The TECO Line Streetcar is more than transportation, it's "transportainment." You'll get a ride across town -- and also back in time.
Why do they call it the TECO Line Streetcar?
What sound can take you back in time in Tampa?
Sure, you could say cigar puffs. Or maybe Gasparilla guns. But for generations in this city, the clackety clack of the streetcar was the sound of daily life here.
PHOTOS: Teco Line Streetcar
The open-air electric railcars cruised on tracks running down the center of many of Tampa's main roads, knitting together the growing city through affordable, reliable transportation.
For 54 years, to work, to play -- to get almost anywhere in town -- you didn't need a car, you just needed a nickel!
That was the fare from the day the electric streetcar opened in 1892 to the day the system shut down in 1946, when it was pushed out by a nationwide drive for more cars, highways, and buses.
Then, eleven years ago, Tampa saw a major reversal. In 2002, a new series of streetcars took to the tracks in Ybor City and Downtown Tampa.
"We designed these cars after the cars that were here in Tampa" almost 60 years ago, said Peter Mikos, who runs Tampa's resurrected streetcar system.
"The last car number in the Tampa system was 427. Our first car was numbered 428." The new streetcars are operated by HART and funded by the City of Tampa and a nonprofit, Tampa Historic Streetcar, Inc.
"It's very energy efficient," Mikos said. "To go from one end of the line to the other end of the line, it's about $1.67 in electricity."
The classic streetcars were returned with rich wooden-interiored, yellow-painted replicas that embrace the spirit of the past -- but thankfully also embrace air conditioning.
"Everything that you see here is all brand new," Mikos said, sitting on a streetcar moving through the Channelside area.
"But the trucks underneath, where the wheels are, they are from the '20s and '30s. And that's how we get the sensation with the suspension of riding on a heritage streetcar."
In terms of size, the new streetcar system is a shadow of the original one. The new line is about 2 1/2 miles long. At its peak, the old system had 53 miles of track.
The reborn railway was named the TECO Line Streetcar system, after TECO Energy gave a big grant to help get it up and running. And that new name makes sense because of more than just the dollars involved.
TECO Energy grew out of the Tampa Electric Company, which got its start more than 120 years ago -- as a streetcar company.
The Tampa Street Railway and Power Company, which later became TECO, was founded to open the city's very first electric streetcar line.
Why do they call it that? Now you know.
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Grayson Kamm, 10 News