It dwarfs the former Neo-Classical General Motors building, now called Cadillac Place (also in the views), used by GM as its headquarters from its completion in 1922 to 2001, when the corporation moved into Detroit's Renaissance Center.  Ironically, in 2016 the current president of GM purchased the Fisher home, a 28-room mansion in which he and his family now dwell.  (Take that, Eiji Toyoda.)

Above and below: Going southward, Woodward Avenue crosses over the Edsel Ford Freeway.  Looking north from the service road, an inbound streetcar passes under a billboard erected prior to the line's opening, thus before it was named the Q-Line.  The cars left the manufacturer at Brookville, Pennsylvania,  in the red and white livery on the sign.  Below, from Andrew Grahl, is a close-up of No. 287 on a trailer, ready to make the trip from Brookville to Detroit.

The rear of a Grand Boulevard-bound car is shown crossing Palmer, just slightly south of the freeway.  This view illustrates one of the sections of the line where the tracks have been placed to leave room for parallel parking along wide Woodward Avenue.  However, this can result in delays, especially when automobiles are not parked close enough to the sidewalk, but fortunately there is much more leeway here than there is in Washington, D. C., where narrow H Street leaves virtually no room for error.  I should point out that I f ound it a bit dangerous to jaywalk into the center of Woodward Avenue to take photos like the one with the billboard. Again, the Fischer Building is in the background, at left.
Note from Dave Klepper:   My sister, Gertrude Kasle, had her art gallery in the Fisher Building, and the Nederlander Theatrical Organization hired Bolt Beranek and Newman as acoustical consultants for the theatre's early 1960's renovation and modernization, with the project assigned to me, a relationship that continued with other work when I moved to Klepper Marshall King in July, 1971.  Rapp and Rapp, a Detroit firm, were architects for the theatre renovation,
I continue with the narrative of my visit to Detroit and photos of the Q-Line in the downtown area.  This section starts with the narrative of my 48-hour trip, and then continues with photos of the inner portion of the line.
As mentioned earlier Julien Wolfe picked me up at Detroit Metro Airport on the afternoon of Sunday, May 14.  It took us about 20 minutes to drive the northern end of the line and he easily found a curbside parking place on one of the side streets that runs into Woodward Avenue, adjacent to the Q-Line's maintenance facility.  Julien had indicated that the day began cloudy, but by the time I had alighted from Frontier flight a little before its scheduled 3:24 p.m. arrival time, the sky had cleared.  It was a hop, skip and jump from the auto to the line's Grand Boulevard terminal, but first we took some photos.
 
Since this is a description of what I saw of the Q-Line just two days after its opening, during the period when it was subject to a great many teething problems, the observations I recount here do not necessarily relate to its current operational state.  However, I've had some difficulties keeping up with exact developments, specifically with regard to current ridership levels, and am not sure about exact headways and number of cars used for service during different periods of the day and week.  According to the Q-Line's website, on Mondays to Saturdays five of their six cars operate between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., with four at other times (which includes the morning rush hour).  This, along with an assertion that scheduled running time each way varies from 20 to 25 minutes (depending on traffic), makes me think that after taking layover time at terminals into account, service frequency should be every 10 to 12 minutes during most of the day and every 15 minutes or slightly less at other times.  On Sundays only three cars are out on the line.  Of course if the running time is longer, say 30 minutes, then headways would be every 14, 18 and 24 minutes, respectively.  As for ridership, a "one year of service" report from this past May indicated that the line carried about 5,000 passengers daily when travel was free, but after Labor Day, when fares of $1.50 one-way and $3.00 for a day pass were instituted, ridership dropped to about 3,000 per day.  Tickets may be purchased at machines positioned at stops or on the cars themselves, as well as via the internet.  Cash is accepted only onboard the cars themselves.

