Monday, September 20, 2010

Historical Streetcars for Lake Union?

(Cross-posted from Seattle's Waterfront Streetcar Blog)

Within every trolley fan lies the darkest question- would you give up the old trolley for the new streetcar? With the high-level boarding and limited technologies of the old cars, this is not an idle question for the Seattle waterfront.

The waterfront, as intimated in previous posts, could be an ideal streetcar line- for modern cars. A bustling service should be anticipated a few years after a line is up and running from the cruise ship terminal to Pioneer Square. What will be wanted is the ability to handle large crowds at times, smart and regular service at all times, and whatever ability to economize that can be found in some standardization with other streetcars in Seattle’s ’system’.

To be honest, I have my thumb on the scales, because I can think of a better place for Seattle’s vintage cars- running up Westlake from The Center for Wood Boats to the south end of the Fremont Bridge, and perhaps from there out to the SPU fieldhouse. All of this line is level, was quite recently working rail, and is now used as parking or a path. It s quite possibly the most shovel-ready piece of rail right-of-way in the US.

And there’s that heritage thing, with the line running from MOHAI and the Center for Wood Boats to just short of the Fremont district, where one may, with a short walk, find the old carbarns now serving to brew and dispense fine ale. This, I submit, is where we want to showcase our centerpiece cars, and knit the raveled skeins of time with restoration skills and memories. Did I mention the beer?

Who knows, maybe at such a juncture somebody would build a new replica of one of the seaplanes Bill Boeing built and flew off of Lake Union, possibly duplicating he Museum’s prized mail plane, just as the CWB has been responsible for so many new boats built in the old style. It’s part of how we remember who we are and what we can do.

Think ahead a little and I’m sure you’ll see the virtues of modern streetcars serving happy crowds on the Seattle waterfront, and old streetcars serving smaller but even happier crowds on Lake Union. It’s all a question of scale.

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