Old Renton Trolley Line along the shore of Lake Washington, ca 1909
The postcard featured has the official logo of the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition that was held in Seattle and it shows part of the trolley line that ran from Renton south of Seattle to the city along the shore of Lake Washington. It was a scenic ride that was often used by tourists. The card is somewhat damaged as evidenced by the tear at the lower center. An identifying number of 529 can be found on the back with the publisher listed as Hopf Bros. Co., Importers, Seattle, Washington and printed in Germany. It has a divided back and a short information statement about the picture.
In the late 1800s Seattle promoted the development of streetcar lines and by 1891 the Seattle Renton & Southern Railway had built this first true interurban. It ran from the largely agricultural Rainier Valley to Seattle. In 1912 the company declared bankruptcy, was reorganized and the name was changed to the Seattle & Rainier Valley Railway (S&RV).
Initially the company refused to let the city pave the space between the tracks and created what locals labeled a “thoroughfare of death” as people tried to cross the central rails. The City Council refused to renew the franchise in 1934 and two years later ordered the S&RV to rip up the lines. The rails were eventually removed and paved over when Rainier Avenue South was resurfaced and widened for automobiles. Unfortunately the line also had safety and financial problems due mostly to poor management that contributed to the revoking of the franchise.
A couple of trivia notes about the rail/streetcar line includes the statement that one the worst accidents occurred in 1909 or about the time this postcard was issued. Not too much later when zoned fares were suggested there was a passenger riot. In 1911 voters reluctantly approved a bond to purchase the line and put it under City management. The owners then raised the asking price so the City refused to pay. The bond funds were used in 1914 to create a city-owned streetcar line to Ballard instead. There were numerous independent streetcar lines by that time and Seattle took over operations from all the remaining companies. The last run of the Renton line was on the morning of January 1, 1937. Doesn’t look like “light rail” has changed much in 100 years, does it?
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