Have you heard about the El Paso Streetcar making a comeback? 

The last time they traveled on El Paso streets was in 1974, so your parents or grandparents may have fond memories of riding them across town.

But if you’ve never been in one, you should know they’re not like a typical bus.

You may be surprised that the streetcars don’t actually have steering wheels or rubber tires for wheels.

That’s because the streetcar drivers don’t actually drive the car, but operate it; the wheels are made of heavy steel; and they run on electricity instead of gasoline. 

Take a look at how streetcars work, as explained by Jose A. Marquez, the El Paso Streetcar safety, security and training manager.

How the Streetcars Work

There are three major components to the El Paso Streetcar:

• Overhead control system

• Track 

• Vehicles/cars

The overhead copper cables receive about 14,000 volts of alternating currents by the El Paso Electric Co. That’s extremely dangerous, so that voltage must be transformed to much safer direct currents of about 650 volts.

That happens in any one of five traction power substations along the streetcar’s nearly 5-mile route. 

The cables run overhead on the entire route, and are connected to the streetcar through poles that attach to the top of the cars.

Instead of rubber, the streetcar’s wheels are made of steel with groves that sit and roll on the tracks. The streetcars’ motors are actually in the wheels and not under the hood. In fact, the streetcars don’t have a hood!

The control panel has buttons and switches that open and close the car’s doors, ring the bell, control traffic signals, turn the air conditioning and heating systems on and off, and more.

Another crew of workers runs the Operations Center, where they track the cars’ locations, communicate with drivers by radio and monitor the operation.

When the streetcars start running, possibly at the end of the year, they will fit about 90 people in each car. It will take about 40 minutes to complete the round-trip from Downtown to UTEP and back.

So now you know how a streetcar works. Are you ready for a ride?