Charlotte, North Carolina

From nycsubway.org


Charlotte Trolley #93 approaching East Blvd. outbound. Photo by Peter Ehrlich, October 2005.


Charlotte, county seat of Mecklenberg County, is North Carolina's largest city, and the headquarters of a number of banks (including Bank of America, formerly NationsBank). Streetcars were introduced to Charlotte in May 1891 and were essential to development of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Charlotte. Such early streetcar suburbs as Myers Park, Elizabeth, Dilworth, Plaza-Midwood, North Charlotte, Belmont-Villa Heights, and Wesley Heights bear lasting testimony to their impact.

While the city's downtown is nearly all modern, some neighborhoods south of downtown have gentrified and new apartment and condo complexes have sprung up. And an active city heritage and preservation movement has likewise developed, and the old textile factories have changed into trendy shopping and dining centers. The city and county is actively shaping the future of transit in Charlotte.

To this end, an old Norfolk Southern right-of-way through downtown was purchased. Even as this was being done, in 1987, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Historical Landmarks Commission purchased for $1000 the body of car 85, a 1927-vintage streetcar which had been the last car to operate in Charlotte on March 14, 1938. The Commission subsequently raised approximately $250,000 to restore the car. The following year, the non-profit Charlotte Trolley, Inc. was formed, and restoration on #85 proceeded apace. In addition, a car from Piraeus, Greece was purchased, and was used for local displays boosting the concept of historic streetcar operation.

By summer of 1994, car 85 had been sufficiently restored to operate on 875 feet of the abandoned Norfolk Southern railway out of Atherton Mill. But in 1996, the line was extended down to near the Convention Center, and weekend service was given using a diesel generator for power. In June 1998, the Charlotte City Council approved $19.7 million to build a bridge over Stonewall Street, extend the line through the Convention Center, and install overhead wire. Following a 1999 vote to raise the sales tax by 0.5%, new rail was laid, the Stonewall Street bridge was built and overhead wire was erected.

In 2002, Charlotte Trolley and CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) decided that #85 and Piraeus #1 would not stand up to the rigors of 7-day service over the entire 2-mile long route, which was set to begin in June 2004, and CATS cast about for more cars to operate. Following a failed attempt to lease three Gomaco rebuilt trolleys from Little Rock, CATS ordered three Birney replicas of its own, and these were delivered beginning in September 2004. When full service began in June 2004, #85 began using power from overhead wire, and the use of the diesel generator was discontinued.

Currently, two cars operate on a half-hourly service interval from Atherton Mill and the South End through the Convention Center, downtown to 9th Street in Uptown. Trolley service at 7:00am on weekdays. Monday-Thursday, service ends at 8:00pm; Fridays, 11:00pm. Saturday service is between 10:00am and 11:00pm; Sunday service, 11:00am-6:00pm.

Fares are $1.00 for adults, and a $3.00 day pass is also available. During the week, the trolleys and the carbarn are used extensively as a teaching tool, and hundreds of school children are seen riding and inspecting the trolleys. CATS employees operate the trolleys.

Also in 2004, construction is beginning on building Charlotte's first light rail route, again along the Norfolk Southern right-of-way, which will be extended at both ends and double-tracked throughout. New Siemens low-floor LRVs, similar to those in Houston, are on order for the 2007 beginning of service. When that happens, trolleys will continue to operate on the current in-town trackage. In addition, the old Bland Street carbarn, from which #85 and its mates operated up to March 1938, will be renovated to house the entire heritage fleet.

Currently, the active cars are Gomaco 91, 92, 93, and 85. Piraeus 1 (originally 60) built 1914 by England's United Electric, is also operational, but now rarely used. Under restoration are Birney 407, a 1922 car originally from Richmond, VA (VEPCO 1520), but which did a stint as Fort Collins, CO 25 until 1951, and a 1949 ex-Red Arrow St. Louis Car-built streetcar [see Philadelphia section of world.nycsubway.org]. Further down the road is restoration of an Asheville, NC single-trucker.

The star of the fleet is undoubtedly #85, homebuilt by Southern Public Utilities Co. in 1927. Rescued from being a cabin in 1987, it has received its old rattan walkover seats and mahogany interior finish.

The line is especially scenic and affords spectacular views of Charlotte's vibrant downtown and samples the charm of the gentrified South End, once a mix of textile mills. The trolley is a good fit and transcends time.

Photo Gallery

Five Random Images

Image 42841

(166k, 554x720)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Bland Street

Image 44926

(154k, 720x472)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Bland Siding

Image 44932

(165k, 720x478)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Bland Street

Image 79518

(196k, 864x558)
Photo by: Bob van Hemert
Collection of: Peter Ehrlich
Location: East/West

Image 87637

(371k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Brian J. Cudahy
Location: Bland Street

More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-200 201-211


Official Site - Charlotte Trolley. The official site of the Charlotte Trolley, including schedules, fares, and more.

Official Site - Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS). Charlotte's local public transit operator.

Jon Bell's Charlotte Trolley Site. Another Charlotte Trolley railfan site.

Todd's Railfan Guide to Charlotte LYNX

Page Credits

By Peter Ehrlich.

Copyright © 1995-2012 nycsubway.org.
nycsubway.org is not affiliated with any transit agency or provider.
Not mobile.