Facebook Page

Fort Collins Street Car Line 7/09/2016

by Chris Guenzler

Robin and I arose at the Super 8 in Laramie, Wyoming and I filled the car with petrol before we left. We stopped by a McDonald's for breakfast before driving back over Sherman Hill, caught up to a long eastbound train and set up on that rural bridge.

Union Pacific 8843 East with CSX 136 in the engine consist. From here we drove into Cheyenne and went over the bridge but there was no action from Union Pacific 844 this morning. We took US 89 south to Greeley and went to the station.

The Union Pacific station in Greeley, built in 1930. We drove down a street and spotted a big surprise.

Milwaukee Road coach 487, built by the railroad in 1946. Retired 1971 and sold to SOO Line who converted it to work train service kitchen-diner X-620.

Milwaukee Road coach 620, originally 515, built by the railroad in 1948. Retired 1971 and sold to SOO Line who converted it to work train service bunk car X-622.

Milwaukee Road coach 604, originally 489, built by the railroad in 1946. Retired 1971 and sold to SOO Line who converted it to work train service bunk car X-621.

USLX double-door box car 210. From here we went south to LaSalle.

The LaSalle Union Pacific station built in 1907. Our next stop was in Windsor.

Windsor Museum

Located in Boardwalk, a 1880s Colorado & Southern depot houses an exhibit of local steam-era history. You can walk through a freight room and station agent's room. A caboose, schoolhouse and church are also on site. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday.

Colorado and Southern boxcar 13787 built by Pullman in 1926.

Great Western caboose 1010 is really Elgin, Joliet and Eastern 156 built in 1925.

Windsor Great Western station built in 1902.

Station display.

Union Pacific speeder 3087, formerly Denver and Rio Grande Western. From here we drove to Fort Collins.

Fort Collins Union Pacific station built in 1911.

Colorado & Southern freight house built in 1906. We then drove and parked by the baseball diamond and walked to the Fort Collins Municipal Railway Society where I was met by Bob Manning.

Fort Collins Street Car Line FCMR History: The Early Years

The Denver and Interurban Railroad, a subsidiary of the Colorado and Southern, built a three-legged streetcar line in Fort Collins in 1907 as part of their expansion along Colorado's Front Range. The plan was to develop electric feeder or "collector" lines to connect with the C&S, the major transportation artery up and down the Front Range.

The first line to open was on West Mountain Avenue and served the annual Race Meet and Stock Show at the county fairgrounds, now part of the City Park complex. Because the power plant was not yet in operation, the C&S used a small steam switcher and old coaches to provide service from downtown to the fairgrounds. The fare for this three-day operation was five cents per ride, the same basic fare that would stick with the system throughout its life.

Four new Woeber double-truck streetcars arrived from Denver in the fall and begain operating on all three lines on December 29, 1907. The cars were numbered 101-104. Two additional pair of Jewett motors and trailers were added later.

Daily operation consisted of three cars running on the three lines. Each car had a two-man crew. All cars meet at the wye at Mountain and College every 20 minutes, then departed in a different direction. Cars ran from 5:00 AM through midnight, serving most of the businesses in the City, plus students at the high school on Pitkin and Colorado A&M College along College Avenue.

After only a few years of operation, the D&I cut back on service by eliminating the conductor on each car. From then until the end in 1951, the motorman assumed the addional task of collecting fares and issuing transfers. Over the years, other economies were made to improve operation or save money, including dropping the stub line from Mountain and College to the C&S depot, and extending the College Ave. line East to Remington and Whedbee to form a loop though that southeastern residental area.

The D&I also built an interurban line between Denver and Boulder and planned to extend the interurban north through Longmont and Loveland to the Fort. By 1918, however, the automobile had made a permanent dent in interurban and streetcar revenues. The D&I was loosing money on all its operations and fell into recievership. The Fort Collins system stopped running without warning on July 10, 1918.

