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Tracks along 7th Street Downtown


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#1 grow_smart

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Posted 07 December 2005 - 02:07 PM

Can anyone shed some light on the abandoned section of tracks that still exist along 7th Street in Downtown? They pop up around Commerce Street or so and continue past Calhoun and Jones.

What system were they are part of? Why do they still exist? Andy?

#2 AndyN

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Posted 07 December 2005 - 07:08 PM

QUOTE(grow_smart @ Dec 7 2005, 04:07 PM) View Post

Can anyone shed some light on the abandoned section of tracks that still exist along 7th Street in Downtown? They pop up around Commerce Street or so and continue past Calhoun and Jones.

What system were they are part of? Why do they still exist? Andy?



Freight spur off of the railroad serving the warehouse district. Not sure what business they last served or when service ended, but were kept for someone's benefit later than most. There was a practically identical set on 5th or was it 3rd where the big parking garage is now and there are still service tracks in Houston and Commerce north of the river. They probably still exist because nobody wants to pay to have them removed and apparently they aren't bothering anybody.
Www.fortwortharchitecture.com

#3 TexasPacific52

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 01:54 AM

There are a lot more tracks in the downtown area than most people think about. It was common for the city to just put black top down right over the top of old tracks or right of ways. When they started ripping up Lancaster this last year in front of the old T&P Freight Depot the construction workers unearthed several sections of track and railroad cross ties. I dont think those tracks had even been seen for 50 years.

I believe the tracks you are talking about are formerly owned by the Santa Fe. However, there is one section down there that appears to have possibly come off of the old Rock Island lines but I dont know if they actually worked the line or not. Then throw in the SSW (Cotton Belt) freight depot downtown that may have had a hand in some of it. That's something that would have to be really researched from real old track maps but I seem to recall that most, if not all, of the downtown tracks were Santa Fe spurs.

Hey, AndyN, I see from your signature that you are in Briar. Is that your home up there that has the large RR semaphore in the front yard?

John Briggs
FTW

#4 johnlp

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 09:02 AM

QUOTE(TexasPacific52 @ Dec 9 2005, 01:54 AM) View Post

There are a lot more tracks in the downtown area than most people think about. It was common for the city to just put black top down right over the top of old tracks or right of ways. When they started ripping up Lancaster this last year in front of the old T&P Freight Depot the construction workers unearthed several sections of track and railroad cross ties. I dont think those tracks had even been seen for 50 years.....

John Briggs
FTW


Yep indeed, here they are...smile.gif

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#5 safly

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 10:38 AM

Wow! Is that Lancaster, or the backside of the Depot area? If it is Lancaster, it looks awfully TIGHT compared to the present.

Used truck lot, NEATO. I always thought that DTFW should get a decent car dealership in the area. Maybe Cadillac, Ferrari, Lotus or RR? wub.gif

Is that a Picadilly Cafe billboard off in the distant background?

Getting hungry, may have to grub on some SUSHI in DTFW for lunch. wink.gif
COWTOWN! Get your TIP ON!
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#6 johnlp

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 11:15 AM

Yes that is Lancaster looking west.
Here is a view looking east from the 1930s
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#7 safly

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 08:00 PM

Wow! That's been a Post Office the entire time? Love it.
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#8 John T Roberts

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 09:05 PM

Yes, it has been a Post Office the entire time. When you get a chance, you might check out some of the building histories on the main page.

#9 mosteijn

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 11:29 PM

Awesome picture of the Post Office! It kind of reminds me of the Supreme Court building (in a way...)

#10 ghughes

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 07:06 PM

Well, it is sort of Federalist, isn't it?

#11 johnlp

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 07:38 PM

Hey I just noticed that the decorative lamps are not on the half walls along the steps! Wonder when those were added!

Johnlp

#12 mbdalton1

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 05:07 PM

http://www.kxol1360....s/DSC00297a.jpg

(Thanks John for helping me with this photo link!)

Check out the old tracks running on 7th street in this photo. This is looking East. If you look closely at the front of the photo you can see a blurred cable car (train) running on the track.

Not sure of the date on this photo.

Mary Bess

#13 djold1

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 10:30 AM

Mary Bess..

Those tracks are for the old streetcar lines that ran throughout Fort Worth until after 1935 when the routes were replaced by busses. They were not cable cars, they were what we commonly call trolleys today and were powered by an overhead electric wire. The power came from the now dismantled TXU plant just north of the Courthouse. Today they would be called (erroneously) light rail systems and are like the McKinney Avenue streetcars in Dallas. They are not similar to the Dart light rail in Dallas other than their means of propulsion.

