Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Remembering Big Yellow

by Cynthia Draper

As a native Denverite, one of the joys of growing up was riding on the streetcar. The cars were big, lumbering and painted bright yellow as they ran on wired electric overhead lines and on tracks that covered many of the major Denver streets.

For 25 cents, the motormen (as they were then known) would give you three tokens for three rides, or you could ride for 10 cents. The motormen would also issue punched yellow transfer slips upon request, and you could ride out to Denver University to see the football games, or ride to the end of the line.

The seats were made of woven, yellow wicker rattan with brass-loop grip bars on each inside edge for passengers to hold on to, in case they had to stand. In the winter we would try to sit above the heater boxes located in the middle of the car, and during the summer, we would slide the windows all the way down.

One of the Denver Tramway Company's streetcars takes a final run in the early 1950s.
I can still hear the resonant voice of the motor-man calling out the names of streets we passed as I rode down Colfax on my way to school. The clang of the streetcar bell could be heard two blocks away, when he rang it to warn cars or people off the tracks.

You never had to wait very long for a ride, as they came along every few minutes, and the end of the line was the famous Loop along 15th Street between Arapahoe and Lawrence Streets, where "meeting at the Loop" was a Denver tradition.

The streetcars were halted briefly only three times during their long-running career. The first was a short-lived union strike in 1920, and the other two were due to blizzards in 1913 and 1943.

Cynthia Draper is a freelance writer living in Littleton. She has written for local newspapers and travel magazines.

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