Cracks and tracks

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I was driving around the Pearl District -- the topic of my upcoming column -- this evening just about sunset. Looking south on Quincy Ave. from 6th St., I noticed a tell-tale pair of parallel cracks in the asphalt, each crack about the same distance from the middle of the street. The distance between the two cracks was about the same as the width of a standard gauge train track. I had noticed this phenomenon before, on Archer St. downtown, where the Sand Springs Railway once ran down the center of the street.

Quincy Ave. was the route of a branch of the Tulsa Street Railway, which ceased operation in 1936. The line left downtown on 3rd and branched north and south on Madison. The north branch ran along 1st to Lewis to 7th to the TU campus.

The south branch turned east on Fostoria (now known as 5th Pl.) running past the house where Paul Harvey grew up, then headed south on Quincy, terminating just north of 15th St.

As I passed 8th St. heading southbound on Quincy, the parallel cracks swerved to the right. A bit further on, I noticed another pair of parallel cracks, about a foot away from the pair I had been following. The two pairs of cracks, swerved back toward the middle just north of 10th St. It looked very much like a spot where a single track split in two to allow streetcars heading in opposite directions to pass each other.

My jaw dropped when I spotted this.

I don't know for sure that there are still rails beneath the asphalt, but if there were rails, I would expect them to have some effect on the integrity of the asphalt as they expand and cool at a different rate than the other material in the roadbed.

Keep your eyes open. You may just see a remnant of a Tulsa that no longer exists.

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Paul Uttinger said:

I've noticed the pavement along Quincy Avenue and wondered about those tracks. I read somewhere that the actual rails themselves are no longer below the pavement, but that doesn't appear to be the case in some places with crack patterns on the surface as you described. A quick test with a good metal detector might yield the answer.

Until a few years ago, the ghost cracks of the streetcar line which once ran in the middle of Frisco Avenue were very visible from around 13th St to 15th. When the old pavement was scraped off to prepare the roadway for resurfacing, I don't recall seeing metal rails, but the track bed was obvious. As the relatively new pavement ages and cracks, it will be interesting to see whether or not vestigial traces of the tracks reappear.

Yogi Author Profile Page said:

I've seen ghost rails and actual rails on the southeast side of downtown during my lunchtime walks. I love these remnants of an earlier time.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

I've seen those many times and just assumed they were some sort of old center median that was leveled and then paved over, or like an entry way into a neighborhood. Never thought about the rail.

What? No pictures?

Too dark. Maybe I can get some late this afternoon.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 15, 2009 6:47 PM.

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