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Seattle Streetcar and Sound Transit Light Rail Trips 2/6/2010

by Chris Guenzler

I slept in by my standards until 8:30 AM before having a delicious pancake and sausage breakfast with Bob & Elizabeth. Once we all got ready to go, we drove a short distance to our first stop of the morning.

Heritage Park's Lynnwood-Seattle-Everett-Mount Vernon-Bellingham Railway Car 55

Seattle-Everett-Mount Vernon-Bellingham Railway Car 55 sits under cover with one side open. Car 55 was built by the Niles Car Company of Ohio in 1909. The first trip on this railroad for the press was April 30, 1910 and the first public trip was on May 2, 1910. The trip took one hour and thirty-five minutes to run the 26 miles with 29 stops from Seattle to Everett. The last run of this railway was in 1939 when cars took over as the main means of transportation for the public.

Car 55 became a roadside dinner known as the Old 55 Cafe. In 1964, it was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum and served as a ticket office for the Snoqualmie's historic railway. The car was then used for storage for several years before being left to deteriorate. The Heritage Park paid $600 for it and brought it to Lynnwood where it has been restored thanks to a 1996 grant for renovation of Car 55. It is the last remaining of the original six.

We then met Laurie Cowan who gave us a tour.

The Seattle-Everett-Mount Vernon-Bellingham Railway Car 55.

Information about this interurban car.

Now let us go inside.

Interior views.

Control stand.

New stained glass has been installed in the upper window of this car.

Mahogany inlay in the wood work of this car.

An original seat from this railway, but not from this car.

The chairs in the car were found in Texas and Oklahoma.

An original seat cushion from this car.

Picture of the last run of Car 55.

Car 55 was made into a roadside diner.

Car 55 out in the woods before being rescued.

Welcome Aboard "Old 55" and information on motorman Walter Shannon.

Car 55.

The front of this interurban car.

The headlight and bell. From here, Laurie took us inside the museum building and the old storage room is room dedicated to Car 55.

The map of the Seattle-Everett-Mount Vernon-Bellingham Railway.

A famous cartoon from a Seattle newspaper. We thanked Laurie for the excellent tour of Car 55 before we drove into Seattle, parked at Westlake Center then walked across the street to the Westlake Hub Station.

Seattle Streetcar

We bought our tickets having to use credit cards as the outside ticketing machines only take coins or credit cards. We learned if you want to use cash, you must buy your tickets from the machine on the streetcar.

The Facts

This line was Seattle's first new streetcar line in 25 years. I had ridden the old Waterfront Line, presently closed with an unknown date for the restoration of service on that line. This new line is 2.6 miles long, running from near Lake Union south to the Westlake Hub. Each of the three modern streetcars will make eleven stops and take less than 15 minutes to cover the entire line. Operated by King County METRO Transit District, it is connected at the Westlake Hub to the Seattle Monorail, regional buses and the new downtown light rail which now has been extended to the SeaTac Airport.

The streetcars were designed and manufactured by the Inekon Group and each car can carry 140 passengers. Low-floor center sections for easy boardings, the cars are air conditioned and have easy to read LED message signs along with audible announcements to alert passengers to stops and other information. Stations all have digital message boards to inform passengers waiting when the next streetcar will arrive. The South Lake Union Streetcar line was built on time in just 15 months. The total budget for design and construction of the Seatlle Streetcar was 50.5 million dollars. In 2003 area property owners agreed to contribute 25.7 million dollars towards the project {approximately 50 percent of capitol costs} through an approved Local Improvement District Fund. The reminder of the cost came from federal, state and local governments.

The Streetcar runs Monday-Thursday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday and holidays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with fifteen minute intervals.

Our trip

The Streetcar waiting to start our trip. We all boarded for my first time and we departed Westlake Hub, heading north along Westlake Avenue and ran by most stops as no one wanted to get on or off. The stations northbound on Westlake Avenue are Westlake & 7th Street and Westlake & Denny Way.

Our route gave us a view of the Seattle Space Needle. When our route reached Thomas Street, it made a right hand turn before making a left hand turn on Terry Avenue. Stations on Terry Avenue were Terry & Thomas and Terry and Mercer. Our route came to the end of Thomas Street and made a right onto Broad Street, bringing Lake Union into view to the north. The Streetcar's next stop was Lake Union Park before the route turned northeast onto Fairview Avenue. The last stop was at Fairview & Campus Drive where we detrained.

