The prettiest semi-convertibles to run the streets of Baltimore ran Route #5. Photo by Bill Volkemer from Dave's Rail Pix.
The Park Heights Avenue Streetcar line was a major part of Baltimore's Transportation picture from the turn of the century until its discontinuance in 1948. The line served great numbers of people, and went further North than any other Baltimore streetcar line.
The "5" designation for this line was not born until 1916, when this route was isolated from Route 3 - Linden Avenue. Prior to this, until 1910, the "5" Designation was used for the cars of the Fremont Avenue line, which by this time had been reassigned as the #30 line.
The line traces its pedigree back to the Baltimore, Pimlico, and Pikesville Railway and the Baltimore and Northern Railway. Once isolated and designated as "5", this line ran from Emory Grove to Pratt and South using Waugh, Butler, Reisterstown, Walkers Grove, Park Heights, Reisterstown, Fulton, Whitelock, Madison, Eutaw, Baltimore, Howard, Redwood, and South Street to change ends at Pratt. Most of the early cars assigned to this important line were semiconvertibles.
About the turn of 1918, the route was revised slightly to operated via Pennsylvania and North to Madison, instead of travelling through Reservoir Hill. Later in the year, the strange "S-Hook" in the route from Baltimore onto Howard was cut out, and cars simply used Eutaw Street all the way down to Redwood, although evidence indicates that the routing may have been temporarily altered in 1919 to use Howard Street and Linden Avenue, much like the #3 line from which the #5 evolved.
Early in 1920, the line was altered again to loop at Camden Station using Redwood, Sharp, Camden, and Eutaw Streets. This arrangement lasted less than 3 months, as by May, the line was again reconfigured, this time quite drastically. Route #5 absorbed the inner routing of the former "0" line along Druid Hill Avenue. This change involved routing the cars across Fulton to Druid Hill, down Druid Hill all the way to Paca Street, and then via Lombard, Exeter, and Pratt Street to terminate at Patterson Park Avenue. This Patterson Park extension was later lengthened in 1921 so that cars looped using Wolfe, Baltimore, and Patterson Park to return via Pratt Street.
On New Years Day, 1924, the #33 branch of this line was added, taking a designation of a Canton Car line the same day that line was dropped. Route #33 ran the same route as the #5 until reaching Belvedere Avenue, at which point it turned West, using the #31 trackage as far as Belvieu Avenue, where it turned right and travelled for a number of blocks before heading South along a private right of way, emerging onto the beginning of Gwynn Oak Avenue, and proceeding to Liberty Heights to terminate, where a crossover was located, just before the connections with Route #32 and the Randallstown Trackless Trolley.
Built to haul - If actually used on the #33, this car would have had to be turned at Howard Park or Belvedere. Bill Volkemer photo from Dave's Rail Pix
Later that year, selected trippers on Route #5 operated via Camden Station by diverging from the regular route and operating to Eutaw and Camden to return to the route using Paca Street. It appears that this arrangement lasted until the end of service, and even was eventually expanded over to the #33, as evidenced by photos.
Service on the #33 was suspended in early 1930, perhaps as a drastic depression era measure. Replacing it was a shuttle route, designated #20, operating from Gwynn Oak Junction to Pimlico. This arrangement did not last long, and #33 line riders were once again granted a single seat ride into town by Mid-March.
Despite this restoration of service, the 1930's still saw a great deal of cutting back to this expansive line, as the U.R.&E. tried to grip with the effects of the great depression. The first of these changes occurred in July of 1932, as Emory Grove service was eliminated, and replaced by service on new bus Route M. As a result, Route #5 cars were cut back to Pikesville at Old Court Road. A very minor change occurred in 1936, when cars began using High Street instead of Exeter in their trips to Patterson Park. Route #33 cars would not experience this revision for long, as all #33 designated cars were turned back Downtown at Pratt and South Streets effective with the September, 1937 schedule change.
