Charlotte Trolley Begins Running on Norfolk Southern Track
August 29, 1996
It began in the early 1990s with an unlikely coalition of rail buffs, historic preservationists, and developers.
The last streetcar had run in Charlotte in 1938, but this resourceful and persistent group believed a trolley line could help redevelop an old industrial area along South Boulevard, called South End.
Trolley supporters acquired and restored a couple of old streetcars, established a car barn at Atherton Mill, and began demonstration rides that ran a few hundred feet from the barn to Tremont Avenue.
Despite growing support, the project ran into a dead end. Unless the trolley could expand onto the Norfolk Southern tracks, the project could never become more than a curiosity for history buffs.
In the summer of 1996, after months of intensive negotiations, Norfolk Southern agreed to let the streetcars run on its tracks from Tremont Avenue to Stonewall Street.
The streetcars started running on August 29, 1996 and the rest, as they say, is history. Charlotte Trolley has become an economic catalyst and nostalgic tourist attraction, as well as a way to connect the downtown cultural and business districts with the restaurants, entertainment, and new residential areas in South End.
Joe Goodpasture chronicles Charlotte history for this magazine. He served on the board of Charlotte Trolley during its formative years.