Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A streetcar named Dundee ...

Other than the occasional argent streak, straining, as if gasping for air and sunlight from a tomb of crumbling asphalt, all we have to remind us of Omaha's once magnificant street railway system is the brick haute-relief located at the intersection of Happy Hollow Boulevard and Underwood Avenue.

The Dundee line ran west from downtown Omaha, then into a loop around Dundee's business district, running northbound on 49th. Street from Dodge Street to Underwood Avenue, westward to 50th. Street, then southbound on 50th. turning back downtown on Dodge. A spur line running westward from 50th. and Underwood served the posh Happy Hollow district, terminating and turning around in a dead-end alley just south of Dundee Presbyterian Church.

The Dundee line was one of the "suburban" lines of the once-extensive trolley system which covered Omaha, reaching Benson, Florence, AkSarBen, the depots, South Omaha, School For The Deaf on North 45th., and yes, Council Bluffs.

It was the "Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company."

"Have a nice day, ma'am."

"Hi Mom!"

A nice touch to the setting is the cast iron lamp post, a style seldom seen other than in the Country Club, Twin Ridge, and Dundee districts of Omaha.

(For some strange reason, seconds after I took this photo, the lamp suddenly extinguished, remaining dark for the remainder of my visit.)

So, will trolley cars once again grace the streets of Our Fair City?

One group, Omaha Streetcar, would like to see this happen sooner rather than later!

They're on the web at: www.omahastreetcar.com

Unfortunately this is an uphill climb on an icy track so to speak.

Depending on who speaks, Omaha's last trolley ran in either 1955 or 1956. That's two generations, two generations raised on the Car Culture, who are oblivious to (if not hostile to) transit, and the mindset will have to be changed.

If Omaha (and Council Bluffs) is to get a new street railway system, it's not the railfans, the transit buffs, and the new urbanists who will have to be convinced of its value. It's the soccer moms, the SUV dads, Joe Sixpack, and the like, the ones who now consider the private vehicle as the only viable means of local transportation.

I spoke too soon when I said the sculpture was our only momento. Here's another, literally to be stumbled upon, across the street from Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs.


Barrett said...

Lovely works, nicely captured. You done well, kid.

As far as how much "convincing" the SUV-addicted might need: if our dear sock-puppet-in-chief decides to do a number on Iran, our current age of $3+/gal gas might be looked upon with true nostalgia.

Of course, I could be wrong...

New York's trolleys bit the dust at roughly the same time.

- Barrett

Adam Fletcher said...

Hey, thanks for your posts about Omaha - I hope you do more. I have just finished writing a wikipedia article about about the O&CB at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omaha_and_Council_Bluffs_Railway_and_Bridge_Company

I have written dozens of others about the city's old stuff, too - that's why I really like your post about South Omaha, and this one.

Keep it up - I'd love to see more!