The city Streetcar lines were operated under franchise by Northern Texas Traction Co., which also provided Interurban service to Dallas and Cleburne in this 1920's time frame.

Fort Worth Maps

Above is a link to some of my Fort Worth map collection, including the 1920 Central Business District in fairly large scale. On it you can see the "tracks" as they wind around downtown and head out 7th to Arlington Heights, out Front Street to Dallas via the Northern Texas Traction interurbans and south the the suburbs as well as north to the Stockyards and as far north as N 34th street today.

Isn't it ironic that from about 1913 to 1931 Fort Worth had hourly or faster service between Burleson, Joshua and Cleburne that was probably faster than you could drive it today? If we had this service now, the functionally crippled Southwest Parkway might not have been necessary.

Pete Charlton

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#14 grow_smart

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 01:38 PM

QUOTE(djold1 @ Feb 25 2006, 10:30 AM) View Post


Isn't it ironic that from about 1913 to 1931 Fort Worth had hourly or faster service between Burleson, Joshua and Cleburne that was probably faster than you could drive it today? If we had this service now, the functionally crippled Southwest Parkway might not have been necessary.

Pete Charlton


You can thank General Motors and a company called ' National City Lines' for that change. I'm not going to go into all the details, but basically a consortium of companies whose interests lie in the automobile started this company to 'buy out' all the trolley systems around the country and replace them with rubber wheeled busses. I would encourage you to study up on the subject - it's quite interesting.

You have to admit that GM did an amazing job - even though they are currently struggling, they still are one of the largest companies in the world. While this isn't the only reason they've been successful, this 'National City Lines' idea certainly didn't hurt them.

#15 djold1

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 03:51 PM

grow_smart...

The National City Lines situation certainly did cause or at least partially advance the early demise of many US street railroads. As I read it, NCL had little to do with the abandonment of most interurban lines. The bus sale volume wasn't there. As an aficionado and collector and sometime historian I have done considerable reading on NCL. But I don't really think that NCL was any kind of a real factor in switching to busses in Fort Worth. I have also done considerable study on that.

Briefly, the situation came down government regulation, management decisions and franchise renewals. The property was one of those managed by Stone & Webster. They built, owned and operated electric power utilities, city street railways and interurban rail systems all over the US for years. They had interurban & street railway properties in Beaumont-Port Arthur, El Paso, Houston-Galveston & Dallas to name a few. They were also engineering contractors in many other fields and still are today.

They were well financed, respected in the business community, powerful, competent and knew when to fold their cards. They made a business of not losing money and did not play favorites between electric rail systems and internal combustion busses. I have a number of documents that provide all this information and the background that led to the abandonment of the Fort Worth city lines for busses. Johnny Myers in his classic 1982 book entitled Texas Electric Railway also provided valuable information as to the Fort Worth situation. This book is still available on eBay.

From the earliest times, electric utility companies like those that have morphed into TXU were partners with the streetcar and interurban rail lines. Sometimes in common ownership, othertimes in partnership. This made sense. Electric utilities were in the business of selling power. And electric rail lines used a lot of it. In addition, the intercity power grid wires & towers could often be located in the same right of way as the interurban from town to town or vice versa. Inevitably there were many abuses of this buddy arrangement and by the early 1930's federal regulations were in place to separate electric utilities from other businesses. So, the use of electricity for powering the streetcars and interurbans became less profitable.

And as we well know, In the 1920's ridership of both city and interurban transportation was falling off drastically due to the increase in the number of automobiles and success of the good roads campaigns all across the country. The paving of roads also meant that the street railway companies had to participate in paying for the maintenance of their part of the road that they covered. Unfair? Sure, but tax payers weren't going to do it. The cost of road maintenance was growing rapidly. Automobile drivers were also becoming vocal about the inflexibility of the way that streetcars could block road passage. Early road rage.

Then the depression hit. Not too hard in oil rich North Texas initially, but the financial markets were stressed and operating money was hard to get. Particularly for capital improvements.

Stone & Webster made the management decision to shut down many of their intercity Interurban lines in the early 1930's even though most of the properties were still doing OK or at least not losing much money. And they substituted cheaper "modern" busses to handle the dwindling intercity traffic as between Fort Worth & Dallas. Probably smart business and something their shareholders would force them to do anyway.