Despite reorganization under BTC, cuts to the outer periphery of the #5 line again were in the works in early 1938, as cars were temporarily cut back to Pinkney Road in mid-February, while BTC, the PSC, and the riders ironed out their differences concerning the retention of streetcar service. Then, on April 3, the line was shortened again to make use of a new loop at Manhattan Avenue, just North of present day Northern Parkway. Use of this loop allowed the assignment of single ended cars to the #5 line, as riders and fans alike were treated to the most pleasing set of Semiconvertibles ever to be rebuilt, the 1930 rebuilds of the early 5600's. These single ended cars, similar to the one shown at the top of the page, were only usable on the #5, not much of a problem, as the #5 and #33 schedules were'nt overlapped - that is, a car would not head into town on the #5 line to return out as a #33. Also interesting to note, is that despite the similarities of the line, the routes operated out of different divisions: The #5 came out of Park Terminal, while the #33 operated from the Belvedere Car House.
Route #5 was pretty well prepared for the war time explosion of ridership, as in May of 1941, it was assigned over a dozen new PCC cars in the uppper 7300 series. Once again these cars were unusable on Route #33 due to their requirements for a loop. As such, the #33 would have had to be extended to Howard Park loop in order to accomodate any single ended cars.
Of interest to note during the war, is the occasional assignment of Peter Witt cars to the #5 line. While far from a common sight on route #5 trackage, Peter Witts did operate on the #5 line in a minimal capacity during the second World War. An inventory roster of 1943 shows a SINGLE Peter Witt assigned to the #5 line. Originally, it was thought that this car, and any others that might have worked this line, were prepared with dash-mounted hang-signs, but one photo is known to exist of a Witt in actual revenue service on the #5 line with a scroll clearly reading "PIMLICO." In time, this issue will be researched, and necessary revisions will be made to the Peter Witt Scroll Listing.
Not a smart way to save money. Photo at Belvedere from the Transit Archives Collection.
Despite the gains in ridership during the war, the decline in traffic only hastened in the years following the war. This loss coupled with the new NCL-backed management team, brought a swift end to both the #5 and #33 car lines in the years following. Conversion came in the of a swiftly executed "1-2 Punch." In May of 1948, the Patterson Park end of Route #5 was abandoned - as a result, all #5 (instead of simply the cutbacks) cars now shared the Pratt and South Loop used by the #33 line cars. This arrangement was quite temporary, as both #5 and #33 streetcars ran their last miles on June 26, 1948, replaced in part by new bus route #5 on the following day. The branch out to Gwynn Oak Junction still remained in service for a number of years afterward, as it was absorbed by a new branch of the #32 streetcar. This use of a new thorofare into town required patrons headed inbound to now wait on the other side of the street for the car into town, but still allowed for a reprieve of the short stretch of private right of way between Belvieu Avenue and Gwynn Oak Avenue.
Of great interest, however, in the months following conversion is the status regarding all-night service along the Park Heights Avenue corridor. For a number of years when Route #5 was a streetcar operation, all-night service was operated along Park Heights Avenue into Belvedere Loop as a special extension of Route #2-Carey Street, which, during daylight hours, operated only as far as Park Terminal at Fulton & Druid Hill. This arrangement was known to have continued even when the #2 was converted to Trackless Trolley, using motor buses for the all-night service (as was also done to accomodate the extensions to the All-Night #10 line). However, the #2 was not converted into a trackless trolley until December of 1948, about six months following the conversion of the #5. Still, motor buses signed for the #2 began operation of the all-night service with the conversion of the #5 line to bus. This is unique in itself, as when the #2 Trackless was converted to bus many years later, it was combined and numbered with the #1 line!
All in all, the #5 and #33 lines were two routes that certainly offered a interesting glimpse of Baltimore streetcar operations. Its only unfortunate that they didn't survive to keep that glimpse intact.
The references Baltimore Streetcar Routes and Baltimore's Streetcars were valuable tools in the preparation of this page.
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