HISTORY HERE AND NOW Aug. 14, 2009
Trolley cars traversed the streets of early GJ
At one time in Grand Junction, you could hear the clang of a trolley car and the ding of a bell just like you could in San Francisco.
In 1890, trolley cars pulled by horses were a great mode of transportation in this young city, but horses soon were replaced by electrical power. The first electrical power generated in Grand Junction went to the trolleys.
By 1909, trolleys were taking passengers back and forth between Fruita and Grand Junction, and several lines crisscrossed the city. Plans to extend the line to Orchard Mesa never materialized.
The route for the trolley system within the city limits ran east on Main Street to 12th, north on 12th Street to Gunnison, then west to Fourth Street. Those streets were similar to the city limits boundaries in the late 1920s.
The line ran north on 10th Street from Main to Gunnison to provide a turnaround loop at the eastern end of the system.
A section of the line also ran south on Fourth Street to South Avenue, where it continued west to the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad depot, then north again on Second Street to Main.
The interurban section of the line ran north on 12th Street to approximately Patterson Road, then north and west in a series of jigs all the way to Fruita.
The passenger terminal was at the Electric Building at Third and Main streets.
When the line was put in, dirt roads connected Grand Junction and Fruita. In the winter or when it was raining, they became impassable.
The street railway system operated until 1928 when it was replaced by a bus system. The interurban section continued operations until 1935.
It was reported in The Daily Sentinel that just before World War II, Japan wanted to buy all the old rails that were laid in the street, but the rails were so imbedded in concrete it would have destroyed the streets to pull them up.
Rails are still visible at the northwest corner of Fourth Street and South Avenue.
The power for the interurban and streetcar line was supplied through two direct current converters — one in Grand Junction and the other in Fruita.
During fruit harvest, the interurban was used to haul fruit from the Fruita and Appleton areas to the railroad yard for shipment to other markets.
The interurban also was used to haul sugar beets to the sugar beet factory at the end of 12th Street.
The fare was a nickel, or passengers could use tokens. By the way, if you have some in your change drawer, I am sure they are worth more than a nickel today.
At 12th and Main Streets, a line extended south to the trolley barn, which was in the middle of the 1100 block of Pitkin Avenue near the railroad tracks. The barn had four huge doors that admitted the streetcars and interurban motor cars to the barn at night.
Public Service Co. of Colorado purchased the interurban line from Grand River Valley Road Co. in 1926. In 1963, the trolley was scrapped to make way for a storage area. But the metal skeleton for the trolley barn didn’t end up at the salvage yard. The metal frame was reconstructed on West Independent Avenue and now houses Footprints Animal Hospital.
Just think — if the trolley cars had survived, Grand Junction possibly could have the tourist draw of the streetcars just like San Francisco.
Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel and involved in many preservation efforts, including the Avalon Theatre, the railroad depot and the North Seventh Street Historic Residential District.
A history question ringing your bell? E-mail kjtj1@