About two months ago, Wayne Sundberg did a guest post on the Fort Collins streetcar system, using an early image of the Denver & Interurban Railway Corporation (D&I) streetcar barn on Howes and Cherry streets. Wayne summarized the history of the system, starting in December 1907 when the D&I began running four large electric cars made by the Woeber Car and Carriage Company in Denver, CO. In 1918, the D&I went into receivership and, within one year, the city of Fort Collins was running the system using the smaller Birney Safety Cars.
Unless otherwise noted, the information in this post comes from the June 1957, Pacific Railroad Journal’s article “Denver and Interurban and the Fort Collins Municipal Railway” by Ernest S. Payton and R. A. Moorman. This post will focus on the D&I era and a future post will feature images of the Birney cars.
According to the Fort Collins Express, work began in earnest on the streetcar system on July 9, 1907, when a large steam traction engine began plowing up West Mountain Avenue in preparation for the work of laying track. The steam engine probably looked very much like the one in the image below.
According to the caption on the back of this photograph, this engine was hard at work grading Mason Street in 1915. I love this photograph and wanted a place to use it. I thought this might be my only chance and, who knows, this might be the very engine used in 1907 as well. The caption goes on to say that T. E. and George Stone are driving the engine in the photograph.
The system was kicked off with a dedication trip on December 29, 1907, running four Woeber manufactured cars over approximately nine miles of track in the downtown area. In 1908, two more cars were added, this time built by the Jewett Car Co. in Ohio. Below is an image of M103, one of the four cars built by Woeber.
The initial four streetcars, M101 – M104, built by Woeber were identical. Here is how the Pacific Railway Journal article described them:
“Double truck, wood interurban, 39 feet, 5 inches, with 4 GE motors of 40hp, 500 volts. . . 2 trolleys, seating capacity 40.”
I think “trolleys” are the poles and wheels that move the electricity from the overhead wire to the car motors. Two men were required to operate these vehicles, a motorman who ran the streetcar and the conductor who collected the money. Also, notice that there are doors at both ends of the car.
For me, what makes the D&I streetcar images interesting is that they were in Fort Collins during the transition from horse and buggy to automobiles. In 1907, when the streetcars first appeared in Fort Collins, the local newspapers estimated that the town was home to around 50 automobiles. By 1909, when registration was first required, the Fort Collins Weekly Courier reported that 140 automobiles were registered with the city clerk. By the end of 1916, the major streets were paved and horses banned from downtown. Many of the images, especially after 1910, have all three modes of transportation in evidence. Below are six street images that include at least one D&I streetcar, presented in roughly chronological order. Enjoy.
This is an early hand-colored and printed postcard showing a Fort Collins streetcar taken in 1908. The town is bustling with pedestrians and horse and buggies. Though it is hard to tell with printed postcards, there may be one automobile on Linden Street to the left of the streetcar.
What better place to photograph the streetcars than the College and Mountain Avenue intersection where the parallel tracks increased the chance of encountering a cluster of streetcars? This photograph was probably taken circa 1909 from the roof of the First National Bank Building on the southeast corner of the intersection. Four of the six cars owned by the D&I Railroad are in the photograph, as are some horse and buggies, but no automobiles are in sight.
There is no way to date this real photo postcard. I’ve arbitrarily put it here partly because there isn’t an auto in the photograph. The photographer was on the north side of Mountain Avenue, shooting southeast towards the First National Bank. I think it’s a great image of the bank which was torn down in 1961. The image is sharp enough to read the writing on the umbrella over the buggy on the south side of Mountain Avenue. It reads, “Fort Collins Hardware Company.”
Image 6: Two D&I Streetcars on College Avenue, North of Mountain Avenue, 1910
No cars again in this 1910 real photo postcard. The two streetcars are heading north on College Avenue, almost in front of the Opera Building Block.
By the time of this 1912 image, automobiles and horses are beginning to equally share the streets of Fort Collins. I love this image of the Poudre Bank/Linden Hotel building, with the fire tower on the left side. Unfortunately, it is a printed postcard and doesn’t enlarge well.
The Avery Building is on the left side of this image and more automobiles are lining the street. The streetcar in the image is number M106, one of two streetcars built by the Jewett Car Co. in Ohio for service in Fort Collins. The Jewett cars were similar to the Woeber streetcars but were three feet longer and held 44 versus 40 passengers.
The D&I cars proved to be too big and too expensive for our small town. In 1914, the cars were converted to a one-man operation in an effort to reduce operating cost. The conversion was simple. The rear doors were closed and a fare box installed near the motorman. Still, ridership wasn’t large enough to keep the big 40 passenger cars operating economically. On July 10, 1918, without warning, the D&I employees were told not to report to work the next day. Fort Collins had lost its public transportation.
I’ll end this post with one more image of a D&I streetcar. It’s hard to improve upon streetcar images but snow can do it. Here is an enlargement from a very small original photograph. It isn’t very sharp and I don’t know when the image was taken or where the streetcar was in Fort Collins but I like it. I hope you do as well.
In the future, I’ll do a post using images of the smaller Birney Safety Cars but next Sunday I’m going to return to the Poudre Canyon, starting at the Thompson Resort, now known to us as Mishawaka.