The Redlands Trolley is no longer running 

The Rebirth of the Redlands Trolley

103 years after Mr. Henry Fisher started the Redlands Railway and exactly one century away from the two other lines in Redlands, it returned.

Of-course there were some differences. No tracks, bells or overhead power lines. The new Redlands Trolley had bus-like inflatable rubber tires, and wasn’t restricted to the permanent tracks of a hundred years ago. But the really big difference was that they were powered by compressed natural gas, a clean burning fuel, unlike diesel or gasoline. They were probably even cleaner than the old methane producing horses, and a lot easier to pick up after!

Gary George, city councilman has spearheaded the project. At the “State of the City Luncheon on July 2nd, George proudly announced the September 2nd inaugural run. “We wanted to get the old giant busses of the street, they really don’t fit in our community,” said George.

While busses have been a part of Redlands transportation for years, the old streetcars also had nearly a 40-year run, and is a large part of the history of this fair city.

In 1890’s H.H. Sinclair secured financing from Henry Fisher, both of Redlands to start the Redlands Electric. Together they spearheaded the Mill Creek No. 1, three phase generating plant. This new type of generator had never been attempted before. The primary reason the three-phase generator was necessary, was because a potential customer, the Mentone Ice house, needed better control of their motors. They engaged, a Mr. Decker, a brilliant young engineer who had been working in the Inland Empire on electric projects for Claremont.

Decker designed a new type of generator, which would produce three-phase electricity, which had several qualities that single-phase electricity lacked. Westinghouse turned the contract down, staying that is was impractical, but newly created General Electric believed that it could be built and upon its completion and installation, the Redlands Light and Power company made history by creating the virtual world standard for commercial power systems world wide. The company H. H. Sinclair and Henry Fisher created, would later be merged with a company that became Southern California Edison Electric!

With power assured, Fisher started the Redlands Street Railway Company in 1899, (100 years before!). Two additional lines were started in 1903, The Redlands Central Railway and the San Bernardino Valley Traction Company. These lines were eventually consolidated into other Southern California system owned by Henry Huntington, the Pacific Railway.

The Streetcars of Redlands played a part of its tourism age. Redlands was already a famous town, due mostly because of the high visibility of Canyon Crest (Smiley Heights). For tourists of a century ago, Canyon Crest was a must see destination location much the way Disneyland is today. (I have heard it said that the percentage of tourists who came to Canyon Crest was higher than the percentage of tourists to Disneyland today!) As many as one hundred tourists per day would disembark at the train station in downtown Redlands. They would head down Orange to the “triangle.” The triangle was at Citrus and Orange streets. It can still be recognized today, at the corner in front of the Verizon phone building. This was the locus of activity for the Trolleys in town. The Highland Line went up Cajon to Cypress and on to the Canyon Crest Park entrance. Here private horse drawn Surreys would then drive the park to partake of vegetation unknown to most visitors resident states, and a spectacular 360 degree view of the San Temeteo and San Bernardino Valleys and mountains beyond.

The automobile which was adopted very early in Redlands do to the wealth of many of the residents, eventually reduced the demand for public transportation and the last trolley ceased service in 1936.

Certainly the new Redlands Trolley faces new challenges, its innovation in fuel, does not mean people will ride it. Ironically today many need a lift from their car’s parking lot, to their work or shopping because of too many cars! Weather the new Trolley will be a long or short chapter in our history remains to bee seen, but hats off to Gary George and the city council for trying to help clean the air and give us a look back to the cities golden area.

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