Charleston Trolleys

The Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA) operates two free trolley routes seven days a week in downtown Charleston with fourteen stops in various places from Broad Street to Spring Street. The distinctive-looking trolleys are fashioned to look like the old street trolleys that once plied these historic streets for nearly eighty years Horses and mules were the pulling power for Charleston's first public transit system that opened in 1866 with trolley cars on tracks laid down the center of major thoroughfares such as King, Broad and Meeting streets. Most Charlestonians road the trolleys, whose numbers increased so that one added line took picnickers to Magnolia Cemetery on Sundays.
The first electric-powered trolleys were added to routes in 1897, and conductors were equipped with removable controls after several of the cars were “borrowed” by pranksters. Known as “iron donkeys”, the electric trolleys briefly shared tracks with horse-drawn cars that were being phased out, and there were several accidents in which animals came face to face with mechanized vehicles, and broke and ran with loads of passengers inside.
The automobile had arrived on city streets by the 1920's, adding to the confusion. Before traffic lights and stop signs came along in the 1930's, city ordinances were passed requiring motorized vehicles to stop for any mule or horse rider who put a hand in the air, and gave cars bound north to south priority over those traveling east and west – which worked if everyone had a compass.
The trolley tracks became obsolete in 1938, as Charleston's new “belt line” bus service was created. For many years, some of the old tracks were still visible when street gangs dug beneath the layers of asphalt.
Today, there are are still occasional confrontations with powered vehicles and draft animals, nowadays pulling tourist wagons, but you'll have to drive yourself to Magnolia Cemetery.

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