Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Sacramento's Streetcar Suburbs, Part 4: East Sacramento and Elmhurst

The above map, from about 1900, shows the Sacramento Electric, Gas & Railway Company system in Sacramento. Most of the streetcar lines stuck fairly close to the central city's grid, but there were several satellite lines that diverged from the main line.

The original line was the old Highland Park Railway line, which traveled through Highland Park (now part of Curtis Park) and Oak Park. This line was extended when the State Fairgrounds moved to Stockton and Broadway: the State Fair streetcar line can be seen in the lower right corner of the map.

The line on the upper right was an extension of the J Street line, extending into newly developing neighborhoods in East Sacramento. At this time, the area was not yet part of the city of Sacramento, but still in the unincorporated county. This area, originally farmland, was subdivided into tract homes by Wright & Kimbrough. The line started at the Southern Pacific station at Second and H and traveled all the way through the business district on J Street, through midtown, and out into the new suburbs. The line turned south on 46th Street and ran all the way through the East Lawn Cemetery.

A word on cemeteries: Cemeteries were an important streetcar destination. Even during the horsecar era, a car line ran to the Old City Cemetery at Tenth and Y Street, and the original J Street line was convenient for the old New Helvetia cemetery at 31st and J. The Highland Park line ran down Twenty-first Street past the Catholic cemetery behind Christian Brothers school on 21st south of Y. Some streetcar and interurban lines, like the Pacific Electric, actually had special "funeral cars" like the PE's Descano with open spaces for a coffin, but so far as I can tell no such equivalent existed in Sacramento. Streetcars could be chartered to carry groups of mourners to cemeteries.

Eventually, the J Street line was renamed the "E-L" line, and later the #3 line. It was extended south down 46th Street, south across the Southern Pacific mainline at 46th and R, and did a brief "dog leg" on T Street, coming to a terminus at 48th and V Streets. This extension served two purposes: it provided streetcar service to the back entrance to the State Fairgrounds, and it also served the new suburb of Elmhurst. There were plans to construct a streetcar line to connect the E-L line to the terminus of the T Street line at 28th and T. The line was registered with the state as the "Elmhurst Railway" and in 1910 a ground-breaking ceremony in Elmhurst was held, but for some reason (and believe me, I'd love to know why) the line was never constructed. The large parkway down the center of T Street, from about 39th Street to 48th, was probably originally intended as the right-of-way for the streetcar line that was never built.

Next time: The Land Park streetcar line.


Anonymous said...

When they were doing work on J Street a couple years ago (around J and 33rd), they uncovered the old railcar lines. I don't think they took them out because for a while you could see them passing over the big hole in the ground.

wburg said...

A lot of the old streetcar lines were simply paved over. Some were dug up for the scrap value of the metal, especially during the war, but much of it is still in there. When RT was running the LRV line up Seventh Street, there was buried rail from the old McKinley Park line still in the street. The rails were taken up already on 8th Street, but the ties were still in the ground.

Tracy D. said...

Hi William, I know this post is "aging" but I'm researching a house near Alhambra (31st) and I Street and I'm wondering... would that have been served by the J Street Line streetcar? The house was built in 1930. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I was driving home to 55th Street, and took the scenic route along 46th Street between Folsom and J Street in the rain a couple of days ago. Particularly between M and J, I noticed distinct cracks in the pavement, running parallel to the direction of the street, made prominent by streaks of asphalt patch being wet from the rain. I remembered reading somewhere that the streetcar once ran through East Sac along J, and then turned south somewhere in the Fab Forties. As I approached the stop sign, the crack lines actually curved in the direction of westbound J, disappearing under a more recently paved J Street. Pretty cool.

tomg said...

Does anyone know about a golf course in the Wright Kimbrough tract, which supposedly had its entrance at 44th and J streets, in the middle of the row of palm trees that run from 43re to 45th/