Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Streetcars Of Arkansas

Central Arkansas Transit; June 17, 2014
We're continuing our two-week foray into the upper midwest, turning back east from the National Railway Historical Society convention in Springdale, Ark. So far we have ridden a photo freight charter on the Arkansas & Missouri, visited tourist railroads in the Ozarks, chased the Amtrak display train behind A&M Alco diesels, and headed south along the Kansas City Southern in three states. We are now in Little Rock, Ark., home to the decade-old River Rail Streetcar of Central Arkansas Transit.
Central Arkansas Transit; Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
The River Rail Streetcar opened in November 2014 and operates 3.4 miles of track in Little Rock and North Little Rock. The original line operated 2.5 miles between the downtowns of the two cities. In 2006 an extension was opened to the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. Three replica trolleys were used when the line initially opened and two more were added with the extension. The cars, built by Gomaco Trolley Company, resemble the Birney cars that operated in Little Rock (which previously had electric streetcar service between 1891 and 1947); the original Birneys were numbered 400-407 and the five replicas continue that series, numbered 408-412.
Central Arkansas Transit; Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
The line is broken down into two "routes," the Green Line and the Blue Line. The Green Line operates a loop through downtown, and continues on to the Clinton Library (except in the evening). The Blue Line covers the exact same loop downtown, but also crosses the Arkansas River to make a loop in North Little Rock; it also goes to the Clinton Library during the day. This two-route system means that North Little Rock only gets half the service that Little Rock gets. All the above photos were taken on the primary loop in downtown Little Rock. The photo below takes us out near the Clinton Library.
Central Arkansas Transit; Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
All trackage is one-directional, running clockwise in Little Rock and counter-clockwise in North Little Rock. The Clinton Library extension is double-track with rail on both sides of the street. The exception to one-directional running is the bridge over the Arkansas River, where both northbound and southbound cars share a single track.
Central Arkansas Transit; Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
North Little Rock has a picturesque downtown, and the system's car barn is located here.
Central Arkansas Transit; North Little Rock, Ark.; June 17, 2014
Fort Smith Trolley Museum; Fort Smith, Ark.; June 12, 2014
This concludes our look at the River Rail Streetcar, but while we're on the subject of Arkansas streetcars let's backtrack to the other operation in the state, the Fort Smith Trolley. While River Rail serves as a means of transportation to tourists and residents, the Fort Smith Trolley is primarily a tourist ride. This is part of the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, and the trolley ride was inaugurated in 1991 on a quarter mile of track. Subsequent extensions now gives the line a distance of about 3,000 feet.

The car in use in Fort Smith is an actual Birney car (unlike Little Rock's replicas), built in 1926. It served Fort Smith in regular service until streetcar service was discontinued in 1933. Several more streetcars (including a couple of Little Rock Birneys that are being combined into one operable car) are undergoing restoration. Much of the collection is native to Fort Smith.

The museum also owns three locomotives of various types, the most notable being Frisco 2-8-2 No. 4003.

More photos of the River Rail Streetcar in Little Rock can be found here. More photos of the Fort Smith Trolley (and the NRHS convention train that went there on the Arkansas & Missouri) can be found here.
Fort Smith Trolley Museum; Fort Smith, Ark.; June 12, 2014

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