Back on February 10th, San Diego Historic Streetcars, Inc. president Christian Chaffee took a trip out to Tampa, Florida to get an up close look at the wildly successful TECO historic streetcar line. As one of our organization’s primary inspirations and models for development, the TECO line holds a special place in our hearts, so this was an especially exciting visit for Mr. Chaffee.
First stop was the central TECO maintenance yard where Christian met with Joseph Delgado, Streetcar Maintenance Supervisor for Tampa Historic Streetcar, Inc, and a streetcar mechanic who went by “K.B.”. These two gentlemen provided a thorough tour of the facilities and shared some interesting tidbits on the task of maintaining a historic streetcar line. The 11th Street car barn was an impressive sight, full of beautiful old style streetcar replicas made in the image of an antique Birney car. Mechanics were performing regular upkeep on the vehicles and K.B. was in the process of working on a set of antique 1920’s era trucks, which was his maintenance specialty.
Joe walked Mr. Chaffee through some of the streetcars, drawing attention to the beautiful oak woodwork and the distinct character of the cars. They discussed not only the artistic quality of the cars, but also how the system had spurred growth and development, notably improving the neighborhoods that the Tampa streetcar runs through. They even went out to look at the Birney streetcar that the system is modeled after. That restored original also runs on the TECO line for holidays and special events, providing a window into the charm of a time long since past. A little later, Mr. Chaffee took the opportunity to ride on one of the streetcars and chatted with the motorman, who spoke fondly of his job and the popularity of the line.
After returning from Tampa and having been reminded of how many benefits a streetcar project could provide to our urban neighborhoods, Christian spoke to me with a renewed excitement. As we move forward, the TECO streetcar line remains an important inspiration for our organization and represents the kind of success we aim to bring to the streets of San Diego.