DES MOINES, Iowa — Before cars and interstate highways dominated Des Moines, the streetcar system ruled the roads. While the cars themselves are long gone, a man is leading an effort to preserve a piece of the rail line.

The Waveland Trolley Loop will turn the loop once used for turning around streetcars on University Avenue into a monument to Des Moines’ streetcar history. Earl Short and his group, Des Moines Streetcar Friends, have led the memorial effort.

“Growing up, that’s the only mode of transportation we had. We didn’t have a car, so the streetcar was it,
Short said. “That loop was the end of the line. That loop is sitting there, and I’m thinking, ‘we’ve got to keep that and keep the history of it.'”

Short and his group have raised nearly $300,000 for the trolley loop so far. Construction has progressed, but Short said inflation is starting to take its toll on the project.

“The cost of everything has gone up,” said Short, who said they have worked since 2016 to build the monument. “It will continue to go up even before we can get it completed.”

Short raised money for the project during a fundraiser at the Des Moines Heritage Center Sunday afternoon, and is continuing to solicit donations online at this website.

“It’s important having people find out about it, and finding out that nearly every part of the city was built upon the trolley lines,” said David Barzen, who is president of the Des Moines Historical Society.

According to the Des Moines Public Library, electric streetcars started service throughout Des Moines in 1888. The last streetcar using tracks ran in 1951, although a trolley with automobile tires called a “curbliner” continued service until 1964.

While Des Moines roads are now the property of cars and DART buses, Short holds out hope that streetcars can return to service one day.

“It’s cheap transportation,” Short said. “In today’s world with the gas prices going up, it would be a dream to have a streetcar line here.”