"Interurbans," Classic American Streetcars

Last revised: May 18, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Interurbans, and their suburban counterparts (the streetcar), were once common throughout the country.  They served both large cities, such as St. Louis, and rural communities, like Beverly, Ohio.  In retrospect, the financial interests behind these traction railroads were largely misplaced. 

The mania began during the late 19th century and spilled over into the early 1900's as thousands of miles were laid down from New England to California.  

Much of the trackage was situated east of the Mississippi River as the interurban offered flexibility and affordability for the everyday commuter.

It is rather amazing so much capital was expended on these operations, which struggled to make a profit right from the start.

A few, such as the Illinois Terminal and Piedmont & Northern, bucked this trend and blossomed into successful freight carriers while the Pacific Electric Railway is regarded as the greatest of all interurbans.

Overview and Definition

Most were out of the business by World War II and only one still operates today, the Iowa Traction Railway (others have shed their "interurban" status and now operate as short line freight carriers).  

Ironically, the commuter services inteurbans provided are actually making a comeback as LRT (light rail transit) systems as cities look for alternatives to increasingly crowded highways. 

Photos

Denver & Intermountain Railroad car #355 heads southeasterly down 17th Street in Denver, Colorado in the spring of 1950. American-Rails.com collection.

History

What became the classic interurban all began in the 1870's with two key developments; in 1870 Zenobe Gramme unveiled a generator for commercial use while Werner von Siemens showcased the world's first electric locomotive at an exhibition in Berlin, Germany during 1879.  

As these technologies found their way to the United States the first examples appeared in the 1880's; in 1880 Thomas Edison tested an experimental electric locomotive, powered by a dynamo, which was operated on a stretch of track in Menlo Park, New Jersey.  

As Dr. George Hilton and John Due's authoritative piece, "The Electric Interurban Railways In America," points out the birth of the true American interurban began when Frank Sprague developed an electric motorcar in 1886 for the New York Elevated Railway whereby the motor(s) were situated between the axle, along with a trolley pole and multiple-unit control stand.  

This gave way to the typical streetcar which became such a common sight throughout America.  Sprague failed to interest the New York Elevated but others were impressed.  

He eventually secured a contract in May of 1887 with the Richmond Union Passenger Railway in Virginia to provide cars for its operation.  It opened on February 2, 1888 and proved successful.

9324592398482346263527836893907307.jpgIllinois Terminal line car #1700 is seen here tied down at the small yard in Danville, Illinois, circa 1951. Such maintenance-of-way cars were common on interurbans to service the overhead catenary. James Stitzel photo. American-Rails.com collection.

Another important developer was Sidney Howe Short who invented a double-reduction, gearless motor and also learned that overhead catenary was the best means for electrical pickup. Short conceived another important development, the contact "shoe."  

By the time main line electrified systems were introduced in 1895, when the Baltimore & Ohio energized 4 miles of its Baltimore trackage (including the 1.4-mile Howard Street Tunnel), the technology was quite advanced.

- According to the railroad's "Official List No. 29" issued January 1, 1948 the entire Belt Line ran from Milepost 90.7 at Bay View, Maryland to Milepost 97.9 at Hamburg Street, Baltimore. -  

There were three great periods of interurban development; the first occurred during the 1890's and then reached a great flurry of construction between 1901 and 1904 when more than 5,000 miles were laid down.  

The Panic of 1903 ended this fervor but it reignited again between 1905 and 1908 when another 4,000 miles were built.  

Once more, a financial setback, the Panic of 1907, ended investment although afterwards another great construction period did not materialize.  In 1889 there were just 7 miles of interurbans in service, a number which jumped to 3,122 by 1901, and finally peaked at 15,580 in 1916.  

These numbers slowly receded into the 1920's as abandonment hastened through the 1930's.  By 1950 just 1,519 miles remained and the number dropped to 209 miles by 1959.

As William Middleton notes in his book, "Traction Classics: The Interurbans, Extra Fast & Extra Fare, Volume II," by the end of World War I interurbans were already experiencing financial difficulty.  

The interurban was conceived as a transit system, developed from the basic streetcars of the era.  However, instead of serving a single municipality this new operation would link two or more.  

In an era before automobiles, when steel rails handled nearly all interstate and intercity travel, the interurban concept seemed viable, in theory.  

