At the Hop

It has been 60 years now since Milwaukee had a streetcar line, but that will soon change as its new line, christened The Hop, is expected to begin operating this November. Milwaukee officials held an open house on June 8th at the new maintenance facility, where two new streetcars, built by Brookville Equipment Corporation were on display– and your roving reporter was there.

Ultimately, there will be five vehicles to start, and they are being delivered at the rate of about one per month. From the looks of things, it may be another month or so before testing begins along the line.

The day after the open house, we drove around, taking numerous pictures that we hope will gave you an idea of how track work is progressing. Not all portions of the route will use overhead wire, as modern streetcars have batteries too.

Finally, on Sunday the 10th, we journeyed to the East Troy Electric Railroad, where we were fortunate to ride Milwaukee streetcar #846 for the first time. While 60 years may separate the running of the old and the new, there’s nearly a century between lightweight “safety” car 846, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1920, and its modern equivalent.

That just goes to show how much our expectations of what a streetcar should be have changed and grown over the last 100 years. We expect better safety, performance, comfort, and accessibility than our grandparents and great-grandparents did.

When the new Milwaukee streetcar was first proposed, there were plenty of nay-sayers who thought it was a useless idea, didn’t go anywhere, was pointless, and that no one would ride it. But as the time draws near to actual operations, many of these same people have changed their tune. While modern streetcar lines may not work for all cities, or even some cities that have started them, I feel confidant that Milwaukee’s will be successful.

We hope these photos will give you the “flavor of the event.”

-David Sadowski

PS- Our congratulations go out to Russ Schultz, who has for some years been driving a bus for the Milwaukee public transit system. He will now cap off his career as one of The Hop’s new streetcar operators.

The East Troy Electric Railroad had a table at the open house.

The East Troy Electric Railroad had a table at the open house.

Part of the East Troy Electric Railroad display.

Part of the East Troy Electric Railroad display.

Part of the East Troy Electric Railroad display.

Part of the East Troy Electric Railroad display.

The idea behind Milwaukee's approximately two-mile-long first streetcar line is park your car, then hop on and off the streetcar as you make your way around the center city. Thanks to a generous donation from a local casino, fares will be free for the first year, and probably $1 after.

The idea behind Milwaukee’s approximately two-mile-long first streetcar line is park your car, then hop on and off the streetcar as you make your way around the center city. Thanks to a generous donation from a local casino, fares will be free for the first year, and probably $1 after.

The inspection pit.

The inspection pit.

It's not often you can get a close-up look at the pantograph on a streetcar. There were no wires in the maintenance facility, so in all likelihood, the cars will enter and leave by either using battery power, or being towed.

It’s not often you can get a close-up look at the pantograph on a streetcar. There were no wires in the maintenance facility, so in all likelihood, the cars will enter and leave by either using battery power, or being towed.

The new streetcar maintenance facility makes use of space underneath a highway.

The new streetcar maintenance facility makes use of space underneath a highway.

Local news reporters interviewing Alderman Bob Bauman, a strong streetcar supporter.

Local news reporters interviewing Alderman Bob Bauman, a strong streetcar supporter.

Free “hop corn.”

We shook Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman's hand and he graciously agreed to pose for pictures for us in front of one of the new streetcars.

We shook Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman’s hand and he graciously agreed to pose for pictures for us in front of one of the new streetcars.

The streetcar line makes a rather tight turn at this intersection.

The streetcar line makes a rather tight turn at this intersection.

This is the northern end of the line.

This is the northern end of the line.

There are various obstacles blocking parts of the line, enough to make me think that it could be a month or so before the streetcars are tested out on the streets.

There are various obstacles blocking parts of the line, enough to make me think that it could be a month or so before the streetcars are tested out on the streets.

Brick surrounds the tracks at this intersection.

Brick surrounds the tracks at this intersection.

Some work still needs to be done on the various safety islands along the line.

Some work still needs to be done on the various safety islands along the line.

This late 1950s Buick was new around the time streetcars last ran in Milwaukee.

This late 1950s Buick was new around the time streetcars last ran in Milwaukee.

Only eastbound car and truck traffic was allowed on this bridge over the Milwaukee River.

Only eastbound car and truck traffic was allowed on this bridge over the Milwaukee River.

