St. Louis, a hotbed of traction until after World War II, has again become a center of electric railway activity. Missouri is the “Show Me” state, and many of its residents doubted that modern light rail could be successful. But MetroLink has proved all of the nay-sayers wrong. With the opening of the first segment of the system in 1993, passengers began flocking back to mass transit, and now the system covers 46 miles, connecting Lambert Airport in St. Louis with downtown, and then operating interurban-style through the Illinois cornfields to Belleville and Shiloh. The new Shrewsbury line, opened just last year, became an immediate success.
A Day Ticket, valid for unlimited use on MetroLink from Friday, August 31 through Monday, September 3, will be sent to all those participating in our Sunday activities. This will allow convention goers to travel free of charge from the airport or railroad station upon their arrival in St. Louis, and will be usable for riding light rail trains at any time during our stay. The cost of this “ride-at-will” ticket will be included in the payment for our Sunday excursion and will be sent with convention tickets.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown St. Louis, at 200 North 4th Street, will be our convention headquarters. It is only a short walk from the 8th & Pine station of MetroLink, and convention participants can reach it easily from both Lambert Field and the Amtrak station. This full-service hotel offers such amenities as a gym and outdoor swimming pool. Our annual movie/slideshow and banquet will be held at the Crowne Plaza.
This two-day convention add-on will cover the heritage streetcar systems in Memphis, Tenn. and Little Rock, Ark. Memphis has three streetcar lines with five different types of cars, while Little Rock has a fleet of five Gomaco-built replica Birneys. Our chartered motorcoach will take us to Little Rock on Wednesday morning and later in the day return us to Little Rock Airport, Memphis (for those desiring train connections) and St. Louis.
Our hotel will be the Comfort Inn in downtown Memphis. Overlooking the Riverfront streetcar line, the hotel contains a rooftop swimming pool and fitness center. A free deluxe continental breakfast on the mornings of September 4 and 5 will be included.
Our convention begins at 7 PM at the Crowne Plaza with an opportunity to meet local traction fans. At 7:30 Dave Young will present a slideshow featuring the bygone days of street railways in our nation’s heartland at our Annual Movie/Slideshow. Dave is the dean of Missouri’s streetcar historians, and author of the definitive histories of traction in St. Louis, as well as the recently published When Missouri Took the Trolley, which will be available for sale.
Today will be a very busy day, as we will have to travel quite a distance to get to the Midwest Electric Railway in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Our chartered motorcoaches will leave the hotel at 7 AM sharp. Our destination is the Old Threshers Reunion where a fleet of streetcars and interurbans operate continuously over a loop connecting the RV parking area with the fairgrounds. Admission is included. There will be ample opportunity for lunch at this huge gathering, and participants can ride and photograph the steam-operated trains of the Midwest Central Railroad. In addition, there will be demonstrations of old-time steam-powered farm equipment. We will break up the return trip to St. Louis by stopping for a full sit-down dinner.
The MetroLink light rail system is the subject of today’s activities, with a Shop Tour, Interurban Trip and More. In addition to riding LRVs out to Shiloh and Shrewsbury, we will tour MetroLink’s carhouse, maintenance facility and Operations Control Center. After an interurban trip through the western Illinois prairie, the afternoon will be available for touring more of the light rail system, using the unlimited-ride day tickets provided. Our shop tour will leave from Grand station at 9:30 AM, connecting with the westbound MetroLink train leaving from 8th & Pine at 9:16 AM
ERA’s Annual Banquet will be held in a private room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. An hour-long informal reception and cash bar begins at 7:00 PM, and dinner follows promptly at 8:00. Our guest speaker will be Mark Goldfeder, president of the St. Louis Railway Enthusiasts, and a traction historian of substantial esteem. His slide program will cover the large street railway systems of St. Louis, including the Illinois Terminal and the Waterworks Railway.
Our chartered motorcoaches will leave from the hotel at 10:55 AM and after a stop for lunch, take us to the Museum of Transport and its operating streetcar line. The museum’s entire fleet will be up and running for us. Among the cars are former St. Louis Waterworks No. 10 (1914), col-sm-6-SEPTA PCC 2740, and former CTA PCC “L” car 44. The Trolley Barn will be open for the afternoon, allowing participants a rare opportunity to inspect the remainder of the organization’s streetcar collection, which is undergoing preservation at this site. The museum’s massive collection of mainline railroad motive power, including steam, diesel and electric locomotives and railcars will also on display. Included is the only remaining Milwaukee Road Bipolar Electric.
At the conclusion of our museum visit, one motorcoach will head south carrying those participating in our add-on excursion to Memphis and Little Rock. There will be a dinner stop en route. The other motorcoach will carry the remainder of our group to the airport where they can connect with their airlines. The motorcoach will then continue to the Crowne Plaza for its final stop. Arrival time at Lambert Airport will be 4:00 PM.
At 9:00 AM we will gather at the Main Street/Jefferson Avenue stop (southbound) for our charter trip on the MATA (Memphis Area Transportation Authority) trolley. Our heritage streetcar will take us out on MATA’s newest line, Madison Avenue, and then carry us to the system’s maintenance facility and carhouse for a Shop Tour. We will then continue aboard different equipment for a circle trip on the Riverfront line. The remainder of the day will be free for participants to ride using their Day Ticket. With each of the three lines running on a 10-minute headway, there will be plenty of opportunities for more photographs. Participants can also ride the Memphis Suspension Railway to Mud Island River Park (extra fare) in the middle of the Mississippi River, or see the ducks swimming at the Peabody Hotel. On Tuesday evening participants will be on their own for dinner. Among the options in the Birthplace of the Blues and the Home of the King (Elvis) will be sampling Memphis-style barbecue and listening to blues or rock-and-roll along Beale Street. Participants can reach most of the restaurants and clubs via a short streetcar ride.
Our chartered motorcoach will leave Memphis at 8:55 AM and take us to Little Rock, a two-hour journey. We have our own chartered car to cover the CAT (Central Arkansas Transit Authority) River Rail system, including the recently-opened extension to the Clinton Library. Each participant will be given an unlimited-ride day ticket to enjoy the Gomaco-built Birney replicas on the two-line heritage system that crosses the Arkansas River to connect Little Rock and North Little Rock.
For flexibility, we offer participants the opportunity to leave the trip in Little Rock, Memphis or St. Louis. Our chartered motorcoach will pick up the group at 3:30 PM and travel to the Little Rock airport first. It will continue from there back to the Comfort Inn in downtown Memphis (two hours) and then return to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown St. Louis (a little over four more hours).