There was also the added perk of providing some freight business. As interurbans expanded they did indeed initially prove popular offering quick service, multiple schedules daily (the large Illinois Traction system, for instance, was dispatching 106 trains out of Springfield, Illinois everyday by 1906), and with fares only a few cents each way.  

Depending upon cost an interurban's route either followed its own dedicated right-of-way or, with permission from the state/county, could be laid right next to a rural road.  

The latter alternative was cheaper but the resulting grades and curves were less than ideal, a problem only compounded when freight movements were involved.

Line cars belonging to the Philadelphia Transportation Company layover at the PTC shops during the 1960s. American-Rails.com collection.

Visually, the interurban was classic Americana as a car sped along a grass-covered right-of-way with its trolley pole extended high.  

While postdating the industry, one the great depictions of interurban right-of-way is illustrated in Trains Magazine's October, 1993 issue under a segment entitled, "Trains Of New England: A Yankee Autumn" (Page 57).  

In the scene, captured by Scott Hartley, Claremont & Concord 44-tonner #31 totes a single boxcar along the former interurban's rickety trackage skirting State Route 103 at West Claremont, New Hampshire during October of 1976.

It seems surreal that a train could actually fit on such a narrow patch of right-of-way where a railroad doesn't even appear to exist!  

For power, most interurbans used overhead catenary (energized electric lines attached to line-side poles), usually rated at around 600 volts.

However, in some cases third-rail was utilized and the electricity greater. To produce the needed power either substations were built or it was purchased directly from energy companies.

While most interurbans were small, local operations this was not always the case.  Those like the Illinois Terminal, South Shore Line, and Piedmont & Northern maintained more than 100 miles each and boasted an expansive freight business.

Shaker Heights Rapid Transit PCC;s #93 and #55 are along Shaker Boulevard and Van Aken Boulevard heading west at Shaker Square, Ohio (Cleveland) during the 1960s. American-Rails.com collection.

Alas, the classic streetcar proved susceptible even to the earliest of automobiles and began a quick decline after World War I.  

To make matters worse they contained extremely high operating ratios of 85-90% (some were even greater than 100%) while the average rate of return never exceeded 3%.  

Most were gone by the immediate postwar years and only the strongest survived to see 1960. Today, some of the streetcar systems have survived for commuter service such as in Philadelphia (today, operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority or "SEPTA"), Chicago (Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, NICTD), and the remnants of Pacific Electric's great system in Los Angeles.

In addition, as highways grow evermore cramped, true trolley lines have returned within various cities. Below you can learn more about most of the interurbans that operated in each state. In general, the industry tended to be centered around the Midwest with Ohio the epicenter; overall, Ohio's mileage peaked at 2,798 and every town in the state larger than 10,000 was served by at least one system. 

Toronto Transit (TTC) PCC #4043 nears the Connaught Carbarn on East Queen Street during the 1960s. American-Rails.com collection.

If one is able to see a system map of Ohio's interurbans many are concentrated, as to be expected, around the large cities such as Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus, Canton, Cleveland, and Dayton.

Interestingly, there were few systems southeast of Columbus with notables located around Zanesville, Ashland, and Marietta.  

There were surrounding states which also had significant interurban mileage including Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. By contrast, the South had relatively few systems, as did much of West (due to the distance between large cities).  

However, it is rather strange that the South never established a significant network of streetcar lines considering many cities were relatively close together just as in the Midwest.  

Also of note was the Northeast.   A few states like New York and New Jersey had a large network of interurbans but (Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, etc.) were littered with streetcar lines serving only a particular city/town (some of these are included here for reference purposes).

Overall, if you would like to learn much more about the interurban industry and its rise and fall consider picking up a copy of The Electric Interurban Railways in America by authors George Hilton and John Due. This is the authoritative book on the subject, interesting written roughly a half-century ago but still in print.  

Classic Systems

Chicago, South Shore & South Bend ("South Shore Line")

Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railroad

Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee ("North Shore Line")

Illinois Terminal

Pacific Electric Railway

Oregon Electric Railway

Piedmont & Northern Railway

Portland Traction Company, "PEPCO"

Sacramento Northern Railway

Bamberger Railroad

Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville

Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern

Walla Walla Valley Railway

Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern

Yakima Valley Transportation

Car Builders

Barney & Smith

Cincinnati Car Company

G.C. Kuhlman

J.G. Brill

Jewett Car Company

Niles Car & Manufacturing Company

St. Louis Car Company

More Reading

A Further History of Streetcars And Trolleys

PCCs, Presidents’ Conference Committee Streetcars

Electroliners

Birney Safety Car

By State

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Missouri

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Tennessee

Texas

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

0239523752735672896309260937938.jpgDenver & Intermountain car #819 is seen here at the downtown loop in Denver, Colorado in the spring of 1950. American-Rails.com collection.