The streetcar will serve Milwaukee's busy Public Market in the historic Third Ward.

The streetcar will serve Milwaukee’s busy Public Market in the historic Third Ward.

Cement work was still being done on the bridge approach.

Cement work was still being done on the bridge approach.

TMER&T 846 approaches the Elegant Farmer.

TMER&T 846 approaches the Elegant Farmer.

At the Elegant Farmer.

At the Elegant Farmer.

At the Elegant Farmer.

At the Elegant Farmer.

Rear taillights were being added to autos in the 1920s, so it should not be too surprising they began to appear on streetcars of the same era.

Rear taillights were being added to autos in the 1920s, so it should not be too surprising they began to appear on streetcars of the same era.

The former East Troy substation, now the museum's depot.

The former East Troy substation, now the museum’s depot.

At the East Troy depot.

At the East Troy depot.

Tributes.

Tributes.

Not sure if this sign is original to the trolley or was added in museum service.

Not sure if this sign is original to the trolley or was added in museum service.

Unloading at the Elegant Farmer in Muckwonago.

Unloading at the Elegant Farmer in Muckwonago.



Handouts from the Open House:

Chicago Trolleys

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

Check out our new book Chicago Trolleys. Signed copies are available through our Online Store.

This book makes an excellent gift and costs just $17.99 plus shipping. That’s $4.00 off the list price.

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13 thoughts on “At the Hop

  1. Photos of person labeled Mayor Tom Barrett were actually Alderman Bob Bauman, a strong supporter and driving force behind the new Milwaukee Streetcar.

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  2. Dave,

    Your comment “We expect better safety, performance, comfort, and accessibility than our grandparents and great-grandparents did.” We also expect a considerably high cost than our grand parents did. I am sure that in today’s dollars, TMER&L no. 846 cost a heck of a lot less than the new Brookville cars do. Of course, you could make the argument that the Brookville cars are really three cars. Is Milwaukee going to charge a fare to ride the new system? Kansas City is still operating their system with no fare. They are also in the process of considering an extension. Hopefully, the Milwaukee system will be as successful.

    Bill Barber
    Gravois Mills, MO

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    • My question would be what sort of patronage levels on the initial system would be required for adding extensions? And how do you measure usage without collecting fares?

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      • An extension to the lakefront, where the popular Summerfest music festival is held, is already planned to open next year. I would expect ridership can be determined even though fares will not be charged initially.

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  3. Now do not in any way take this a dismissing the new street car systems. It seems to me, though the Hop and Detroit;s J Line are both trying to reinvent the wheel. I hope it works. It may just be because I am old enough to remember street car systems in several cities, although my home (Grand Rapids) got rid of them seven years before I was born. I do want to ride one of these systems as they look great and I think will be very popular.

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  4. Superb coverage of the Open House and photographic coverage of the status of the line today. Once again Dave you’ve done an outstanding job of covering the new developments with The Hop. This is especially important because there has been very little coverage of The Hop in rail oriented publications of late.

    Jeff Wien

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  5. The sign in 846 “INFORMATION GIVEN GLADLY . . .” is original. I remember it well as a kid, and the motorman seldom minded when I stood next to him on his left side so long as I let him do his job. I have one of those signs in my collection . . .

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  6. My only response is “Let’s go to the Hop.” I am looking forward to visiting the Cream City when I travel to meet family later this year.

    I just got back home from riding a chartered 1912-built streetcar in San Francisco which has had streetcars continually since 1860. Unfortunately both Milwaukee and Chicago threw away their streetcars 60 years ago and I hope this new line is successful.

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  7. I’m in favor of light rail, but NOT streetcars. I know there is some overlap between the two, but I’m talking about rail rapid transit with its own private right of way separate from city streets and with the capability to operate multiple unit trains. I just don’t see how individual streetcars running down city streets and subject to delays from traffic jams, accidents, construction, or fires would have any advantage over buses. At least the buses can detour around those. I cannot understand the perception that street rail transit is necessarily faster and more reliable than buses.

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    • Modern streetcars operating on well maintained rail are considered by many transit users as a superior ride as to the best ride provided by any of the newest buses. Buses most certainly have their place and will continue to do so in the future but streetcars holding down a system’s transport needs are arguably the gold standard of preference on heavily used trunk routes.

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