I'll let Julien describe the scene upon our arrival at the Grand Boulevard terminal two days after the grand opening: 
"We noted that the platform was jammed, and this crowd became more compressed when a northbound car discharged all of its passengers here8.  At one time, 3 of the 5 cars (they have 6 cars) being used were at the Grand Boulevard stop, or north of it.  There did not appear to be any supervisory control of this mob with cars piling up at one place.  Finally, a car reversed, switched to the southbound (downtown bound) track and loaded passengers, absorbing much of the crowd, but we were kept waiting.  When it finally left (there did not seem to be any sense of urgency to get things moving and clear up the standing crowd), another car came in and loaded up.  We pressed ourselves into car 290 at 4:30 p.m., and with air conditioning not up to dealing with such a crowd on a warm (but not hot) day, we headed south 5 minutes later."  Indeed the car was very hot, which we first attributed that to a possibly faulty air conditioner in this unit.  [But later, we observed other cars just as hot, and postulated this could be a real problem in the summer.  It was a warm day with the thermometer nearing 80 degrees outside the car, but I suspect temperatures in Detroit easily get up into the 90s with high humidity during July and August.  We wondered whether the line's wireless operation does not allow an adequate supply of electricity to operate both the car and its air conditioning equipment at their full potential.  And along the same lines, would there be enough heat in the winter?]

We rode two stops to Amsterdam,* where we paused for some photos.  The cars were far between, but not necessarily few, as I noticed at least four different units in operation (of the six on the roster).  But they tended to be running every 20 or so minutes, resulting in uncomfortable crowding and causing prospective passengers to wait for long periods before boarding.  We didn't get to the Congress Street terminal until almost 5:20 and then still had to wait until almost 5:45 to return to the other end of line.  Interestingly, Q-Line had a young representative there who was answering questions and giving out descriptive folders.  We found seats for our return trip and enjoyed a reasonably fast ride back to Grand Boulevard.  It was clear the public was certainly interested in testing the new streetcar, and I hope they were not disappointed by the blemishes in the service.
 
I should have timed the return run, so I'm not sure how long it took us to get back to the car, but there certainly was a great deal less dawdling compared to our disconnected southbound trip.  We then drove across the border into Canada to Julien and Martha's condo in Windsor.  After resting for a short period we went out to a steakhouse for an excellent dinner.


Fresh and early on Monday morning we had a light breakfast at a nearby Tim Hortons, and then Julien took me to the Via station for some pictures of the 9:05 train to Toronto, which we also photographed soon after its departure at a grade crossing up the line.  We then drove back into the U. S. over the Ambassador Bridge (Detroit is separated from Windsor by the Detroit River, which has two crossings for motor traffic, a tunnel connecting the cities' respective downtown areas, and the Ambassador Bridge, further south--actually more west than south--which connects to highway I-75).  We found a parking spot almost identical to the one we used on the previous day and then decided to visit the Q-Line's office in the adjacent Penske Tech Center.  Even though it was not yet officially open the clerk, was anxious to please and provided us with canvas bags embossed with the Q-Line emblem and containing a Q-Line plastic water bottle inside.  We had asked for timetables and other printed information, but none were available.

We took some more photos at the northern end of the line on this bright sunny day and then rode down to the Grand Circus station, pausing for additional pictures along the way.  The Detroit People Mover passes over the line at Grand Circus, and despite the automated railway running frequently, the long headways on the Q-Line made our attempt to get photos of one of the trains passing above a streetcar proved futile (how many 15- to 20-minute intervals could we wait before the whole day was used up).  We then walked through the heart of downtown Detroit, passing many of the office skyscrapers that have recently been brought back to life.  The city center seemed to be thriving--a great deal different than in years past--with crowded streets containing office workers and tourists.  We photographed the Q-Line along the curving single track that encircles Campus Martius Park and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the only portions of the line that are not straight as an arrow. 

It was getting to lunch time, so we walked to the nearby Renaissance Center for a slight repast, but soon resumed our railfan activities at that location by taking photos of the people mover (the views of the people mover and of Via Canadian Rail in Windsor will appear in chapter further on).  We then walked, paralleling the elevated single track counter-clockwise loop line to the Cobo Convention Center, where we rode up an escalator to the fare control area and paid our 75-cent fares to access the platform of the line by depositing quarters into a turnstile (tokens can be purchased from change machines at the stations).  We rode a 2-car train for 4 stops to Grand Circus Park, where the people mover crosses over Woodward Avenue and the Q-Line.  It is possible to get photos of the streetcars from this stop's platform if you point your lens between the horizontal bars on the outer side of the track, but the sun wasn't perfect yet, so we came back about a half-hour later, after making a full circle (13 stops) with a stopover (at Fort/Cass) for photos.  There were few other riders.
 
