Construction crews working on relocating underground utility pipelines in Fresno’s Chinatown district for California’s high-speed train project unearthed remnants of a decidedly slower transportation mode when they began digging on F Street this week.
As a backhoe dug into the asphalt pavement between Tulare and Kern street, it ran into old railroad ties from a portion of Fresno’s old network of streetcar or trolley lines — a system that once criscrossed the city and carried tens of thousands of riders. Several different companies operated trolleys on Fresno’s streets for 50 years starting in 1889. In the early days, the streetcars were pulled by mules or horses. But by 1901, the first franchise was awarded for electric streetcars.
At its peak, Fresno had almost 200 miles of tracks across the city before the last of the trolley lines was converted to bus service in 1939.
Workers wore protective gear as they picked up pieces of the ties to guard against potential contamination from chemicals used to preserve the wood.