Alan Berner On Oct 25, 2016
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Oct. 25--The George Benson Waterfront Streetcars will clang, clang, clang again after more than a decade in storage -- but not in Seattle.
This Northwest Wanderings took me to St. Louis, Mo., the city I grew up in, and to The Loop, the neighborhood where I lived.
That city bought three of the vintage cars for $200,000 and will run them on a 2.2-mile route, mainly in The Loop area along Delmar Boulevard. The Loop is named after the turnaround point for streetcars that stopped running there in 1966.
In a window display, the old Seattle waterfront trolleys are seen running in the Loop area in St. Louis. The tracks are laid and the actual trolleys will begin running in early 2017. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Getting streetcars along the Seattle waterfront was the signature accomplishment of the late Councilmember George Benson.
He traveled to Melbourne, Australia, and secured five streetcars that date to the 1920s. The waterfront line stopped service in 2005, one year after Benson died. Two cars remain in storage here.
The interiors of the vintage cars feature Tasmanian mahogany, white ash and brass hardware.
Native St. Louisan Joe Edwards has driven their streetcar project and the revitalization of The Loop.
He says it's been designated one of the 10 great streets by the American Planning Association.
"It's racially diverse, economically diverse and age diverse," says Edwards.
Just as Seattle's hometown rock 'n' roll legend Jimi Hendrix has a statue on Capitol Hill, The Loop has local, living legend Chuck Berry about to go into his famous duckwalk, while playing guitar, depicted in an 8-foot statue.
"He's just kicking it up," says Edwards, along the Walk of Fame on the sidewalk in The Loop, a series of brass stars and bronze plaques celebrating those from that city or creatively formed by that city.
Down the center of the street, the tracks are laid and overhead wires are being strung.
Edwards says, "People trust the fixed track. It's clean electric transit, the prototype of how to connect one neighborhood to another.
"We've very grateful to Seattle, salute Seattle. Here, they have a good home and we respect that type of transit in a good way."
The cars are on track to begin testing next month and carrying passengers next year.
Alan Berner: 206-464-8133 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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