Back at Grand Circus Park, after a few photos of the Q-Line from above, we came down to street level and began walking northward, stopping at various interesting points for photos, and then rode to Warren Avenue in the city's cultural arts district for more pictures.  We then continued walking northward to the next stop, Ferry, where we boarded an outbound car back to Grand Boulevard.  Julien's car was undisturbed, and we drove back to Windsor, where we stopped off again at the Via station and the grade crossing for views of the 5:45 p.m. train to Toronto.  All in all, we had an excellent day, followed by a nice meal near the Via station and a quiet evening of reminiscing, with Julien's wife Martha joining in.
Tuesday was getaway day, but also a bit cloudy, so we took our time and had a real breakfast with Martha before heading back to Detroit (with my bag in the trunk).  By the time we parked near the cultural arts center the sun had come out, so we took a few more photos, however a bit halfheartedly, as we already had many from our efforts on Sunday afternoon and all day Monday.  We walked up to the Amsterdam stop and then rode back to Warren Avenue, our last streetcar ride of my visit.  It seemed that the frequency and reliability of the line was much better on this Tuesday morning.
Since my flight wasn't due out until 2:55 p.m. (and I like to get to airports about 90 minutes before departure nowadays), we still had enough time to get in one more item of rail interest.  Julien drove out to Dearborn (only 10 minutes out of the way in each direction) to inspect the new Amtrak station.  It is very large, with its defining feature being a narrow-gauge steam locomotive displayed in its center.  The waiting room was more like a visitor's center, in that it was full of tourist brochures and timetables.  Of course there were no current Amtrak timetables (they are no longer issued in hard copy), but among the bus schedules there were ones for Via Rail, and believe it or not, the White Pass and Yukon.
From here we drove to Metro Airport, where I thanked Julien for his kind hospitality and got my seat for my return flight to Trenton on Frontier.  I was pleased it was a window seat again, and then was even happier when we left on time  (2:55 p.m.) with a plane that was about 75 percent full (there was nobody next to me in the middle seat of of my row in the A-320).  It's getting to be a cliche, but how many different ways can you say the flight was uneventful?  Arrival in our place on the tarmac was a few minutes early at 4:29 (33) and it just took a few minutes to walk through the airport's arrival area/baggage pick-up and get outside.
I had to wait a bit for the shuttle bus (about 8 to 10 minutes), but I was soon in my car for the drive home.  After paying $20 for 2+ days of parking I made it to I-95 quickly.  But it was now rush hour, and at that time U. S. 1 with all of its traffic lights is no picnic, but it could have been worse.  In fact most of the congestion I experienced was on the Garden State Parkway from Woodbridge up to Montclair (Bloomfield).  I arrived home at 7:10 p.m.
To sum up the trip:  First, I enjoyed it very much and am quite happy with the photographic record.  I also want to thank Julien and Martha Wolfe for their kind hospitality.  As for the Q-Line and Detroit, my reactions are mixed, but all leading up to the feeling that "Time Will Tell."  If you take my experience as a playbook for the future, I'd have to say it's a fouled up operation.  But if someone cares, there is nothing preventing it from being fixed up.  The 20-minute or so headways I experienced have to be improved, as well as the running times.  I truly believe anything worse than a 10- or 12-minute headway would be a waste of the capital costs incurred in building the system.  What good will the investment be if few people ride?  Thus, its biggest problem is frequency and reliability.  You cannot keep prospective riders waiting too long and then subject them to problems while reaching their destinations.  I wish I knew the line's current state, but I don't know anyone who is monitoring the situation, so without such information, I can't comment further.
As for the city itself, what I saw along the line was great.  Lots of economic activity, both commercial/business and leisure.  The sidewalks are clean, the culture and entertainment venues seem to be thriving, and the city's revival is reflected in a new atmosphere (ambience) that should attract lots of jobs and investment.  On the other hand, there's still a l-o-n-g way to go.  When you travel any distance along the side streets away from Woodward Avenue, you see a great deal of desolation (great deal might be an understatement).  What should be neighborhoods of single-family dwelling units or garden apartments actually consist of grass and weed-covered empty spaces with the occasional house still standing (some in good repair and some not--with just a few undergoing repair). 
Due its scope it's hard for me to figure out how all of this problem is going to be remediated.  However, it appears the current activities have been further strengthened by the recent announcement by the Ford Motor Company that it will convert the Michigan Central station and skyscraper in the Corktown area into a technology center.  I wish Detroit the best of luck.
I've attempted to show many of the line's traffic generators in the photos below.
.
  
