Tracking down Seattle’s missing vintage streetcars
By Kathy Mulady
Do you remember the vintage George Benson Waterfront Streetcars that used to roll along Alaskan Way, dropping tourists and sightseeing Seattleites at destinations like Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, Seattle Aquarium and Ivar’s?
Spurred by rumors that the 1928 green and yellow Australian-born streetcars had been sold on eBay or shipped to Tennessee, the PostGlobe team went searching for the missing trolleys.
The five streetcars are in deep storage in a King County Metro warehouse in SoDo, not far from the stadiums. The barn is a bit dusty, but the streetcars still look cared for and clean.
Although there are no trolley tracks leading into the warehouse, the streetcars stand proud on short rail lines inside, as if ready to roll into service at any time.
What we don’t know is what the future holds for the cars with the polished Tasmanian mahogany interiors and the elegance of travel in another era.
The streetcars were forced out of service almost four years ago to make room for the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The park needed the space at the edge of Myrtle Edwards Park where the old maintenance barn stood and the streetcars were parked overnight.
No suitable replacement location for the barn was found, or could be afforded. So the vintage streetcars went into storage, replaced by green and yellow buses that still serve the route.
Some said the old streetcars would be brought back into service after the Alaskan Way Viaduct was demolished and the debate over its replacement settled.
But now, with talk about a modern streetcar line on First Avenue, stretching from Seattle Center to King Street Station, some wonder if the waterfront tracks will ever be used again.
Mayor Greg Nickels has suggested that the vintage cars could be used again someday for holidays and special commemorations. It is apparently quite an ordeal to heft the heavy, 48-foot streetcars onto flatbed trucks, then place them onto the rails. So appearances would likely be far and few between.
Some hold out hope that the streetcars, which have been in Seattle since 1982, will again see the light of day.
“No final decision has been made,” a King County Metro spokeswoman said this week.