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Historic Jeffco: Commuter Rail Service
Once upon a time, back in 1892, residents gladly erected their homes within walking distance of a tramway line from Golden to Denver. In 1904, Samuel Newhouse organized the Denver & Intermountain Railway for commuters by electric trolley. Existing heavy rail lines of the Denver Lakewood & Golden Railway were purchased in foreclosure for $175,000. After renovation and installation of electric wiring, service between Golden and Denver began on February 1, 1909. Denver Tramway acquired the Route 84 electric line in June, 1910. After 63 years of service, this commuter blessing ended on June 4, 1950 and freight service ended in 1953. After World War II, Americans wanted motor vehicles on new highways to transport them to a suburban lifestyle.
The historic trolley service made it possible to have jobs in Denver and live in rural Lakewood, and the towns of Arvada and Golden. Riders especially appreciated the scenic run that also transported mail, groceries, and other supplies. There was a sense of community among riders who saw one another twice a day. The interurban was safer than motor vehicle travel and was able to plow through snow when roads were clogged.
There were 15 stops along the 13-mile route adjacent to 13th Street that crossed Sheridan, Wadsworth, Garrison, Kipling, Simms, Wide Acres at Colfax, and more along Old Golden Road. Students of all ages, including Colorado School of Mines college students, used the trolley. Office and blue-collar workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, government workers, and Governor John Vivian used the trolley. Most stops had wooden shelters like the one preserved at Lakewood Heritage Center.
The service also attracted Denverites by the hundreds to load picnic hampers, gather up the family and set out for a holiday. After arriving at Golden, they rode the funicular railroad that climbed up Lookout Mountain to Buffalo Bill’s grave or the one that ascended South Table Mountain to Castle Rock. Ski and hiking enthusiasts took the trolley and funicular to see events on Genesee Mountain or hike the historic Beaver Brook Trail.
After the trolley service ended, the only streetcar of 250 to be rescued and restored is Number 25. Caring volunteers formed the Rocky Mountain Railroad Historical Foundation to restore it to give people an experience from the past. Car 25 has been rebuilt and refurbished to its original wood paneling, rattan seats, bell, horn, and headlights. Projects Chairman Darrell Arndt continues to maintain 25 at a Federal Center shelter and will consider placing the car on a stretch of tracks along the Platte River from REI, the Downtown Aquarium, past the Children’s Museum to Colfax Avenue near the future Light Rail Station.
In 2004, voters approved paying $4.7 billion for development of Denver metro area Light Rail service. RTD then announced costs would be $6.1 billion. RTD claimed the West Corridor increase would be $744 million, rather than the estimated $512 million, which would reduce service to provide $634 million for construction. Then in February, 2008, federal transit officials announced that RTD would receive an additional federal grant of $290.6 million the West Corridor FasTracks to be completed by 2010. The “centerpiece” for FasTracks is a $476 million renovation of Denver’s Union Station.
Activity on the FasTracks West Corridor Light Rail project is on the rise. Utility relocations are evident throughout the corridor and while early construction has seen minor delays, the contractor is preparing to start construction of the Kipling Bridge in March, 2008. Years of anticipation on the West Corridor will soon give way to the actual bustle of construction activities.
Car No. 25 seats 52 passengers and continues to be powered by 50-horsepower Westinghouse 600 volt DC electric motors capable of speeds up to 50 miles per hour. The Rocky Mountain Railroad Club welcomes historic preservationists and rail advocates to join them.
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