An inbound car pauses at the Ferry Street stop as it enters Detroit's Arts and Cultural District.  In the next few blocks it will pass the Detroit Historical Museum, the Public Library, the Institute for the Arts (DIA), the Michigan Science Center and the Charles H. Wright Museum.  Overhead wire stretches through this area from here to Warren Avenue, a relatively short distance.
 

Above and below:  These photos along Woodward Avenue portray two major Detroit landmarks within its Arts and Cultural District.  The upper view shows southbound car 290 heading downtown, as taken from the grounds of the Detroit Public Library with the Detroit Institute of Arts in the background.  The lower photo shows the library, whose arch windows are similar to those of the art museum.  Putnam Street approaches Woodward Avenue from the west and continues on the other side as Farnsworth Street.  It is odd (at least to me) that overhead wire is used on this portion of the line, with its lovely architecture, as opposed to the unremarkable area immediately north and south.
 
By the time the line reaches Garfield it no longer sports overhead wire, which comes to an end at the Warren Avenue stop.  The large building in the background is the Department of Computer Science of Wayne State University.  When Woodward Avenue's PCCs were discontinued in 1956 there were very few computers and virtually no computer science curriculum, and the structure, another one of Detroit's beautiful examples of Art Deco architecture, was known as the Maccabees Building.  The studios and transmitter of radio station WXYZ occupied a portion of the 15-story skyscraper.  Being a great fan of old-time radio I find it enjoyable to visualize talented actors such as Brace Beemer, Fred Foy and Paul Sutton, standing at microphones and performing in The Lone Ranger, Challenge of the Yukon and The Green Hornet, sending their voices over the airwaves to appreciative listeners throughout the U. S. and Canada.  I wonder if they ever rode the streetcar to work.



The Gothic Revival St. John's Episcopal Church was constructed in 1861 and is the oldest house of worship along Woodward Avenue.  This area, now just south of the Fisher Freeway (I-75), was once called Piety Hill because of the large number of such religious edifices in the neighborhood.
 
 
 
 
 
Comerica Park (home of the Detroit Tigers since 2000) and Ford Field (Detroit Lions since 2002) are in the background as outbound car 290 crosses Elizabeth Street.  It will soon pass the Fillmore and Fox theaters (on the photographer's left), which are popular venues for live performances.
 

Above and below::::  Grand Circus Park.  The first view is from the platform of the Detroit People Mover and shows the Central United Methodist Church, which was constructed in Tudor Revival style.  Note St. John's Episcopal Church (Gothic) in the background.  The second photo shows an outbound streetcar with the lens facing much in the same direction, but taken from the surface of Woodward Avenue.


 


 
This inbound Q-Line car has just ducked under the people mover and is heading toward Grand River Avenue.  There is no stop at this point, making it difficult to photograph the rolling stock of the two rail lines together. Note the inventory of tall buildings shown in the previous photo and the two that follow.  The older ones withstood Detroit's travails and look like they will have a bright future.
 
 Above and below::  Two views at Congress Street, the southern end of the line.  The upper photo shows a car about to pull into the terminal stop, while the lower shows it laying over while its batteries are being charged.  No. 292 will soon pull out and take the curve to the right.  I suspect the special work shown above is a spring switch.  In the background is Campus Martius Park, which is circumscribed by the line.  Both roadways carry the Woodward Avenue designation.

