Friday, July 29, 2011

Twin City Rapid Transit map

View Twin City Rapid Transit in a larger map

I went to a meeting on the Gateway Corridor today, and there were a few people wondering where the streetcars used to run on the east side of Saint Paul. Here, I've gone through the maps in Twin Cities by Trolley by (2007) John W. Diers and Aaron Isaacs to try and portray the system at its peak around 1932 (though some lines may may not quite be from the same time period). Much of their info is in turn based on maps and information from Russell L. Olson's 1976 book, The Electric Railways of Minnesota. Both books have much more detail than this simple Google Map can hope to include, such as dates of track activation and decommissioning and other details like where single-tracking was present and where there were small loops and wyes for turning around.

I'm sure it's not entirely accurate, but 95% or so. The big questions are exactly what the routings of some of the long extensions were, such as the lines out to Lake Minnetonka.


  1. This 1933 Hennepin Hwy map has the TCRT tracks on it:,1447

    Looks like the tracks followed the more smooth contemporary routing of Hwy 7 while the Excelsior Blvd at the time had the crooked routing of the frontage road still called Excelsior.

    This map has more details around the lake:,282

    Assuming their route didn't change much in 20 years. What big questions are you asking?

    Do the books talk about average headways at all? I read an anecdote once about ridiculously short headways on a suburban TCRT route on a Sunday that blew my mind.

  2. Thanks for the links, but I was mostly looking at things over on the other side of the metro area. I'll try to check my work, though.

    Some of the Gateway Corridor routings take 7th Street route to get out of the city, but they turn south once they hit White Bear Ave, as opposed to the old streetcar line which went two blocks further before turning north along a dedicated right-of-way.

    One of the problems with doing exclusive right-of-way for LRT or BRT on White Bear Ave is that there isn't enough room without tearing down houses on one side of the street or the other.

    It seems to me that an LRT line following the old line up close to White Bear Lake/Mahtomedi would be pretty useful. It might be good to substitute a segment of the Gateway Trail for the old alignment, though old freight lines always have the problem of being relatively hidden -- but a nice diagonal line slicing through the normal grid up there could draw a lot of use, in my opinion.

    Anyway, yes, there is discussion of headways in the books. Twin Cities by Trolley puts them front-and-center, right under the heading describing each route. On the other hand, Olson's book is much more densely packed with technical details -- there's some headway info in there, but I couldn't really tell you where.

    But yeah, the Como-Harriet-Hopkins line (downtown St. Paul to Hopkins via Como Ave/15th Ave/4th St/Hennepin Ave) was listed with ten-minute off-peak service and three minute peak service, and that shared much of its route with the Oak-Harriet service from Lake Harriet to the U of MN which had ten-minute off-peak service plus five-minute peak.

    The Nicollet route is the busiest I could find, 5 minutes off-peak and under three minutes peak.

    Most routes seem to have been 10/5 or 15/10, though a few only ran half an hour and 20 minutes peak or only had "extra service provided during rush hours".

    There's a 1920 timetable in the Diers/Isaacs book which shows westbound times out to Excelsior and Tonka Bay, with half-hourly service during rush hours, roughly hourly service until 7:30 PM (from downtown Minneapolis), plus two last trains leaving downtown at 9:30 and 11:30, respectively.

    Of course, the early '20s were when ridership peaked. That's one route with an actual date attached, but I'm not sure what years were used for the other routes' frequencies.

    Oh, and both books are good, but different. Twin Cities by Trolley is readily available at bookstores in the area. I had to find a used copy of The Electric Railways of Minnesota, though, and I think it was nearly double the cost of the other book (~$70-80). I first looked through it at the Minneapolis Library several years ago but it wasn't allowed to leave the building so I could only take notes. There were more details I wanted to know, so I finally broke down and got a copy sometime last year.

  3. Thanks man...You did a great job...I have been looking online for 2 days...really enjoyed the trip out to the terminus in Mahtomedi Stillwater and Bayport...