Alabama

Alabama Power Company: Today the Alabama Power Company is a electricity provider to over one million customers but back during the early 20th century it also owned a number of streetcar railroad operations including in the cities of Anniston, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa. Most of its operations were out of business and shutdown by the 1920s.

Mobile Light & Railroad Company: The Mobile Light & Railroad Company began operations in 1893 serving Mobile. It operated until 1939 at which point it had grown to a nearly 50 mile system.

The interurban was shutdown that year when its president died, J. Howard Wilson and it was acquired by the National City Lines, which converted all operations to bus-only operations.

Capital City Electrical Railway, "The Lightning Route": The Capital City Electrical Railway, also known as the Lightning Route, began operations on April 15, 1886 serving Montgomery and was one of the first to recognize that dense commercial and residential areas within a city should be separated.

It operated for exactly 50 years before the service was replaced by buses. Today, Montgomery is attempting to rebuild a small interurban operation.

Alaska

Tanana Valley Railroad: The Tanana Valley Railroad was a small battery-powered system that connected Chena and Fairbanks. This interurban would eventually became part of the Alaska Railroad.

A pair of the South Shore Line's steeple-cab electrics tote a single boxcar, and trailing caboose, through the streets of Michigan City, Indiana circa 1950s. Author's collection.

Arkansas

Fort Smith Traction Light & Power Company: The Fort Smith Traction Light & Power Company was formed in 1903 by the merger of the Fort Smith Railway Company (incorporated in 1883) and the Fort Smith & Van Buren Electric Street Railway Light & Power Company (incorporated in 1893).

After the railroad came under the control of Oklahoma Gas & Electric in 1933 it was abandoned in November of that same year.

Arkansas Power & Light Company: The Arkansas Power & Light Company began operations on November 4, 1886 as the Citizens Street Railway Company, originally using mules and horses for power.

It gained electric operation in 1902 now known as the Citizens Light & Transit Company operating about 8 miles of trackage.

It reached its peak length of 11 miles in 1918 and again changed its name to the Pine Bluff Company. By 1930 the Arkansas Power & Light Company (created in 1914) took over operations and replaced the operation with buses.

Southwestern Gas & Electric Company: The Southwestern Gas & Electric Company was a small interurban operation in Texarkana that operated until 1935 having been acquired by the Middle West Utilities Company in 1925.

Walnut Ridge & Hoxie Traction Company: The earliest history of the Walnut Ridge & Hoxie Traction Company (also known as the Walnut Ridge & Hoxie, Light, Power and Transit Company) was opened in 1899 connecting the towns of Hoxie and Walnut Ridge, a distance of about 1 1/2 miles.

The WR&HLP&T was created in 1903, gained electric operation in 1906 and changed its name to the Central Power and Light Company in 1918. It abandoned all operations in 1928.

Arizona

Phoenix Street Railway: The Phoenix Street Railway began operations in 1887 originally using horse-powered carts although it switched to electric streetcars in 1893.

The system was one of the larger interurbans in the country reaching as far as Glendale, a distance of nearly 11 miles. It operated until October of 1947 when a fire destroyed most of the streetcar fleet.

Today, light rail is making a return to Phoenix and the Arizona Street Railway Museum keeps alive the memory of the Phoenix Street Railway.

Tucson Street Railway: The Tucson Street Railway began operations in 1898 connecting the Southern Pacific Railroad's station along Toole Avenue with the University of Arizona's campus.

It changed its name to the Tucson Rapid Transit Company in 1905 and reached its final length of 8 1/4 miles in 1904. It operated until December 31, 1930 when the service was converted over to buses. Today the interurban has been partially revived under the direction of the Old Pueblo Trolley project.

Warren-Bisbee Railway: This system was the one true Arizona interurban located in the state. It began operations on March 11, 1908 serving Warren and Bisbee, a distance of 8 miles, in the state's southeastern regions where copper mining was becoming prevalent (very close to the Mexican border).

