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Street Car #21

Title for photo: Car #201 (or #21) of the Seattle & Renton Railway Co. at the site of the original car barns alongside of Rainier Avenue between Hudson Street and 39th Avenue. | RVHS Photo #93.1.204

There is some question as to the correct number of the streetcar shown in this photo from the archives of our Rainier Valley Historical Society. On the back of the original photo the car is referred to as #21. In some newspaper articles about the car, it was referred to as #201. Whatever the number, it is of special interest to us as it was made in the car barns in Columbia about 1896, by Louis Hipkins, blacksmith and master mechanic for the street car line. He was known as Pa Hip by his friends.

The name of the line at that time was “Seattle & Renton Railway Co.” as printed on the side of the car. On the top of the car however are the names “Seattle Columbia & Renton” which indicates the route covered by the line. That could have been one of the names of the car line also as the company was continually changing ownership and renaming the company during its 46 year history.

This car was originally a Port Townsend street car, purchased by the Rainier Valley Line, and rebuilt by Mr Hipkins. He used a 36ft long flat car to put the old car body on making it twice as long as it was originally. That gave the riders the unusual choice of indoor or outdoor seating.

Pa Hip was a vital part of the Seattle area’s transportation system for fifty years. When Frank Osgood’s horse cars were converted to that new-fangled electricity in 1888-89, Hipkin’s hammer helped rush through the transformation within five months. Later when Osgood purchased the Rainier Valley line in 1896, he wanted the master craftsman of the forge with him. 

Osgood sold the line after a few years and was the only owner of the company, over the 46 years it existed, that made any money on his investment. Hipkins stayed on with the Rainier Valley line until 1937 when the busses took over and the streetcars were cut up for scrap. Most of the motormen were retrained to operate the buses. Pa Hip retired.

“I guess that makes me the oldest in point of service,” Hipkins told a Post-Intelligencer reporter in 1937. “I remember the open cars. You published a picture once, of old #201. That was the first of its type -- closed. I worked hard on that car.”

Hipkins pulled out an aged copy of a newspaper to show the reporter. “Say, I wonder if you ever heard about the big robbery we had -- back in the Spanish War days? Your paper had a story about it. ….Plenty of excitement, that caused.”

Under a story of Dewey’s victory at Manila is the headline, “BOLD STREETCAR HOLDUP,” and the story of three daring bandits who not only robbed passengers and crew of Car #13 of $150 in cash, plus several watches, but so delayed the car that before it could reach Seattle the power had been shut off for the night and the victims were marooned until morning.

Days Gone By 

South District Journal 5/17/2000

By Buzz Anderson


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