New streetcar crews unearth historic original streetcar lines

Crews working to install tracks for the new Milwaukee Streetcar dug up a piece of history this week: old rails from the original streetcar installed in the late 1800’s.

The historic relics were dug up along Broadway between Wisconsin and Michigan Avenues.

Rail Historian Chuck Demaske says back when the streetcars last rolled down the tracks in 1958 the city and rail operator fought over who should remove the rails. Expense was the main issue with one side saying it would cost close to $30,000 and the other $80,000.

“They compromised at about $54,000 a mile to take out the rail and eventually what happened is the transport company abandoned the lines,” Demaske said.

So the lines were paved over and now as city streets are completely reconstructed, or in this case dug up for the streetcar, the rails are showing up again. Downtown Alderman Bob Bauman, a supporter of the streetcar system, says it’s an example of “very old and very new simultaneously going in the same footprint.”

The Milwaukee Streetcar is on track to roll down city streets in 2018, almost exactly 60 years since the last train made its way through the Brew City. 

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