Streetcars doing what Streetcars should!

Car 434 at the Centennial Park station at the end of the line in Ybor City.

 

Last week, a business conference took me east to Tampa, Florida.

I had last been to Florida (Orlando) some 18 years ago. While I knew the state had grown, I did not have much knowledge about it beyond that. I did know one thing about Tampa. That was that it had a streetcar line. Not using light rail vehicles, but a fleet of reproduction streetcars. And one original car, a Birney Safety Car.

My hotel for this conference was the Marriott Waterside. Luckily, the streetcars stopped right in front of it. Arriving on Saturday the 25th, I even came to the hotel aboard the streetcar that afternoon; after flying into Tampa from San Francisco via Dallas.

The TECO Streetcar line is a heritage streetcar line owned by the city and operated by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transportation Authority. It travels 2.7 miles from downtown Tampa to the Ybor City district. Portions of the line are double track, but it also makes good use of single track with passing sidings. Overhead wire uses no trolley frogs but an effective double wire system.

Tampa had streetcars dating back to 1892. Ridership peaked in the 1920’s. Service ended in 1946.

From Wikipedia :

“The system has eleven operating streetcars: nine modern replica double-truck Birney cars, one replica open-bench “Breezer” (similar to J.G. Brill cars built for Metropolitan Street Railway of New York), and one restored original Birney car. All except the original Birney were built by the Gomaco Trolley Company.

The replica Birney cars have a welded steel body with cosmetic rivets added to make them look older. The cars are wheelchair-accessible, air-conditioned and have automated stop announcements. The seats are made of wood and are reversible for when the car changes direction. The cars are also equipped with on-board ticket dispensers; however, they do not provide change.

The original Birney #163 streetcar ran on the Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway between 1923 and 1946. It was found in 1991 in Sulphur Springs, a neighborhood in Tampa, where it had been used as an apartment and later a storage shed. After extensive restoration the car is back to its former condition and is used for special events, such as Streetcar Fest in mid-October. It is Florida’s only operational historic streetcar.”

I learned from one of the motormen that the reproduction cars were built using some components from cars from Milan, Italy. The one feature they have today is air conditioning. While is was not overwhelmingly warm in February, I can well imagine how welcome that must be during the summer months.

I was in town for five days and managed to ride the system every day. It connects with the Cruise Ship terminal and carries passengers in both directions to enjoy both the downtown and Ybor City areas. There were good passenger loads aboard the cars both day and night. Having run a few streetcars over the years, I was pleased to see how well the cars operated and how passengers enjoyed their rides.

 

Here are a few more images of the TECO streetcar line –

 

Beer and streetcars? Why yes, thank you!

 

Approaching the Centro Ybor station heading for downtown Tampa.

Entering the Dick Greco Plaza heading outbound toward Ybor City.

A car full of passengers riding in air conditioned comfort.

Leaving Centro Ybor heading for the end of the line at night.

One last run for the night heading back to the barn.

It was a pleasant treat to find this heritage streetcar line doing so well. If you are in Tampa, why not ride this route and enjoy the stops along the way for yourself?

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Hey! I am still here…

 

Contrary to the lack of postings hereabouts, I am still online, now and then…

A new professional role has taken a good deal of time that I had previously to spend on other pursuits. But I am going to try and get back into the “swang of thangs” by writing a new blog post once a week.

Much like the spring flowers above, things change. A few personal and as mentioned, one personal. Some sad and some exciting. But I hope I can share more often than not. Next month, such opportunities await me and by extension, you.

Like many of my California contemporaries, I am limping along with the changes in political winds. To be sure, it won’t be boring. In the end, I hope I can look back and say that it was the point that saw more people take an active interest in their government, at all levels. Yet, as far as we have come as a nation and a people, we have a long road ahead. Hopefully, one where we can respect the diversity of the world.

I don’t see myself as naive but I certainly can admit there is enough to learn for lifetimes to come. It would please me greatly to know that generations to come will see that as well.

 

So, I hope you, my loyal readers, will enjoy what takes up space here. That’s one thing that keeps me coming back.

 

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To boldly go…

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In case you missed it, Star Trek turned 50 years old today.

As a child of the Space Race, I was certainly not alone in expecting that humanity would be well into space by now. Indeed, boldly going where no one has gone before. Budgets got cut, slashed and just plain mutilated; bringing those dreams to a crashing halt.

I have been a fan of Star Trek since the show’s first run in prime time on NBC. I had one of the first Star Trek lunch boxes, the metal version of the lunch pail, carried by so many. Proudly, I have always considered myself a “Trekker”. Not a “Trekkie”. For a variety of reasons, most having to do less with hero worship and more with the possibilities that lay out among the stars.

My first Star Trek convention was the Red Hour Festival at Lincoln High School in San Francisco in 1975. My first convention as volunteer was over the Presidents Day weekend in 1977; where among other things I met good friends and the woman who would eventually become my wife. That led to involvement with the crew of a stage illusion based on Star Trek’s “Transporter”. And oddly enough, a DVD on those early cons, manages to show me on film at a number of them.

Yes, I have costumes, a few props and my share of other “Trek” collectibles. I have been a fan of the movies and television shows that came after the original. The view above, of a fine large scale model of the motion picture version of the U.S.S. Enterprise, was from a visit to Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas, when a good friend from those convention days joined the retail side of things there.

