Right side of the tracks - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Right side of the tracks

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - When crews dug up Park Boulevard north of University Avenue for a new bus lane project, they uncovered a piece of San Diego history.

Nobody in San Diego knows more about our 98-year-old street rail system than Christian Chaffee. For the past 17 years, he and a cadre of supporters have been relentlessly trying to get the Class I cars back on track.

"I see a streetcar as not only a real benefit to the future of the city, but I see it as something every citizen can use," Christian said.

In a boatyard on Mission Gorge Road, Christian is restoring three of the original 24 streetcars built for the 1915 Panama Exposition.

"Everything about them was designed to work in San Diego -- double-sided, double-ended, the turn radius of our streets, the incline of our hills," he said.

From 1939 to 1996, the cars sat on an East County lot.

"They were on Peach Avenue in El Cajon and they were lived in by this little old lady, her name was Mrs. Lamb," Christian said.

He bought them in 1996, founded San Diego Historic Streetcars, Inc. and began restoring them to their former glory.

"Built in the arts and crafts style, gold leaf and silver leaf and bronze hardware," Christian said.

Christian is saddened to see the torn-up tracks along Park Boulevard, some of which he believes could still be used in the new streetcar system. But he hasn't lost hope.

"I am not only hopeful. I am confident 100 percent that this will happen. I'll tell you why -- I'm not giving up until it does," he said.

Whether you believe the streetcar man to be a pipe dreamer or a visionary, just remember, it takes people thinking outside the box to make sure our future isn't boxed in.

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