The building of the line was during the second big boom of construction of the interurban industry, the first occurring during the first few years of the 20th century. The company became profitable enough to also construct a four-mile spur serving an area outside of Warren that was rich in lumber traffic.

Overall the Warren-Bisbee was a poorly built system with 7% or higher grades along much of its main line. As the copper industry played out and automobile use increased the line was abandoned by 1928.

Delaware

Wilmington & Elsmere Electric Railway Company: The Wilmington & Elsmere Electric Railway Company was completed in 1895 connecting Wilmington to Brandywine Springs Park. It lasted only until 1900 when it was taken over by the Peoples Railway Company.

Wilmington City Railway: The Wilmington City Railway was the city's first dating back to June 28, 1864. It remained a horse-powered operation until it switched to electric streetcars in 1888.

The interurban would become the city's largest taking over several smaller companies. It lost its original identity when it merged with the Delaware Electric Power Company in 1936. Soon after in 1940 rail service ended switching to buses.

Wilmington & Philadelphia Traction Company: The W&PTC operated a system serving Wilmington, Chester, and even reaching Philadelphia by 1899. Overall it was the state's largest streetcar operation.

It also controlled small streetcar systems serving Stanton, Delaware City, and New Castle. It remain in operation until around the mid-1930s when services were finally replaced by buses.

Jackson & Sharp Company: The Jackson & Sharp Company wasn't actually an interurban railroad but it did build streetcars in Wilmington, Delaware from 1863 until 1901 when it was purchased by railcar giant American Car and Foundry.

Florida

Manatee Light & Traction Company: The Manatee Light & Traction Company was a shortlived interurban railroad chartered by Captain Hartwell Davis in 1903 connecting Fogartyville, Bradentown and Manatee.

It also offered freight service but both it and passenger operations were only seasonal in nature. It lasted only until 1906 when the project was abandoned.

Coral Gables Municipal Railway: The Coral Gables Municipal Railway served the Coral Gables area and once operated two lines from downtown Miami to Coral Gables as well as two other lines connecting southern and western points.

After a hurricane hit the region on November 4, 1935 two of its lines were indefinitely knocked out of service and soon after all operations were suspended.

Central of Florida Railway: The Central of Florida Railway served Daytona Beach using battery-powered streetcars. It remained in operation until 1918 when service was discontinued.

Key West Electric Company: The Key West Electric Company began operations as the Key West Street Car Company using horse-powered cars. It became Key West Electric in 1898 converted to electric streetcars. It remained in operation serving the Keys until 1933.

Miami Beach Electric Railway: The Miami Beach Electric Railway began as the Miami Beach Electric Company beginning operations rather late in 1920 (although the city had streetcar service dating back to the beginning of the century).

The system soon became known as the Miami Beach Electric Railway and served Miami and Miami Beach. It was sold to the American Power and Light Company in 1924.

Pensacola Electric Terminal RailwayThe Pensacola Electric Terminal Railway began operations in 1897 after purchasing the defunct Pensacola Terminal Company.

It converted to electric operation in November of that year and at its peak operated 21.4 miles of track and 45 passenger cars, of which the downtown region was double-tracked. It remained in operation until 1945 when it was purchased by Pensacola Transit, Inc.

Georgia

Atlanta Northern Interurban Railway: The Atlanta Northern Interurban Railway served a roughly sixteen-mile system in the Atlanta area. Part of its system is still used by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority today.

Columbus Railroad Company: The Columbus Railroad Company served its namesake city operating a few miles of track within the city and was the first being chartered in 1866.

It switched to electric operation in 1894 when it built one of the first hydroelectric power plants in the State of Georgia. The railroad disappeared into merger in 1922 when it purchased the Columbus Power Company becoming the Columbus Electric & Power Company.

Gainesville Street RailwayThe Gainesville Street Railway was short-lived interurban serving its namesake city. It lasted only until 1890 and much of its track was taken up in the 1940s for the war effort.

Savannah Electric Company: The Savannah Electric Company was the primary interurban serving the city and operated on an unusual five-foot gauge system. The system was abandoned in 1946.

Valdosta Street Railway: The Valdosta Street Railway began operations in 1898 operating a system that served Toombs, Patterson, Ashley, Lee, Troup, Hill, Central, Crane and Gordon Streets of Valdosta. It was abandoned in 1925.