The Fort Worth City streetcars still remained on some lines after the interurban were closed, although the shorter low volume lines had been converted progressively to busses starting in the 1920's. There are a number of FW transit maps that bear this out. In addition, even though Stone & Webster maintained their equipment, the streetcars were old, obsolete and wearing out. Replacement costs were much higher per unit than a bus.

In my opinion, the final nail in the coffin was simply franchise renewal. The city rail lines were due to have their franchise renewed in about 1936, I think. The terms of that renewal were going to be very stiff in terms of service agreements, road maintenenance and fees. The city of Fort Worth was not in love with having rails and streetcars clogging their streets and the public was mixed on the subject.

On the other hand, if they switched to busses, S&W could sell off the rail equipment including the steel in the rails themselves for scrap, buy cheap busses, and essentially use the city streets for free after paying their franchise percentage.

So, here we are middle of the Great Depression. What would you do if you were in business and not particularly committed toward one mode of mass transportation or the other? If you had been using both for at least 15 years in every property. And most importantly, if you wanted to make money for your shareholders.

NCL never reared their heads in this property as far as I can tell. And I don't think that the replacement busses that were provided were from GM either. It was a bid deal.

One man's opinion. Others may see it differently..

Pete Charlton

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The Lost Antique Maps of Fort Worth on CDROM
Website: Antique Maps of Texas
Large format reproductions of original antique and vintage Texas & southwestern maps
 


#16 grow_smart

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 04:07 PM

QUOTE(djold1 @ Feb 25 2006, 03:51 PM) View Post

grow_smart...

The National City Lines situation certainly did cause or at least partially advance the early demise of many US street railroads. As I read it, NCL had little to do with the abandonment of most interurban lines. The bus sale volume wasn't there. As an aficionado and collector and sometime historian I have done considerable reading on NCL. But I don't really think that NCL was any kind of a real factor in switching to busses in Fort Worth. I have also done considerable study on that.

One man's opinion. Others may see it differently..

Pete Charlton


I appreciate your response - you obviously spent more time walking us through your thought process than I did. Obviously this is a complex issue that can't be answered by one thing we can point to - it's a mix of different social, political, and economic issues together.

I think that's why transportation issues and how they relate to our way of life are generally ignored by the mass media - they are too complicated to explain in our sound-byte society.


#17 mbdalton1

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 05:18 PM

Thankyou Pete for all the historical info. Very interesting! I didn't know any of this. I'm finding out so much on FTW history these days!

:0) Mary Bess

#18 djold1

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 07:25 PM

Just to put a little more flesh on the subject before leaving...

Here is another page with some of my maps and pictures of the

Northern Texas Traction

system including a 1910 map of the city streetcar lines...

Pete Charlton

Pete Charlton
The Fort Worth Gazette blog
The Lost Antique Maps of Fort Worth on CDROM
Website: Antique Maps of Texas
Large format reproductions of original antique and vintage Texas & southwestern maps
 


#19 FoUTASportscaster

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 12:42 AM

Fascinating read. We had a debate on the DFW board about NCL and the streetcar line's disappearance nationwide. I was under the impression FT Worth never had lines, but am glad to see I was in error on that.

Thank you djold1 for the info. It is very much appreciated.

#20 AndyN

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 09:05 AM

Fort Worth's system was an award-winning industry leading operation in the 1920s. Pete did a pretty good job of describing the end of service in Fort Worth. The only thing that I can add is that one line was kept for a few extra years because the charter with the city dictated streetcar service. To be able to operate the bus routes, they had to maintain at least one streetcar line until the charter was renegotiated, which happened in 1938, I believe. Oh, how far behind we have fallen.
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#21 Fort Worthology

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 09:19 AM

I wish we still had the streetcars. I much prefer streetcars and the like over bus systems, because (to me anyway) it's easier to get your head around fixed rail lines than a bus taking whatever path through the streets.

- Architecture/urban planning/transit blogger, Fort Worth Weekly

Fort Worth District 9 Zoning Commissioner


#22 AndyN

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 01:20 PM

I think in time, we will see a light rail system or a streetcar line supplement the commuter rail. Especially as our density increases and makes the rider cost per mile more palatable. In the meantime, www.northtexastransport.org. Next meeting is this Saturday at 1:00pm at the board room on the 2nd floor of the Knights of Pythias Building (Haltom Jewelers) at the intersection of 3rd and Main, downtown Fort Worth.
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