Looking back over the years, “Star Trek” has always been about hope. Hope for a better future for us all. When you look back to the 60’s when the show aired, things were looking pretty bleak as the future loomed. The Cold War could turn hot with nuclear weapons exchanged with the Soviets at any time. Pollution of the planet was growing and there were a lot of problems yet to be taken on as challenges. Even just the simple question of “How do we all get along peacefully?” was an unanswered one that loomed larger all the time.

Even though this television show only ran three seasons on NBC, the message of a better world for us all was something that resonated with the audience. When syndication brought reruns to local markets, that message spread. If we could manage not to kill ourselves on a global scale, we might just get things better, if not closer to what we saw on our televisions.

All these years later, “Star Trek” continues to be about hope. We still have a long way to go as a planet, but thanks to messages like this one, we are much closer today than we were back then.

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Things Change

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Things change.

I have been reminded of this fact lately. In a number of ways…

Last month, my professional responsibilities came to an end after a long spell. Sad to see it happen and the way it came to end was not as pleasant as it might have been for some of the folks involved.

Yet not all change is bad. A new opportunity lies in store with new challenges ahead. One that will take advantage of skills and experiences from along the way. Looking forward shows promise.

“Things Change” has also been the title of a great little film from 1988, directed by David Mamet. This review by Roger Ebert gives a good glimpse into the project, which starred Don Ameche and Joe Mantegna. One of my favorite little screen gems from the 80’s.

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Without giving the story away, the title is an apt one. Don Ameche found several good roles late in his career and this is indeed among those. Worth a watch some time.

The last Saturday in June found me in Anaheim. At one time, this was a yearly visit with family members to celebrate a particular birthday, but the last few years have found real life getting in the way. So it was a treat to enjoy Disneyland and California Adventure for the day. A less hectic day than those of the past with no real plans ahead of time.

I know that some folks are disappointed with some of Disneyland being closed due to construction for the Star Wars project. But on the whole, I did not find that this was all that big a problem. Sure, the Disneyland Railroad may not be making trips, nor the Mark Twain or the Columbia sailing the Rivers of America. But there were plenty of memories being made elsewhere, with good numbers of happy guests all around.

We enjoyed a breakfast at Rancho Del Zocalo (Chilaquilles was tasty!) and a nice lunch at the Harbor Galley (Lobster rolls at Disneyland? And a tuna salad sandwich enjoyed next to the Columbia that takes one back through the years back to the Chicken of the Sea galley in Fantasyland!) Disneyland offered nice rides on the Jungle Cruise, Pirates and the Haunted Mansion, along with various rides up and down Main Street. California Adventure saw us enjoy the new version of Soarin’, Radiator Springs Racers and a ride on the Red Car Trolley.

The afternoon came with a Disneyland Mint Julep, truly a throwback to earlier visits through the years.

While it wasn’t a whirlwind adventure by any means, I have to say it was a fine day at Disneyland. The kind of thing that I used to enjoy more often.

 

And who knows? This new opportunity might allow more of these kind of days.

 

But first up, the annual Friends of the Magic gathering is coming , August 5th through 7th. The Blue Parrot will be hosting a meet and co-hosting another along with the Pink Monorail. Hope to see a few readers join in the festivities! A good chance to meet some wonderful folks bringing Disney content online. Worth the time if you are in the area of Disneyland!

 

Yes, indeed. Things change.

 

hats

 

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Musings at Mid-week

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It is one of those weeks. Depending on which way you turn, your actual mileage may vary.

Politics certainly is fun right now. I keep asking myself, “Is this really the best you can do?”, when it comes to the choices at hand. I don’t really have a great deal of faith in the candidates, but it seems to be a pretty clear mandate that everyone really does not care for business as usual. Not that a Presidential election will change that. Going to take voters from one party or another to come to the polls and out vote their idealogical counterparts. And as long as we have unlimited spending for political campaigns, things won’t change all that much. Folks will believe what they want to, no matter what facts may be in evidence to counter those beliefs.

But hey! We got rain in California this winter and spring that seems to have lightened our “drought” situation. And as regular as clockwork, the Golden state is turning brown. Hoping that dead trees and high grasses will be kept in check as the fire seasons of summer and fall come along. And that those who will be fighting the inevitable wild land fires will be safe out there. Weather this week has been somewhat cool and gray. That would be nice when the summer months come to call.

Life is good right now, with the cats seeing the start of their sixth year on the planet. A couple of rescued ferals who just fit in with us, taking their rightful places as our overlords, demanding food and attention while sharing the royal personage with us larger and clumsier “cats”.

While I know that the summer season for movies is well underway, I have kind of lost the enthusiasm for what lies ahead. Call me what you will, but it sure seems as stories have all blurred, with super hero film after super hero film after super hero film. When it came to comics, I was always more of a DC fan than Marvel. I will admit that somewhere among my stored collections of stuff, I do actually have a copy of Howard The Duck, issue number one.

Down to the wire for last episodes on a number of television series, too. While we are wired to the Internet for the delivery of some content (thanks to Hulu and Apple TV), I still don’t miss the greater part of all of the options. A vast wasteland indeed…

Ah, baseball… Going to plan for a few minor league games this summer. Have yet to visit Stockton’s Banner Island Ballpark and need to remedy that. Visits to Modesto and San Jose call as well for some class A ball. And Reno with the AAA Aces seems worth the adventure, with some fine Basque dining nearby at the Hotel Santa Fe.

Yes, sir… plenty of summer ahead and plenty of great opportunities waiting to be taken advantage of along the way.

Now just to get there all in one piece.

 

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