Monday, August 8, 2011

POTD - Fort Collins Municipal Railway's Birney Car 21

Before T-Rex, before Light Rail, even before buses, there were street cars. If a town had any aspirations of being a city of some importance, one of the first items on the agenda was creating a municipal railway or other rapid transit. It was a mark of distinction to have a trolley system and the bigger and more refined it was, the better the populace felt about the city.

Then, depending on who you listen to, it seems a motor company decided it wanted to sell buses. The best way to do that was to buy up municipal railways and discard them as soon as possible, doing away with the efficient steel wheel on steel rail and electric power in favor of inefficient rubber tires on asphalt and gasoline power that was cheap as dirt. No more yellow trolleys in Denver. Done to death are the streetcars of Trinidad and Colorado Springs. But a single flickering flame in Fort Collins survived.

Kept by volunteers, the Fort Collins Municipal Railway plies Mountain Avenue, connecting City Park with the central business district on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays during the summer months. There once was much more to this municipal railway, but it's lost to the march of time and mankind's notion of progress in the 1950s. It once crossed the rails of the Colorado Central (now BNSF), and traveled in a loop, from Mountain and College, east to Peterson, south to Magnolia, east to Whedbee, south to Pitkin and Ft Collins High School, west to College and back north to Mountain. It covered a lot of ground and, had it survived intact, it would be an even greater asset to Fort Collins than it is today.

Ft Collins Municipal Railway #21 makes its familiar trip down Mountain Avenue
passing the siding at Mack Street, long out of service, on July 23, 2011.
Photo: James E. House

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