We will continue with photos of the Detroit People Mover and a pair of Via Canadian Rail Windsor-Toronto trains at Windsor, across the River from Detroit.  Detroit's people mover was built in 1987 as part of a redevelopment scheme for the city's downtown area.  A standard-gauge single track loop is just short of 3 miles long and encircles the city center. It serves many places of tourist and local interest at its 13 stops.  Automated two-car trains run clockwide about every 5 minutes, although at its inception they ran counter-clockwise.  Like the Scarborough line in Toronto and most of Vancouver's Skytrain, it uses linear induction motor technology originally supplied by Canada's Urban Transportation Development Corporation (later acquired by Bombardier).  Since then, this system was used for the New York JFK Airport Air Train.  Fare is 75 cents collected at turnstiles.*
The following comments about the line were made by Julien Wolfe:  The ride over the DPM is rather interesting, as it shows the areas of the city that are now coming back, often with classic 1920s and 1930s buildings being restored.  The Renaissance Center, promoted by the Ford Motor Company, and now home of General Motors, was in 1977 supposed to boost downtown Detroit, but it essentially succeeded only in sucking tenants from older buildings into the new Ren Cen office buildings.  Only during the past 5 or 6 years has the rest of downtown Detroit started to blossom again.  One gets a very good view of the Detroit River from the DPM and whatever shipping is coming by at the time, and of course, Windsor, in Canada, across the river.
The internet shows the line operated by a department of the city government and ridership averages around 7,500/day.  Is the DPM worthwhile or a boondoggle?  I really don't know, but I certainly enjoyed riding and photographing it.  The photos show the the advertising-wrapped rolling stock* at various locations, in a clockwise direction from Grand Circle Park, where it crosses over the Q-Line.
 

Above and below:  Grand Circus Park at Woodward Avenue.  The upper view zooms in on the structure from the north side of Woodward.  Note the decorations on the two cars, which advertise "the Henry Ford"" the new name for the complex in Dearborn that contains Greenfield Village and its steam railroad.  Below we look northward along Woodward, showing the Q-Line's tracks and most prominently, the Central United Methodist Church and the Gothic 1919 revival style Fyfe Building.
 


Looking from Jefferson Avenue toward the Millender Center.  Both the DPM guideway and the covered pedestrian walkway below it lead from the Renaissance Center to the complex, which also houses a Marriott hotel.
 

Crossing Woodward Avenue again.  A two-car train is dwarfed by skyscrapers
 

The rear of a two-car train heading into the Michigan Avenue stop in the Convention Center, taken from the end of the Fort/Cass station platform.  The “sails” at right cover the city's Rosa Parks transit center, while the castle-like structure is the Grand Army f the Republic building from 1899.

(I must apologize, as the same cars kept reappearing in my best photos.  There were many more pairs of cars in service, but I don't know if all 12 were running.)
 
Now we cross the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, Canada for some additional photos.  I remember as a child being taken to Canada by an uncle and aunt and none of us having to show any identification.  I made sure I had my passport for this trip.
In the late afternoon of Monday, May 14, Julien and I stopped off at the Via Rail station in Windsor to take a look at the 5:45 p.m. train to Toronto.  Earlier that morning we had done the same for the 9.05 train and then photographed it at a grade crossing not too far from its terminal.

Above and below:  Two scenes at the railway station in Windsor.*  The upper photo shows Via No. 78, the 5:45 p.m. corridor train to Toronto with a General Electric-built P42DC at the point.  The Genesis unit was built in 2001, and was one of the last of its type to be manufactured.  It is bedecked in the special 150th anniversary color scheme and markings that commemorate the creation of Canada in 1867.  The five fluted-steel passenger cars are loading passengers from the platform adjacent to the station building.  Built by the Budd Company in the 1950s for several American roads, Via Rail obtained the cars from Amtrak and then had them rebuilt in the 1990s.  One of the units is a club car, providing first class service including hot dinners.  The lower view shows train 72, the 9:05 a.m. departure to Toronto..  (If you say Windsor station, everyone thinks you're talking about Montreal's Windsor Station.)
 
Above and below:  Two photos of Via train 72 from the George Avenue grade crossing in Windsor just after it started its journey at 9:05 a.m.  No. 6415 is an F40 built by General Motors in 1987.  The rolling stock consists of Bombardier-built LRC (light, rapid, comfortable) coaches (and a club car) built in the 1980s.  When they first went into service these cars ran with matching locomotives, but those wore out by 2001 and were scrapped.  Both photos were taken with a zoom lens from the exact same spot, but for the lower one I used a telephoto setting.  Prominently in the background is the world headquarters of General Motors in the Renaissance Center, located on the other side of the Detroit River. .
If Dinah Shore were standing next to me she might have reversed the old iconic slogan as: See a Chevrolet in the U. S. A. . . .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX3MaOJTtsc
This concludes the reports of my visits to Cincinnati, Kansas City and Detroit.  I hope you found them of nterest.
Jack May
  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,308 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, September 20, 2018 8:25 AM

the posting on this subject was completed.

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