The FCMR Society

A small group of volunteers began restoring Car 21 in 1977. They first moved the car to the old barn on North Howes Street and carefully dismantled it. While the restoration was taking place, the Fort Collins Municipal Railway Society organized in 1980 to complete the restoration and rebuild part of the original Mountain Avenhe line to run Car 21. With help from many members and organizations, plus generous support from local businesses, we built a new two-stall barn on West Mountain Ave. and rebuilt most of the west Mountain Avenue line.

The first part of rebuilding was complete by the end of 1984, allowing restored Car 21 to run once again to City Park. The rest of the line was completed over the following two summers and turned over to the City in August 1986. As long-time fan and Society member, Jim Stitzel, said at the dedication ceremony: "The Society restored a 1.5 mile-long railway and historic streetcar valued at $2.5 million, and turned it all over to the City at no cost to the City or County." Since then, we've operated the car and maintained the railway at no cost to the City.

Car 21

Car 21 has since carried over 200,000 riders. The restoration work has won both local and national recognition. The Society remains an all-volunteer effort maintaining the line and operating the car on summer weekends and holidays.

Our Trip

Briney Safety Car 21, built by American Car Company in 1919, retired in 1951 and on display outside the Fort Collins Museum from 1953 through 1977.

The inside of the car barn.

The outside of the car barn.

Three views of Birney Safety Car 21.

Bob Manning, our motorman

The interior of Birney Safety Car 21.

The view to where we are going. Now we will go from the City Park Car Barn past the switch to the City Park station.

We have travelled from the City Park Car Barn to the switch that will take us to the City Park station.

Bob swiches the trolley poles from each end.

Bob threw the switch so we could get to the City Park station. Now we will go to the loading area at the City Park station.

We had arrived at the City Park station.

Bob is chaging the trolley poles.

Birney Safety Car 21 is waiting for its first trip of the day.

The City Park station where I bought a Fort Collins Trolley T-shirt.

Bob talking to our conductor.

Our crew: motorman Bob Manning and our conductor. At 12:00 we left City Park station for a tour of the line. Sit back and enjoy the ride along with me.

This ended the ride to the downtown area of Fort Collins. I would just sit back and relax all the way back to the City Park station after which we thanked our crew then followed their excellent directions to the still-standing car carn.

The Fort Collins Municipal Railway car barn built in 1919. We saw a man coming out and asked if we could see the trolley inside and he said "Yes!" He opened the door then unlocked the gate.

First, for Roy Wojahn, a Fort Collins bus.

Second Car 25, built by Brill, came used from Virginia Railway & Power Company in 1946, and was numbered 1520 when it ran on Richmond streets. It served the City well until operations ceased in June 1951. All remaining FCMR Birneys were sold after the system shut down except Car 21. Second Car 25 was purchased by Jim Stitzel for less than $500 and moved to his family's second home in Victor, Colorado. It remained outside their former railroad depot until sold to SCANA Corporation of South Carolina in the early 1990s. SCANA cosmetically restored the car as their Charleston Car 407 for the 150th anniversary as a South Carolina utility. After the celebration, the car remained in storage in Columbia.

Second Car 25 changed hands in 1997 to Charlotte Trolleys, Incorporated, a volunteer-based non-profit working with the city of Charlotte to provide a heritage streetcar experience. Purchase price this time was about $127,000. CTI planned to completely restore the car as Richmond car 1520 and operate it, along with other restored streetcars of the region, on Charlotte's expanding light-rail lines. Restoration cost was estimated at over $250,000.

The CTI mission changed in 2007 to restoring only cars that were ADA compliant. They contacted us in the hopes that we could complete the restoration. We quickly traveled to Charlotte, assessed the condition of the car and negotiated sale price and terms. Thanks to quick action by our Board and generous local donors, we raised the needed $196,000 purchase price and completed the purchase in December 2007. Car 25 is now back in the Howes Street carbarn undergoing an estimated ten-year reconditioning.

Tinnath City Fire Department engine.

Cache la Poudre school bus.

The Fort Collins car barn doors. We thanked our host and headed out of Fort Collins, up Interstate 25 north to Wyoming Exit 2 to the Terry Bison Ranch where we would spend this night in a cabin.