This posting is an excuse to share some photos that history enthusiasts and rail-lovers might enjoy. Pavement flaws in North Tryon Street uptown have exposed the reality that the city's old streetcar tracks are still down there. Here's a hat tip to Les Epperson of the city's Special Services division, which cares for some key parts of uptown. When I was interviewing him about sidewalks and snow removal (see last Saturday's op-ed, "City walkability goal hits an icy patch"), he mentioned that streetcar rails were visible where the pavement was worn, in the 500 block of North Tryon. I took a walk last week and sure enough, in front of the First United Methodist Church, I spotted them.
The rails aren't in very good condition – not surprising for metal that's been paved over multiple times. Epperson said not all the rails remain; some have been removed for various street projects.
For the record, Charlotte's last streetcar was put out to pasture in 1938. Streetcar No. 85 was the centerpiece of a "Good-bye To Trolleys" celebration at The Square on March 14, 1938. That car ended up being found in a Huntersville pasture in the 1980s, restored and then it ran for about 10 years, operated by the nonprofit Charlotte Trolley, on what are now the light rail tracks down South Boulevard. It was put out to pasture again – this time to the CATS light rail barn – and awaits its next mission.
Charlotte, like many other U.S. cities, hopes to bring back streetcar service, but its plans don't include North Tryon Street. Still, I like to imagine someone jackhammering up the asphalt on North Tryon and Car 85 running on those old rails again. In reality, of course, the condition of the rail (see close-ups below) and the missing rails make that impossible.