Friday, April 20, 2012

Tracing the UMN's Inter-Campus streetcar line

Another short article for

View UMN intercampus streetcar line in a larger map

Many people in the Twin Cities are familiar with the University of Minnesota bus transitway connecting its Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses (the latter actually being in the suburb of Falcon Heights). Since the 1990s, its exclusive access has allowed buses to shuttle quickly between campuses—parts of it also get used by buses to the Minnesota State Fair each year.

There was also a piece of dedicated track for getting to the St. Paul campus by streetcar between 1914 and 1954. A special "Inter-Campus" route shared track with the "Como-Harriet" streetcar line between Minneapolis and Saint Paul, though there were private extensions to reach each campus.

Students boarded at the traffic circle at Pleasant Street and Pillsbury Avenue on the Minneapolis campus, and the streetcar headed north on 15th Street to reach Como Avenue, which it followed until reaching Eustis Street in Saint Paul.  The line then turned north along Eustis before heading east at what is now Idaho Avenue in the small suburb of Lauderdale. From there, track was laid in an exclusive right-of-way which ran just north of Folwell Avenue to reach the campus. Streetcars ran along the south edge of the agricultural test fields before curving around the east side of campus and ending up near today's St. Paul Student Center.

The line was unique among streetcar routes in the area because had a connection with the freight rail network and was used for small deliveries to the St. Paul campus, including coal for a campus power plant. The connection was a short piece of track which ran west of Eustis (across what is now Minnesota State Highway 280) to connect with the Minnesota Transfer Railway (now the Minnesota Commercial)

The Inter-Campus line was one of the last two streetcar routes in operation in the Twin Cities, and was replaced by buses on June 18, 1954.

Some remnants of the old private right-of-way still exist, though it is deteriorating. The main pieces still visible include a retaining wall, a staircase coming down from Folwell Avenue, and a few old concrete platforms for former stops. (Unlike today's transitway where there aren't any intermediate stops, the streetcar line did make stops along the way.) Here's a slideshow of photos I took there a couple of weeks ago:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this interesting article and photos. The Twin Cities trolley system was shut down the year I was born. Back in the 1960's I walked the St. Paul side of the intercampus trolley route several times, starting at the west side of Cleveland. The last time I walked the route there were still a number of semi-intact ties and spikes laying around. My older brother recalls a trolley tunnel underneath Cleveland Avenue.