Streetcars in St. Louis

Streetcars in St. Louis, Missouri operated as part of the transportation network of St. Louis from the middle of the 19th century through the early 1960s. During the first forty years of the streetcar in the city, a variety of private companies operated several dozen lines; from the start of the 20th century, most of these companies consolidated into the St. Louis Public Service Company, which served both the city of St. Louis and neighboring St. Louis County, Missouri. Other private companies, such as those serving the Metro East region or St. Charles, Missouri, continued separate operations. Starting in the 1930s and continuing through the 1960s, St. Louis Public Service ended all streetcar service, while other regional operators also ended their services.

Street railway systems of St. Louis in 1884

Historical streetcar service

Erastus Wells began an omnibus service in St. Louis in 1843

Early public transit

By the 1830s, the city of St. Louis had grown in size beyond the ability of many of its residents to walk conveniently throughout the town.[1] In 1838, brief mention is made in historical records of a private horse drawn cab service in the city, followed in 1843 by the beginning of an omnibus service by entrepreneur Erastus Wells in partnership with an investor named Calvin Case.[1] During the late 1840s, other horse-drawn omnibus service companies began operation, but by the end of 1850, most of these companies had consolidated with the Case and Wells lines to form Case and Company, which operated 90 carriages and several lines in the city.[2] In 1855, principal investor Case was killed in the Gasconade Bridge train disaster, and the company was divided among its other investors.[2] The resulting horse-drawn omnibus lines became the blueprint for horse-drawn street railway service in the late 1850s.[2]

Initial street railways

A Horsecar passes in front of the Westliche Post offices downtown, 1874

In December 1855, a group of investors formed the Laclede Railway Company for the purpose of building a street railway, modeled on services then provided in eastern cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston.[3] However, the Laclede line was never built. In spite of the early failure, by 1859, seven other lines were proposed; however, only four were completed before the outbreak of the American Civil War.[4] The first of these lines began operation on July 4, 1859, running east to west on Olive Street from 4th to 10th streets.[5] However, early operations were marred by difficulty in securing quality rails, and construction problems caused derailments of the cars.[5] All of the prewar railways used horse power to pull their cars, that is they were Horsecars.[6]

After the Civil War, other lines opened in St. Louis that connected the central city with western areas.[6] In 1874, with the opening of the Eads Bridge, a new line opened connecting the city with East St. Louis, Illinois.[6] The first experiments with mechanical traction for the cars took place immediately after the war in 1865 on Grand Avenue, while a fully operational steam-powered line opened in 1868 as an extension of the Olive Street line.[6] This line, however, was not operationally connected with the rest of the horse-drawn lines, and it used a different track gauge than other lines.[7]


In the 1920s streetcars began to be replaced by motor buses as bus operators could route freely over public streets, paying only vehicle and gas taxes, while streetcar operators had fixed routes by the tracks, and had to pay additional property taxes for the infrastructure they placed in the road, however a good transit route doesn't need to change often. The construction of Highway I-70 that cut through downtown St. Louis, threatened and ended service to many street lines. The last St. Louis streetcar route in operation was the 15 Hodiamont line which ceased service on May 21, 1966. Much of the streetcar systems' routes are today's MetroBus and Madison County Transit bus routes.

Streetcar builders

The St. Louis Car Company began operation in 1887 when financier J.H. Kobush and plant supervisor Peter Kling abandoned the German immigrant industrialist Frederick Brownell's streetcar manufacturing company. The company lasted until 1973, was located at 3023 North Broadway, and took orders from across the country. The St. Louis Car Company became the biggest streetcar builder in the world. They distributed their cars internationally at their height.

Historical lines or companies

These cars serviced 70 Grand, 20 Cherokee, 22 Jefferson, 40 Broadway, 13 Union, 03 Midland, 01 Kirkwood/Ferguson, 10 Delmar, 15 Hodiamont, 42 Sarah, 53 Chouteau, 32 Wellston, 31 Natural Bridge, 05 Creve Coeur Lake, 53/54/55/56 Manchester, 12 Maryland/Olive, 11 University, 14 University Clayton, 66 St. Peters, 65 Woodson, 67 Bridgeton and 51 Forest Park. St. Louis Public Service sold 1700 series to the San Francisco Municipal Railway in 1957. Their numbers were changed to the 1100 series and ran until their retirement in 1982.


An ex-St. Louis PCC streetcar in service in San Francisco during the 1983 Historic Trolley Festival

St. Louis ran Peter Witt Streetcars from 1927 to 1951. All of St. Louis's 3 series of Peter Witt cars were built in the United Railways and Electric Company of St. Louis (founded in 1900 and operator until 1924, it was the predecessor to St. Louis Public Service Company) 39th St shops. Later art-deco PCC (Presidents Conference Committee) cars were first produced in 1936. They were 46 feet long and 9 feet wide. They sat 53 passengers. The St. Louis Car Company built many of these models. St. Louis Public Service Company ordered three groups of PCC cars in the 1500, 1600 and 1700 Series from them. The first group was delivered in 1940; the last group was delivered in 1946.


