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Raleigh trolley tracks reappear in roundabout way

Posted January 7, 2010

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— A project for Raleigh's future has uncovered a glimpse into the city's past.

Crews installing a sewer line beneath a new traffic circle at the intersection of Hillsborough and Morgan streets recently unearthed streetcar tracks that date to 1891.

Old Raleigh streetcar Traffic project unearths piece of Raleigh's past

Karl Larson, a graphic designer at North Carolina State University and a self-proclaimed expert on Raleigh's streetcar system, said electric trolleys used to fan out in various directions from the State Capitol.

"The tracks were extended to what was called suburbs. Of course, N.C. State was a suburb back then," Larson said. "One line came all the way out to the fairgrounds to bring passengers out."

A century ago, he noted, the State Fairgrounds were across Hillsborough Street from where the D.H. Hill Library now sits on the N.C. State campus.

"Another line went all the way out to what is now the Carolina Country Club," he said.

Carolina Power & Light, the forerunner of Progress Energy, operated the streetcar system, which was phased out in 1933 as automobiles became the preferred mode of transportation around Raleigh, Larson said.

"The streetcars were scrapped. The tracks were left in place," he said.

The city eventually paved over the tracks and forgot they were there until the recent discovery.

Ken Dunn, an engineer for the city, said officials are working to take up some of the tracks and preserve them, possibly moving them to an area museum or incorporating them into other projects around Raleigh.

"There's a desire to hold on to those tracks and hold on to that history," Dunn said.

He said the preservation effort will likely add $20,000 to $30,000 to the cost of building the roundabout, which is among several traffic circles planned to improve traffic flow on Hillsborough Street. It also will delay completing the project by a few weeks, he said, adding that it still should be finished by late summer.

8 Comments

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  • shortcake53 Jan 8, 5:43 p.m.

    I would love to know what else has been covered up by "progress" over the years. This facinates me.

  • fkhaywood Jan 8, 5:03 p.m.

    A lot of the old trolley car tracks were unearthed during the construction of the Fayetteville Street Mall in 1975-1976. As an engineer with CP & L, now Progress Energy on this project, I personally saw them.

  • Shadow213 Jan 8, 3:29 p.m.

    clever title with the whole "roundabout" reference. and i think it'd be cool to have a trolley system again

  • littledrumboy Jan 8, 1:15 p.m.

    So why was Goodnight Raleigh not even mentioned in this article since that is where the story pretty much originally came from?

  • White Eagle Jan 8, 10:04 a.m.

    We ought to bring back the trolley. It would be quaint and reduce traffic.

  • mdaphoto Jan 8, 8:50 a.m.

    they need to hire a crack head to get those tracks out of there, i know one of them could salvage the rails for a lot less than $20,000 or $30.000.

  • funstuffhere Jan 7, 7:43 p.m.

    A lot of the downtown rails were taken up during World War II and donated to the "scrap drives" as part of the home-front support for the war effort. As well as a gazillion pots and pans from homes in the area.

  • AndrewB Jan 7, 7:40 p.m.

    Another interesting fact: auto manufacturers gave cities deep discounts on busses in order to help undermine public rail transport in the teens and twenties. Were it not for that, we might still have rail networks today.