Thursday, May 10, 2007

Toonerville Trolley

Early 20th Century version of "light rail", the Bellaire Line.
Click on photo for larger version.

Bellaire Boulevard is a wide, tree-lined thoroughfare as it traverses the city of Bellaire, Texas. It has a wide, park-like esplanade, and is a very pleasant part of the greater Houston area. After it leaves the cities of Bellaire and West University Place to the east, it makes its way to the Texas Medical Center as Holcombe Boulevard after re-entering Houston.

In the early years of the last century, there was a trolley line that connected Bellaire to the Houston trolley line at South Main Street. The city of Bellaire has one of the old trolley cars preserved for posterity in the middle of the esplanade, along with an historical marker, seen below.

The text on the marker reads as follows:

Bellaire Streetcar Line

In 1909 the Westmoreland Railroad Company, directed by Bellaire developer William Wright Baldwin, began construction of a streetcar line between this site and Houston's Main Street (4 mile) to improve transportation between Bellaire and Houston. Laid out on the esplanade of Bellaire Boulevard, the streetcar line consisted of one railway track and an overhead electric wire. The line terminated at this site, where the company constructed a waiting pavilion and a turnaround loop. At the same time, the Houston Electric Company extended its south end line from Eagle Avenue down present Fannin Street to connect with the Bellaire line at Bellaire Boulevard (now part of Holcombe Boulevard). The trip between Bellaire and downtown Houston required one transfer at Eagle Avenue. Service began on December 28, 1910.

The streetcar line, often called the "Toonerville Trolley", became an integral link between Bellaire and Houston and played a vital role in the development of this area. The availability of motor transport and frequent derailments caused by worn-out track led to the abandonment of the line on September 26, 1927. Motor bus service began the following day.

For the sake of comparison, here is Houston's 21st century version, MetroRail.

MetroRail southbound in Hermann Park

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