Sunday, February 7, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Tacoma, WA

The message on this card reads:
7/14/10     Tacoma, WA
Just looking for a better position as I quit at Seattle. This is a slow town. I came through Puyalop where Marjory was, it is a small place. your Father

Tacoma's streetcars were a success from the very beginning, with the first horse-drawn streetcars in 1888. The first electric streetcars were introduced in 1890. By 1912, the city had 30 streetcar lines (mostly electric) and an interurban line to Seattle.  The system flourished for a long time, until like so many others, it lost out to competition from cars and buses. The end of Tacoma's streetcar service was celebrated with a parade down Broadway in 1938. At the time, the leftover streetcars were considered worthless because no one wanted them. A Tacoma newspaper article suggested that people could purchase them for $40 for hamburger stands or beach houses.

Despite its success over the years, there was also one notable streetcar tragedy in Tacoma. On July 4, 1900, a streetcar was overcrowded with passengers going to attend 4th of July festivities downtown. They were standing on the running boards, both front and rear platforms, and there was even a young boy riding on the front on the cowcatcher! It was later determined that the motorman was probably going too fast and had the brakes set too hard, which caused the car to jump the tracks on a curve and fall 100 feet down a ravine. Forty-three passengers died in that accident.

Tacoma now has a 1.6 mile light-rail line that connects the theater district and downtown with the Tacoma Dome and rail connections to Seattle.  There is also a group called Tacoma Streetcar, that is working to restore the old streetcar lines in Tacoma.

The writer of the card above describes Tacoma as a slow town, but there's actually a fair amount going on there now and it's a fun place to visit. Dale Chihuly, the well-known glass artist, is from Tacoma, so you will see lots of his work here, particularly at the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass.  The Washington State History Museum has amazing  exhibits, including old American Indian photographs and artwork. Many people also rate Point Defiance Park, with its zoo, aquarium, as a top attraction.

1 comment:

  1. Informative post. Fine history.

    Love Chihuly's works. Oklahoma City Museum boasts the largest permanent collection of his work.



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