Historic trolley tracks uncovered during Colfax Avenue water pipe replacement

DENVER (KDVR) — A piece of history was brought to light as Denver Water crews replaced water lines under East Colfax Avenue.

Denver Water said crews are replacing pipelines along a 5-mile stretch under Colfax Avenue before building new bus routes for the new Bus Rapid Transit system, scheduled to open in 2027.

Parts of Colfax could look different in the future

Since the project began in June 2023, crews have replaced underground cast iron pipes dating to the late 19th century.

“The Colfax pipeline has proven itself for more than 100 years, but these improvements are necessary to ensure a reliable water supply for the next century,” said Katie Ross, technical project manager for Denver Water.

Denver Water workers began work on the Colfax Avenue project in June 2023. The work will continue until 2024. (Image credit: Denver Water) Workers install a new section of pipeline with a new valve. (Image credit: Denver Water) Denver Water workers prepare a new section of PVC pipe for installation at Colfax Avenue and Downing Street in September 2023. (Image credit: Denver Water) A Denver Water worker uses a saw to cut through an old streetcar track on East Colfax Avenue. (Image credit: Denver Water) Denver once had one of the largest streetcar systems in the United States

While digging trenches on the street, crews uncovered trolley tracks that were part of the city’s old streetcar system that operated in the 20th century.

View of streetcars on 15th Street at the intersection of Lawrence Street in downtown Denver, Colorado in 1887. (Trolley, 1887. History Colorado. Accession number 20004526) (Photo courtesy: History Colorado)

That streetcar was abandoned in the 1950s and Denver Water said the tracks were paved so cars and buses could take over the roadway.

The old tracks are made of steel, so workers used a diamond saw blade and an excavator to make room for pipe replacement.

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