5th Avenue Streetcar History – Part 2

The San Diego Streetcar Company was purchased by John D. Spreckels in January 1892 and incorporated into his newly-formed San Diego Electric Railway (SDERy). Track was re-laid to a common gauge and service began September 21, 1892. The Fifth Avenue line was one of the first to be electrified. The entire 16-mile system was converted to electric operation by 1897, retiring all horse-drawn streetcars. As the SDERy expanded, Fifth Avenue served several different trolley routes, including No.1 (Fifth Avenue-Logan Heights), No. 3 (Fifth Avenue), No. 4 (Imperial Avenue), and No. 5 (K Street & Ocean View). The most heavily traveled segment, overlapped by several routes, was between Market Street and Broadway.

SDERy flourished through the 1920s, expanding to serve Mission Beach and La Jolla, but saw reduced ridership as automobiles became less expensive and more popular. After a brief resurgence during WWII, routes began to be abandoned in favor of buses. Changing residential and commute patterns, and the ease of buses to adopt new routes, led to the abandonment of the Fifth Avenue streetcar tracks in mid-1947. The entire SDERy track system was abandoned in 1949 and converted to bus operation.

Photo: SDERy trolleys, Fifth and Market, 1893 (courtesy Pacific Southwest Railway Museum).

For more San Diego Streetcar history, see my book Images of Rail: San Diego Trolleys (Arcadia, 2017).

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