Georgette Gomez with Chris Cramer
Georgette Gómez laughs as Chris Cramer explains how San Diego’s trolleys inspired his best-selling beer brand. Behind them is restored car 1001. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The Metropolitan Transit System returned the first red San Diego trolley to service on Thursday, celebrating a historic vehicle that spurred a nationwide revival of light rail — and craft beer.

Following a year of painstaking renovation, trolley number 1001 was unveiled at the 12th & Imperial Transit Center. It will return to the streets on the downtown Silver Line on weekends.

“The trolley behind me is the very first of its kind. The first trolley line gave a real option to South Bay residents,” said MTS Chair and City Council President Georgette Gómez. “Cars like the 1001 symbolize what we can achieve when we have a shared visions of transit.”

As America’s first light rail line since World War II, the San Diego Trolley spurred a transit revival, with over 25 new systems built since car 1001 began running on the original South Line between San Ysidro and downtown San Diego in 1981.

“These cars were the model making light rail grow in the U.S.,” said Wayne Terry, MTS’ chief operating officer for rail, who has been with the agency throughout the period.

On hand to celebrate was San Diego brewer Chris Cramer, for whom the bright red cars were the inspiration for Karl Strauss‘ Red Trolley Ale in 1989.

“Here was this award-winning trolley system that was re-inventing light rail. And we were re-inventing the model for American beer,” he recalled.

Red Trolley Ale remains the company’s best selling beer, and Cramer plans to incorporate a retired trolley car in a new brewery in Santee.

David Gutierrez, director of light rail projects at trolley-builder Siemens in Sacramento, said the car looked better than it probably did when it left the factory 38 years ago.

“It’s great to see this piece of history once again become part of the San Diego landscape,” he said.

Car 1001 will alternate with two restored 1940s PCC streetcars on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays on the Silver Line, a 30-minute downtown loop.

Restored car 1001 outside the 12th & Imperial transit center. Photo by Chris Jennewein
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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.