SUISUN CITY — The newest addition to the Western Railway Museum took its maiden voyage with a smooth, silent rolling start. A small crowd of train enthusiasts were on the platform to be the first to ride her along the rails.
The inaugural ride of San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Light Rail Vehicle #1018 held about 20 passengers Saturday at the museum.
“This historic streetcar sparked the renaissance of the modern trolley system for San Diego when it debuted in 1982,” said John Krauskopf, secretary for Western Railway Museum and the conductor.
The car was built by Siemens/Düwag in 1980. Siemens delivered the electric streetcar to the San Diego trolley system in November 1982. After 32 years of service from San Diego to Tijuana, which was a half-an-hour train ride, the streetcar retired to the museum for the enjoyment of future generations.
“Many of the cities had abandoned the light rail over the years because of the more modern convenience of cars and buses. The light rail had limited capabilities because of its set course and limited stops,” said John Holt, who is a member of the museum’s board of directors.
“San Diego was the first city with an electric streetcar system. Today, we only have a few cities with streetcars: Portland, Oregon; Boston; New Orleans; Salt Lake City; Seattle and Tacoma, Washington,” Holt said.
He is happy to note that more cities are looking into returning to the use of streetcars.
“The streetcars save people money because you don’t have to drive your car, so the cost of parking and gas is reduced when you use streetcars,” Holt said.
The museum is learning all about its new air-conditioned car, the one and only car at the museum with that amenity.
“We are really excited. This is a very historic car being that it was the first new light rail car in the United States in 1980. It really jump-started a new era in this country,” said Jim Ward, who drove the streetcar.
“It’s different than the other cars because there are a lot of electrical elements to it that we have not seen on other cars,” Ward said.
After two million miles of service the car will be displayed at the museum, but not run on a regular basis.
“We will bring it out for special occasions,” Krauskopf said.
For more information on the Western Railway Museum, go to www.wrm.org.
Reach Susan Hiland at 427-6981 or [email protected]