Albuquerque was one of two cities in New Mexico that had electric street railways (streetcars).
Albuquerque’s original horse-drawn streetcar lines were electrified in 1904. The Albuquerque Traction Company began operation of the system in 1905, serving the downtown Albuquerque and Old Town Plaza areas with a route along Central Avenue, then known as Railroad Avenue.
Another company, Highland, served the Huning Highlands and the University of New Mexico (UNM) university area, by going “up the hill”, again along Central.
By 1908 there were six miles of track in the Albuquerque streetcar system. There were three lines: downtown Albuquerque to Old Town Plaza, downtown Albuquerque to Huning Highlands and the University, and a line connecting Barelas (now an Albuquerque neighborhood) with the trackside industrial area of (then) north Albuquerque.
All three lines were centered on Albuquerque’s urban center built around the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway depot and Fred Harvey’s Alvarado Hotel (1902 – 1968).
The Albuquerque Traction Company failed financially in 1915. Operations were assumed by the City Electric Company (a streetcar corporation). In 1927 the City Electric Company failed, bringing an end to streetcar line operations. In 1929 the electric streetcar system was abandoned and replaced by buses.
The streetcar shown in the above 1918 photograph was operated by female conductors known as “motorettes”.
New Mexico’s Railroads – An Historical Survey (1970) David F. Myrick, Golden, Colorado
CardCow.com is an excellent source for purchasing historic postcards, most older postcard images are in the public domain.
albuquerque streetcar photo gallery
click on images to enlarge
In this undated photograph one can see an “early” horse-drawn streetcar on Central Avenue, then Railroad Avenue, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The caption on the side of the streetcar describes the route, “Plaza – Railroad Ave – Depot.” This refers to the Plaza in Old Town, (now) Central Avenue route, and the (old) Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway depot at 1st Street and Railroad Avenue (now First Street and Central Avenue).
The center of Old Alburquerque (Old Town) was the Plaza, the town square located just south of the San Felipe de Neri church. The original church was started in 1706 under the direction of Fray Manuel Moreno, a Franciscan priest who came to Alburquerque (the spelling was later changed to Albuquerque).
The view is looking east, southeast (toward the more recent La Placita restaurant location. The San Felipe de Niri church is to the left of the photograph, it is not pictured.
The town center created by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, named “Albuquerque”, was located about 2 1/2 miles east of the Old Alburquerque, located very near the Rio Grande (river). The original AT&SF Depot was torn down circa 1900 and replaced in 1902 by a spectacular new Depot with an adjacent Fred Harvey Hotel. The entire complex soon became known as The Alvarado. The Alvarado was located on First Street, starting at Railroad Avenue, and continuing south for several blocks.
In the rather fanciful postcard photograph shown above, the almost Sandia like Mountains are shown rising above the Alvarado complex to the west. In reality the Sandias are behind the photographer to the east. The tracks (foreground) are east of the complex. Railroad Avenue is to the extreme right in the picture.
The Highland streetcar company line ran “up the hill” on Railroad Avenue from the Alvarado complex to Huning Highlands (starting just across the tracks) and then east to the University of New Mexico. The first building at the university, Hodgin Hall, was completed in 1892.
In the photograph, Hodgin Hall is just right of the windmill.
Joe Barnett, a New Yorker of Italian descent, settled in Albuquerque in 1896. His first major project was the three-story Barnett Building, completed in 1903. The building was located at the southwest corner of Railroad Avenue (now Central) and Second Street. An address was 200 Railroad Avenue. In 1910, Barnett purchased the White Elephant Saloon across the street, on the southeast corner of Railroad Avenue and Second. In 1923 the White Elephant was torn down and replaced by the Sunshine Theater Building, also built by Joe Barnett, which is now an historical landmark.
The Barnett Building (the long side) faced Second Street, not Railroad Avenue (Central). The Railroad Avenue streetcar tracks can be seen in the foreground of this photograph.
At the intersection of Railroad Avenue and Second Street the Railroad Avenue streetcar line crossed the north-south line toward Barelas in the south and industrial areas to the north. Two photographs show the intersection. The picture to the left (looking west down Railroad Avenue) shows the “Hotel” on the northwest corner of the intersection. The Barnett Building is to the right, and “across the street” one can see part of the sign for the White Elephant.
The photograph to the right is looking south down Second Street (towards Barelas). In this photograph the Second Street line streetcar is plainly visible as it comes north, toward the photographer.
The image to the left is another perspective of the Railroad Avenue and Second Street intersection. This view is taken from a point further east on Railroad Avenue, giving a broader view of the buildings at the intersection. The overhead electric service line for the streetcars is not visible like they are in the Barnett Building photograph.
Another picture of the Second Street streetcar line is below. This picture is looking north on Second Street from Gold Avenue (one block south of Railroad Avenue). Again, the streetcar and the streetcar tracks are clearly evident.