A streetcar's main desire - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

A streetcar's main desire

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Christian Chaffee is a man on a mission, a mission that was started by John D. Spreckles back in 1915.

For the past 14 years, Chris has been the caretaker of three remaining historic streetcars that were once the core of our transportation system. They ran until 1939.

"They were basically retired to cut costs and save a few pennies," Chris said. "The only reason these three survived is because these three were purchased by a couple who lived in them for 57 years."

These days, Christian and his cadre of craftsmen and women are restoring the cars.

"We've preserved the original fabric, in every case we've only added to it to bring it back to what it used to be," Chris said.

The crew is pimping the streetcar for an appearance at the Del Mar Antique Show this weekend, but Chris has much bigger, longer-range plans.

"I want to see a historic streetcar system reconnecting downtown with Balboa park and with all the outlying areas around Balboa Park," he said.

He claims that streetcars can do for San Diego what cable cars did for San Francisco.

"This structural form allows for carrying up to 100 people. These were designed for fast load and fast unload," he said.

Chris sees them as a practical blast from the past.

"These will get more people moved than any other kind of streetcar available to San Diego right now," he said.

He'd like to see Spreckles' streetcars up and running by 2015, the centennial of the Panama-California Exposition.

"These streetcars will turn every district they travel in into a national historic streetcar district," he said.

Is this a trolley folly, or an idea whose time has come again? We'll be tracking this story and let you know.

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