There are three current projects for streetcars in St. Louis.

Delmar Loop Trolley

The Loop Trolley is a 2.2-mile (3.5 km) heritage trolley line under construction, which will serve the Delmar Loop district in St. Louis and University City, Missouri. Projected to open in spring 2017, by early October it was reported that late November looked to be the earliest the line might be ready to open.[8] The line will have 10 stations and serve the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, Washington University in St. Louis, two MetroLink stations (Forest Park-DeBaliviere station and Delmar Loop station), University City City Hall, and all the Delmar Loop attractions. It began service on November 16th, 2018, after delays, and ended operations on December 29th, 2019, due to lack of funds caused by significantly lower than exprected ridership. Officials are exploring options to restore service.


The Delmar Loop got its name from a loop of track on the 10 Delmar Streetcar line, which ran its last trip on April 19, 1964.[9][page needed] In the early 20th century, the Loop was adjacent to the Delmar Gardens Amusement Park.[9] Until its abandonment on July 25, 1950, the loop was also the terminus of the 05 Creve Coeur Lake line famous for its open "moonlight" cars. The Loop long retained its name, and found a champion in Joe Edwards, the owner of Blueberry Hill, The Pageant, and a number of other Loop businesses. Edwards secured the purchase of two restored Peter Witt-type streetcars that once operated in Milan, Italy, and has led the initiative for the new line in conjunction with Citizens for Modern Transit. The project was cancelled in 2012.


The two Peter Witt cars were refurbished by the Gomaco Trolley Company in 2005 and placed on long-term display along the route—one on Delmar by Commerce Bank, and the other at the History Museum. Plans to restore them to operating condition and also modify them to meet ADA regulations were dropped in 2015 after the needed work was determined to be cost-prohibitive and after substitute cars were found and acquired.[10] The Loop Trolley line will instead be served by a fleet of three other vintage or vintage-style streetcars. The first two, due to be ready for use when the line opens in 2017, are two 1991/92 Gomaco-built replicas of 1903 Brill streetcars which the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District acquired from Portland, Oregon, where they had been used on the Portland Vintage Trolley service until 2014.[11] The third, not expected to be ready for use until some months after the line opens, is a 1928-built ex-Melbourne trolley (No. 512), one of three such cars Loop Trolley TDD has purchased from King County Metro in Seattle, where they had been used on that city's Waterfront Streetcar line from 1982 to 2005; only one of the Seattle cars is being rebuilt for use on the Loop Trolley initially. Although the Portland and Seattle cars were in much better condition than the Peter Witt cars, they also needed modifications to make them ADA-compatible, primarily the installation of wheelchair lifts, and Gomaco was awarded contracts to carry out that work, along with other modifications to the three cars.[12][13]

St. Charles City Streetcar

The nine original 1700 series PCC streetcars were purchased for use in New Town at St. Charles by Whittaker Builders Inc. Some will be placed around town converted into old-fashioned diners, cafés, or bookstores while others will be restored and put back in service. The proposed route is said to be 8-mile (13 km) from New Town to St. Charles, Missouri.

St. Louis Streetcar

In June 2013 Forbes magazine profiled new streetcar systems of ten USA cities that had built or were building new modern streetcar systems.[14] According to Forbes St. Louis is planning to build a 7-mile (11 km) modern system to connect Downtown St. Louis to the Central West End along with other neighborhoods like Downtown West, Midtown, and Carr Square. It does not connect to the Delmar Loop Trolley.

See also


  1. Andrew D. Young (1988). The St. Louis Streetcar Story. Glendale, CA: Interurban Press. p. 9.
  2. Young (1988), 11.
  3. Young (1988), 12.
  4. Young (1988), 13.
  5. Young (1988), 14.
  6. Young (1988), 26.
  7. Young (1988), 27.
  8. Schlinkmann, Mark (October 4, 2017). "Loop Trolley firms up fare details but still unclear on opening date". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  9. St. Louis Streetcar Story, Andrew D. Young, Interurban Press, 1987
  10. "Worldwide Review [regular news section]". Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: Light Rail Transit Association. November 2015. pp. 450–451.
  11. Bowen, Douglas John (December 13, 2013). "TriMet sells heritage trolleys to St. Louis". Railway Age. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  12. "Worldwide Review [regular news section]". Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: Light Rail Transit Association. May 2016. p. 193.
  13. "Worldwide Review [regular news section]". Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: Light Rail Transit Association. August 2016. p. 312.
  14. "Will St. Louis Be Home To The Trolley Once More?". Forbes magazine. June 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-27. Its backers want a new system to connect downtown, Carr Square, and a series of neighborhoods.