Monday, April 18, 2011

Ellicott City No. 9 Streetcar

The number 9 streetcar which turned around in Ellicott City, MD has a long history with great, big expectations that were never met. From what I have briefly read, there were plans to connect the line with Washington, D.C. But the top of the hill in Ellicott City was the end of the line for old number 9. The turnaround here in my painting was located on Main Street next to the old fire station on the corner of what is now called Ellicott Mills Drive. At the end of its life there was but one car on the line which outbound riders boarded near the Catonsville Junction on Edmondson Avenue. If you were heading home from downtown you had to transfer from the Number 8 or 14 and wait for the one and only car to return through the woods of Oella. Riders talk about standing in the cold at night waiting for the car. In winter when the trees were bare they could see the one headlight on the car as it slowly zigzagged toward them from miles away. Every night after the car finished its daily service the operator had to securely lock the car to the tracks. This was to prevent energetic teenagers from taking it on joy rides as they had in the past. Now I do not condone this sort of behavior but what a wild ride that must have been for the teens....operating a streetcar minus the supervision of adults. It might be like your very own amusement park ride....but as I said not a good use of Baltimore Transit Company property.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

DC Transit - PCC Streetcars

For almost 100 years the District of Columbia, our nation’s capital, had a very successful streetcar line. The early cars were pulled on rails by horses until the introduction of electric streetcars at a later date. It was a first class operation with a large rolling stock of magnificently maintained PCC cars. I remember my father marveling about DC’s wonderful underground conduit collection (power source for the cars) which meant that the overhead wires were not necessary in the busiest parts of the city. The power was changed to overhead wires farther from the center of town. So when the trolley went out to Glen Echo Amusement Park for example the over head wires were called into service. That meant that the trolley pole was raised to meet the wires suspended from poles on the streets. It was an amazing sight to watch the switch.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Elmer's Musical Bar- Pratt St. Baltimore

On Sunday after mass, followed by supper at grandmother’s house, my father used to drive his family around Baltimore city. One place that I always requested to drive by was Elmer’s Musical Bar at Pratt and Light Streets. Looking past the occasional boxcar sitting in the middle of Pratt Street, one could see motorcycles crowding the parking lot. It looked very exciting but I was warned that it was a very rough waterfront "joint." How rough? Well someone told me that the bands had to play behind a chicken wire cage to avoid being beaned on the head by flying beer bottles. Another man told me that patrons would ride their motorcycles right inside the bar on rainy days. Everyone agrees that the music was exceptional. Probably the draw for such a crazy mix of Baltimore males was the terrific musical venue that was open on Sundays--uncommon in those days. I don’t know if women ever ventured inside Elmer’s. For sure there was no “ladies’ entrance.”