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Rainier Valley's First Street Cars

The upper, 1891 photo was taken in Columbia City, the year the first lots were

sold there and a year after the streetcar line was put in. The location was on Ferdinand Street looking east across Rainier Avenue. It shows two of the first streetcars of the Rainier Avenue Electric Railway Company standing on passing tracks. Most of the streetcar line, however, was a single track through the wilderness. Some of the tracks were laid on a trestle over the swampy areas, particularly Wetmore Slough that started at Alaska Street and went north almost to Franklin High. When Lake Washington was lowered 9 feet in 1917 the swamp mostly dried out.

Rainier Avenue was built later and was a two-lane dirt road beside the tracks.

Because of the mud it was “paved” with wood planks laid crossways the entire length of the valley. With more people coming into Rainier Valley a two lane road was added on each side of the tracks and was paved with paving bricks from the “Denny Renton” brickyard in Renton.

Note the car on the left is an open-ended car that could be quite miserable for the

motorman in our wet northwest winter weather. However pioneer motorman Will Brown stated in a newspaper interview that it had its advantages. He took his shotgun along on his runs through the uninhabited woods and meadows that were in abundance at that time in Rainier Valley and occasionally bagged a bird or two for dinner.

When firewood was needed on cold winter days for the streetcar’s pot bellied

stove the motorman would stop in a wooded area and the passengers would all get off and help to gather wood along the tracks. The fare was 4 cents from the foot of the Washington Street counter balance in downtown Seattle to Columbia Station and an additional 5 cents to Rainier Beach Station.

The lower photo shows car number 104, a steel streetcar with a center door that

was built by the Moran Shipbuilding Company here in Seattle. This photo was taken in 1915, 24 years later than the one above. The men standing in front of the car were the same crew and others that were in the photo of 1891. The man with a newspaper in his hand at the left is Dr. Snyder. He was the newsboy in the 1891 photo. This photo was taken from almost the same location as the 1891 photo. The building at the far left, with an awning is currently the Rainier Office Supply Co.


Days Gone By

South District Journal 10/7/1998

By Buzz Anderson


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