Streetcars

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The old Schnitzelburg trolley loop. (Courtesy G-town/S-burg Blog)
The old Schnitzelburg trolley loop. (Courtesy G-town/S-burg Blog)
The old Schnitzelburg trolley loop. (Courtesy G-town/S-burg Blog)
The old Schnitzelburg trolley loop. (Courtesy G-town/S-burg Blog)

Schnitzelburg was once defined by a trolley loop connecting it with Downtown and beyond. The one-way tracks followed the route described in the amazing graphic above from Shelby Street onto Burnett Avenue to Texas Avenue, rounding on to Goss Avenue before heading North again on Shelby. In her 2011-book Louisville’s Germantown & Schnitzelburg, Lisa Pisterman noted that while Germantown’s borders have moved over time, “the boundaries of Schnitzelburg have always been defined by the trolley loop that circled the community,” demonstrating how important the trolley once was for the community.

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Concept route for a Market Street trolley line. (Courtesy Clarence Hixson/badwaterjournal.com)
Concept route for a Market Street trolley line. (Courtesy Clarence Hixson/badwaterjournal.com)
Concept route for a Market Street trolley line. (Courtesy Clarence Hixson/dadwaterjournal.com)
Concept route for a Market Street trolley line. (Courtesy Clarence Hixson/badwaterjournal.com)

Could a modern streetcar line help revitalize West Louisville? Louisville lawyer Clarence Hixson thinks it will and has proposed a concept line called the “Peace Train” running along Market Street roughly between Shawnee Park and Frankfort Avenue. Hixson hopes such a line could spur investment, create jobs, remove cars from the street, and help revitalize West Louisville.

Check out this video titled Infrastructure In An Ecological Age of a theoretical Manchester, England after it has undergone a sustainability overhaul. The video was made by engineering firm Arup and shows how light rail, streetcars, and high speed rail will work to create pockets of density, how plentiful trees, landscaping, and green roofs will make city living more like garden living, and how other ideas from increasing local food and power production to making the bus more efficient will green the cities of tomorrow. [Via TreeHugger.]

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A trolley line is proposed for Bardstown Road (artists representation)
A trolley line is proposed for Bardstown Road (artists representation)
A trolley line is proposed for Bardstown Road. (Broken Sidewalk)

What if a real streetcar line meandered down Bardstown Road, connecting by rail Baxter Avenue and the Douglass Loop? Developer Dennis Dutton is proposing just that. His Bardstown Road Trolley Project is still in its early stages as the idea coalesces, but could transform public transportation in Louisville.

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Streetcar tracks on Shelby Street
Streetcar tracks on Shelby Street. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

While we were visiting the 810 East Broadway development yesterday, we noticed a stretch of metal streetcar track that had been exposed during construction. Louisville once had an extensive streetcar system connecting all of the historic city and many of the tracks are still in place under many streets, although now unusable. They surface from time to time with utility work or construction, like these tracks we found on Preston Street last year. You can sometimes find hints of the tracks beneath asphalt: here, parallel cracks about 4-inches wide are a clue at the top of the photo.

Trolley Tracks Beneath Preston Street
Trolley Tracks Beneath Preston Street
Trolley Tracks Beneath Preston Street. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

Utility work on Preston Street between Main Street and Market Street this week revealed original train tracks beneath the asphalt road’s surface. Louisville had quite an extensive transit system, including subways, back before WWII. Much of the old infrastructure lies just under an inch or two of asphalt, surfacing from time to time reminding us of what we lost.