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Tampa, Florida TECO Trolley

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Three streetcars meet in Central Ybor at 8th Ave & 17th Street, with Gomaco replica no. 428 in the lead. Photo by Bob Pickering, October 2002.

Overview

Electric streetcars have returned to Tampa in Phase 1 of a project connecting downtown to Channelside and Ybor City. The first phase of the TECO Line Streetcar System is a 2.3 mile section that connects these three areas. Tampa's last streetcar rolled to a stop in August, 1946.

Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc., a non-profit corporation, will manage the streetcar system and has selected the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to operate and maintain it. Also, since 1984, the Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society has been promoting the return of streetcar service to Tampa. The Railway Society is raising $100,000 to build a car barn and museum in Ybor City, featuring one of Tampa's original streetcars, Birney Safety Car no. 163, which will run on special occasions.

Route Map

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Station By Station

TECO has taken naming stations after their corporate sponsors to an extreme, with many stations being named after corporate entities which may or may not have any relationship to the station locations. Many of the station names don't give any meaningful indication as to their locations.

The southern end of the line is anchored by Southern Transportation Plaza. This area as of opening day was still under construction and not in use. From here two tracks embedded in concrete on a private right of way along Ice Palace Drive head east to the next stop, Household Finance Corporation, formerly Morgan Street, right next to the St. Pete Times Forum.

From this point the line converges to single track and follows the road up to Channelside Drive where a sharp turn east is made through the intersection. Traffic signals are timed with the trolley to allow for coordinated movements through roadway intersections along this part of the route.

Following Channelside Drive the trolley line makes another stop at Tampa Tribune, formerly Beneficial Drive, right near the Channelside entertainment complex. Just beyond this point the line diverges into a passing siding where cars can pass each other. Converging back to a single track the line closely follows the sidewalk through a traffic rotary to the next stop at Cumberland Avenue. This is near the Florida Aquarium and the Garrison Cruise Ship Terminal. Here the single track loses its paved cover and can fool the casual observer into thinking that they are looking at a regular railroad track. Now heading north the track diverges once again for a short section of dual running. York Street station is located here near a large parking lot for the Aquarium.

We are back to single track once again as we move to another stop at the Port Authority Building. Heading due north through an industrial area the line ducks under the cross-town expressway heading for Ybor City. Now approaching the CSX mainline the line takes a sharp 45 degree turn to meet CSX at a 90 degree angle. Here is one of the most unique transit crossings in the country. CSX wanted a very high liability insurance policy to allow the trolleys to cross at grade. The TECO Trolley could not afford the million plus annual insurance premium, so the solution was: a flagman. The flagman works for CSX but is compensated by the TECO Trolley. Each streetcar must call the flagman on the radio to receive permission to cross the line. Outside of the radio this is very similar to the old days.

Where the line crosses streets along this section yellow lights warn motorists and pedestrians of oncoming streetcars several minutes before they appear.

Just north of the CSX diamond the line turns north again and another passing siding is found. Here we return to the paved over track. This is also the location of the TECO trolley barn and where one can find Birney Safety Car #163, the only restored and operating streetcar in Florida. The car barn is still being worked on (Fall 2002) and eventually a museum will be built here. This is the site of Cadrecha Plaza station.

From this point the line takes a sharp 90 degree turn east running down the north side of 8th Avenue into Ybor City. The line is embedded in concrete but the road is made of bricks. Many old historic buildings adorn the area now occupied by shops, bars and nightclubs. The next stop is Streetcar Society station, named for the organization that helped bring them back to Tampa. At Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union (Central Ybor) station another passing siding is found; also, two pedestrian bridges at this location associated with the Central Ybor Entertainment Complex allows a neat view for fans.

Heading west along 8th Ave the line makes its final stop at Centennial Park in the eastern section of Ybor City's historic district. Points of interest here are the historic buildings, Centennial Park, Ybor Fresh Market and the Ybor City Museum.

Operations

Operators are very friendly and many were former bus drivers. The local transit agency sought out the best of its bus drivers to staff the trolleys. They operate in traditional uniforms and add to the historic aspects of the ride.

Streetcars are tied into a UHF radio network that also includes the buses. A state of the art signal system using special sensors helps guide streetcars along the route and also helps work traffic signals in favor of the trolleys. Each motorperson must also keep track of where all the cars are in their mind to time the meets properly. During a typical day, four trolleys will be running at any given time.

Operating hours vary by day so rather than listing them here, check the official web site, listed below, for hours and fare details.

Roster

Tampa's eight new electric streetcars are replicas of the old Birney Safety Cars that ran on Tampa streets until 1946. These new cars are air-conditioned and wheelchair-accessible, and cost $600,000 each. Also, an original, completely restored Birney Safety Car (#163) will run on special occasions. The cars were manufactured by Gomaco Trolley Corp. of Ida Grove, Iowa.

Photo Gallery


Image 13262
(74k, 892x588)
Photo by: Bob Pickering
Location: Channelside/Garrison Seaport Area

Image 13264
(57k, 892x588)
Photo by: Bob Pickering
Location: Channelside/Garrison Seaport Area

Image 25911
(76k, 720x478)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Channelside/Garrison Seaport Area

Image 25913
(82k, 720x478)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Southern Transportation Plaza

Image 25917
(63k, 720x478)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Florida Aquarium

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(59k, 720x478)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: CSX Crossing

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(155k, 1024x699)
Photo by: Bob Pickering
Location: Crosstown Expy.

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(180k, 1024x683)
Photo by: Bob Pickering
Location: St. Pete Times Forum

Image 38564
(199k, 1024x699)
Photo by: Bob Pickering
Location: Channelside/Garrison Seaport Area

Image 38565
(225k, 1024x725)
Photo by: Bob Pickering
Location: Channelside/Garrison Seaport Area

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(153k, 660x500)
Photo by: Brian J. Cudahy

Image 99035
(88k, 800x600)
Photo by: Bob Vogel

Image 99041
(116k, 800x600)
Photo by: Bob Vogel
Location: Centennal Park (8th Ave & 19th St)

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(350k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Brian J. Cudahy
Location: Centennial Park (8th Ave & 20th St)

Image 112042
(272k, 788x1044)
Photo by: Brian J. Cudahy
Location: Centennial Park (8th Ave & 20th St)


More Images: 1-50 51-69

Photos By Location

Convention Center, Southern Transportation Plaza, Household Finance Corporation, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Tribune (Beneficial Drive), Channelside/Garrison Seaport Area, Florida Aquarium, Cumberland Avenue (at Channelside Dr.), York Street (at Channelside Dr.), Port Authority Building, Crosstown Expy., CSX Crossing, TECO Carbarn, Cadrecha Plaza (7th/8th Ave & 13th St.), Streetcar Society (8th Ave & Cuba/15th), Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union (8th Ave & 17th St, Central Ybor), Centennal Park (8th Ave & 19th St), Centennial Park (8th Ave & 20th St), (Misc/Unknown)

Links

TECO Trolley Official Web Site

Official Map

Gomaco Trolley Corp.

Page Credits

By Bob Pickering. Thanks to TECO Trolley official web site, information used with permission.









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