Dodge Street road work stirs up Dundee streetcar memories

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Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2013 12:00 am

A rare piece of Omaha history revealed itself this week beneath the peeled-up portions of Dodge Street that are being resurfaced. The old Dundee streetcar tracks were visible — for a while — in at least one spot on the road near 49th and Dodge Streets.

Lifelong Omahan Cate Kratville, upon hearing the tracks were revealing themselves, immediately thought, “Oh, my gosh! I better get some pictures while I can.”

So she set out early Thursday to snap a couple. She returned later in the afternoon to capture another angle. Then she emailed them to fellow streetcar and railroad buffs.

The Dundee streetcars traveled from downtown west on Dodge to 49th Street, then headed north. The cars would turn west again onto Underwood Avenue to a Y turnaround. The route, which ended in 1955, went as far as 50th and Dodge Streets.

It served as an important mode of transportation to and from what was then Omaha's western suburb of Dundee. A public streetcar art display at the corner of Underwood Avenue and Happy Hollow Boulevard commemorates the historic streetcars and their passengers.

This week, crews began working on a $2.5 million resurfacing of Dodge from 52nd Street east to Turner Boulevard. The project is expected to take about eight weeks.

Kratville, 50, who is the historian for the Dundee Memorial Park Association, said she comes by a railroading bug naturally. Her great-grandfather worked for the Chicago & Northwestern. Her grandfather worked as a mechanical foreman for the Kansas City Southern and her grandmother as a telegrapher for C&NW.

Kratville's father, the late Bill Kratville, was a photographer for Amtrak and Union Pacific. A railroad historian who started with streetcar history, he wrote dozens of books on railroads.

Friday, she was headed to Railfest in North Platte, Neb.

Coincidently, Cate Kratville is giving a presentation on the Dundee streetcars at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 11 at Dundee Presbyterian Church, 5312 Underwood Ave.

Sadly for other streetcar fans hoping to sneak a peek, the Dundee tracks had been re-covered by late Friday afternoon — perhaps forgotten until the next construction project.

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