The following is my initial attempt at providing a cache with reference to “The Lost Twin Cities.”
Origins of street rail transportation in the Twin Cities dates back to around 1867 when Dorilus Morrison began building a streetcar system in downtown Minneapolis. Eventually this system would become known as the Minneapolis Street Railway.
It wasn't until 1872 that St. Paul saw it's first successful horse-drawn streetcar operated by the St. Paul Railway Co.
In the 1880,s both companies, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, moved away from horse-drawn streetcars following their decision of electrification of their respective lines.
In 1890 the two cities were connected by a railway along University Avenue, the first of four rail lines linking the cities. A merger of the two city systems, the St. Paul City Railway Company and the Minneapolis Street Railway, that same year formed the Twin City Rapid Transit Company.
The newly formed company went on a building and upgrading spree which included absorbing smaller competitors for the next forty years.
One route that was not originally available to the company was from downtown St. Paul to the length of Selby Avenue due to the existing steep grade the streetcars could not navigate up the hill near the St. Paul Cathedral. Because of this circumstance a tunnel was constructed in 1905 to ease the incline up the hill to Selby. The streetcars could now easily negotiate the incline emerging from the upper end of the tunnel at a point around Nina Street. The tunnel was over twenty feet wide and had two sets of rails running through it.
The tunnel was eventually closed and paved over on the upper end around 1953 when the streetcars were dropped in favor of buses. The lower end of the tunnel was also closed and eventually cemented shut.
The glimpse into our past that is still available is the original downtown approach to the hill and tunnel. The ornate iron railings and the two sets of tracks are still there. Though somewhat battered by time and disrepair it provides a look back in time. Perhaps one of the last places in the Twin Cities the rails from our original “light rail” system still exists.