The Streetcar heads for the stub track to change ends.

Lake Union.

The Streetcar on the stub end track as it switched ends.

The Streetcar returned to the Fairview & Campus Drive station to pick us up for our trip back to the Westlake Hub station.

We stopped at the Lake Union Park station before I took this picture of Lake Union. Our southbound route took us along Broad Street until we turned left onto Westlake Avenue, passing the stops at Westlake & Mercer, Westlake & Thomas, Westlake & 9th and Westlake & 7th before returning to the Westlake Hub Station, where we all detrained.

Here is the Seattle Streetcar shop building from later in the day. We received directions to the Seattle Light Rail Westlake station and walked down 6th Street south to where you see a "T". There you go down an elevator that takes you to the Downtown Bus Tunnel, where the north end of the Seattle Light Rail has their Westlake station.

Seattle Central Link Light Rail Trip

We purchased roundtrip tickets and just missed boarding a train to SeaTac Airport.

The Facts

The first new light rail line in Seattle opened from Downtown to Tukwila on July 18, 2009. It was extended to SeaTac International Airport on December 19, 2009. This line runs 2.5 miles in tunnels, 4.4 miles on elevated tracks and 8.7 miles at grade on the 15.6 mile route from the Westlake Hub to SeaTac Airport. The line has a total of 12 stations. Sound Transit retrofitted the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and four of the existing stations for joint use by both light rail trains and buses.

The Beacon Hill Tunnel is one of the major components of the Central Link Light Rail Line with the Beacon Hill Station approximately 150 feet below ground and then exited onto an elevated structure as it approaches the Mount Baker Station. The Central Link cars were manufactured by Kinki Sharyo in Japan and built in the United States. The cars are 95 feet long and can be coupled into four car trains; each car have a capacity of 200 passengers with 74 seated.

Our Trip

Action in the Seattle Bus Tunnel.

No action in the tunnel.

When that train returned from changing ends, we boarded it and I started my first trip aboard the Seattle Light Rail. We left the Westlake station, running south through the Seattle Bus Tunnel to the stations at University Street, Pioneer Square and International District/Chinatown, your station for Amtrak connections throughout America. The Light Rail burst out of the Bus Tunnel into daylight, running to Stadium station. The tracks from here south past the Sodo Station might be on the old Milwaukee Road right-of-way. Might the ghost of the Olympian Hiawatha be happy if this is true? The line then climbs a viaduct and turns east heading towards Beacon Hill.

The Emerald City of Seattle stands out on a beautiful Northwest day.

The Seattle Light Rail shops. Our route took us into the Beacon Hill Tunnel with the Beacon Hill station located in the middle of the tunnel. Upon exiting, you come out onto a viaduct and turn south to the Mount Baker station. After that, you return to earth, running along Martin Luther King Boulevard to the stop at Columbia City.

Franklin High School. The route travelled south down Martin Luther King Boulevard with more stops at Othello and Rainier Beach. The line climbed over Interstate 5 before turning west and crossing over the BNSF/Union Pacific main lines. The route then turned south again, crossing the Duwamish River before turning southwest and running along Interstate 5. We then turned west, running to the north of Washington Highway 518 to the Tukwila International Boulevard station. From there, we turned south, running along Washington Highway 99 to the east of SeaTac Airport.

SeaTac Airport.

The train at the SeaTac Airport station, where we changed trains for the trip back to downtown Seattle. From here to the terminal, you must walk through a parking structure which should take about five minutes.

The Duwamish River.

There is never a train when you want one to come by. The fare inspectors boarded and checked tickets on our return trip to Seattle. We enjoyed our ride aboard the Seattle Light Rail and all too soon, were back at the Westlake station, detraining from an interesting ride.

We drove over to the Tin Cup Cafe to get a SLUT (South Lake Union Trolley) T-shirt but while their sign said "open" they were closed. Naughty cafe staff! We drove over to BNSF's Interbay Yard but there was nothing to see, so with our heads now hanging low, we returned to Lynnwood, where the heads were raised high as in the mail was the NRHS 2010 Convention book, and with two phone calls home, my reservations were in the mail. To celebrate, we went to Black Angus for dinner then returned to the house and I wrote this story. Tomorrow, we are off to Canada.