This Week has an extra Kodachrome Feature, to commemorate 51 years to the minute when the last streetcar plied the streets on Baltimore, officially ceasing to operate at 6:34am on the morning of November 3, 1963. I'm posting over a dozen Kodachromes of the final days of streetcar service showing the era leading up to this fateful time:
Why: Streetcars were my entry portal into history. I took many trips to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum as a child and was very quickly enthralled with these tangible links to another world that once existed in my hometown before my birth. While the degree of my enthusiasm waxed and waned a few times over my adult life, the interest never went away at all. Over the years, I've managed to acquire some original photos of the system, particularly in its later days, and am gladly sharing some of these today.
Route 8 was one of the last two streetcar lines among Baltimore's once comprehensive system. It actually holds the official honor of being both the longest and the last streetcar line in the system. Its journey into town would start at in the middle of Washington Avenue in Towson, where car 7382 sits on October 23, 1963.
Also shown at the Towson layover is car 7329, at one point a wildcard contender for preservation. The car is signed to make the full run out to the farthest point on the line: Catonsville. This Kodachrome was taken on a sunny September 22, 1963.
Car 7088 is seen about to round the corner from Pennsylvania Avenue into Washington Avenue to take its break at the spot shown in the photo above. The Operator has already set the destination sign for one of the short service terminals on the western end in this October 23, 1963 photo.
The final full day of service was Saturday November 2, 1963, when the photo above of car 7131 was taken at the Govanstown Loop was taken. The area was a sea of nostalgic railfans with cameras in tow in the weeks leading up to the conversion date, but in particular on the last day. In a hit of cruel irony, the site of this loop is now a chain auto parts store.
Dialing it back just a bit to January of 1963, this photo of an unknown car is spotted on a blustery morning along Fayette Street in Downtown Baltimore. Though the photo is grainy and blurred (and an Ektachrome), it definitely evokes the feeling of being in Downtown Baltimore on a cold winter's morning.
The line headed west along Frederick Avenue, with some cars turning back at a loop near Yale Avenue called Irvington. Car 7323 takes recovery here around August of 1960 prior to heading back into town and out towards Towson.
Late afternoon winter sun casts a warm glow on car 7073 which responds by casting its own long winter shadows along the surface of Frederick Road near Shady Nook Avenue. The car is returning from Catonsville on January 28, 1963.
After traversing miles of city and suburban streets, the streetcars of the 8 line then plunged into the woods for a brief journey to emerge at the Catonsville Junction Loop just east of Dutton and Edmondson Avenues. Car 7111 has navigated the loop to stop aside the small waiting shelter. Two other period and contemporary photos of this location can be found in this recent feature.
The shorter of the two remaining streetcar lines was the 15 line, which started at the Overlea loop along Belair Road, just beyond the Baltimore City line. Car 7133 sits aside the waiting shelter on October 27, 1963 before making a trip west to Walbrook Junction. The waiting shelter survived into the 1990's, but was replaced with a similar structure around 2000.
While the 8 line had a few dips and rises on its western end, the eastern end of the 15 was a comparative roller coaster ride. The same car above, 7133 has just crested one of these hills on the same morning of October 27, 1963 and is directly outside the Gardenville storage yard, slightly above Frankford Avenue.
A 15 line streetcar heads along Gay Street as it crosses Orleans Street in this novel composition taken from the crest of the Orleans Street Viaduct.
Another cold weather photo shows car 7106 trundling east across Fayette Street through what was, by this point, the most elaborate junction of trackage in the system. Both the 8 and 15 shared this trackage through Downtown, with the cars of the 8 line turning left here to cross directly in front of City Hall. The 15 cars like this one would proceed straight for another block before heading left as well. The option to turn right here was used for rush hour trips to end their trips in Downtown.
The other Downtown turnaround point was Pearl Street, used here by car 7098 to begin an outbound trip in the afternoon towards Overlea. There is an obvious move towards urban renewal afoot in this September 23, 1963 view. Today, a Veterans Hospital sits directly on this spot, while University Hospital in the background has seen some substantial modification of its own since this photo was taken.
The 15 line streetcars went west along Edmondson Avenue, where car 7125 is spotted as it rolls towards Monroe Street. A White Coffee Pot once stood on the far corner near the suspended traffic light in this May 16, 1960 view.
Poplar Grove Street has sadly endured decades of urban decay since May 16, 1960, when this photo was taken of an outbound car 7322 at Riggs Avenue. The car will continue for about 10 minutes to reach its terminal at Walbrook Junction.
Walbrook Junction was a somewhat antiquated label to denote the point at which Windsor Mill Road splintered off from the old Liberty Turnpike to head west to through the village of Woodlawn and beyond into Baltimore County. The turnpike was realigned along a straight path past Mondawmin, and parts of the old alignment were parted into Berwyn Avenue, Garrison Boulevard, and Bloomingdale Road. The designation remains heavily used today, though the streetcars like 7100 here no longer serve it, as they did on October 21, 1963.