Augusta-Aiken Railway: This was one of Georgia's true interurban system. It began operations on September 8, 1902 as the Augusta & Columbia Railway, serving its namesake cities.

A subsidiary of the Georgia-Carolina Power Company it was renamed as the August-Aiken Railway in 1911. While the 26-mile system operated on its own right-of-way it was never very profitable (despite serving an amusement park known at Lake Olmstead) and operations were abandoned by 1929.

Georgia Railway & Power Company: This company was actually controlled another line, the Atlanta Northern, which served Atlanta and Marietta (a distance of 16 miles) opening on July 17, 1905.

It also operated its own line between Atlanta, Decatur, and Stone Mountain to the east, which stretched an additional 16 miles and began operations in November, 1913. Both systems were abandoned by 1947.

Idaho

Boise Interurban Railway: The Boise Interurban Railway was part of 35-mile system which served Boise and points to the west such as Caldwell, Nampa, Wilder and McNeil.

The Boise Interurban Railway was the northern extension of this loop system connecting the towns along the Boise River (which it completed on August 8, 1907) while the Boise Valley Railway completed the southern section.

Both systems became part of the Idaho Railway Light & Power Company in 1912 and in 1915 became known as Boise Valley Traction Company. It remained profitable through 1920 but after this time losses mounted and the system was abandoned 1928.

Sandpoint & Interurban RailwayThe Sandpoint & Interurban Railway which began operation in 1909 and eventually built a 5-mile system connecting Sandpoint and Kootenai. It lasted only eight years and was abandoned in 1917.

Caldwell Traction Company: The Caldwell Traction Company began operation in 1913.

It operated about 27 miles of track altogether serving points west of Caldwell including McNeil, Lake Lowell and Wilder (it also leased a branch of the Oregon Short Line from Union Pacific Railroad and electrified the route).

The operation included both freight and passenger service but the railroad had a very hard time staying profitable resulting in the UP taking back its leased branch in 1920. After defaulting on its loans the operation was abandoned in 1924.

Boise Valley Traction Company: The BVT was the successor to the above mentioned Boise Interurban system. It primarily consisted of two lines radiating away from Boise on each side of the Boise River.

Its northern line served Caldwell and a connection with the Caldwell Traction while the southern line served Meridian, Nampa and curved northward to also reach Caldwell. Its final construction occurred in 1912 when it rebuilt the Boise-Nampa line to eliminate severe curves.

In 1922 the company merged with the local power company to form the Idaho Railway Light & Power Company, which operated its interurban initially as the Idaho Traction Company but later changed this to the Boise Valley Traction Company in 1915.

It saw its first deficits in 1924 and was abandoned by 1928. Interestingly, shortly after locals purchased about 32 miles of the remaining system to operate freight service. However, the Great Depression killed any profit potential and the entire line was scrapped by 1931.

Hawaii

Honolulu Rapid Transit: The Honolulu Rapid Transit Company served the city of Honolulu beginning operations in 1898. The famous interurban operated streetcar service until the 1940s when operations were discontinued in favor of buses.

Denver & Intermountain car #321 runs Route 72 on Delaware Street in Denver, Colorado in the spring of 1950, just before passenger operations ended on the interurban. Freight service was retained to Golden until March 15, 1953. American-Rails.com collection.

Kentucky

Ohio Valley Electric Railway: The Ohio Valley Electric Railway served Huntington, West Virginia; Ashland, Kentucky; and Ironton, Ohio.

It began operations in September of 1899 when it took over the operations of three smaller systems: the Consolidated Light & Railway Company, Ashland & Catlettsburg Street Railway, and Ironton & Petersburg Street Railway. It remained in operation until 1937 when streetcar service was discontinued.

Cincinnati, Newport & Covington Railway: The Cincinnati, Newport & Covington Railway began operations in 1892 taking over the South Covington & Cincinnati Street Railway a railroad which was made up of several small lines.

The line served Covington and Newport. The CN&C's streetcar remained in operation until 1950 when it was discontinued in favor of buses.

Kentucky Traction & Terminal CompanyThe Kentucky Traction & Terminal Company began operations in the early 1900s connecting Lexington, Paris, Georgetown, Frankfort, Versailles and Nicholasville. It remained in operation until 1934 when streetcar operations were discontinued.

Louisville & Eastern Railroad: The Louisville & Eastern Railroad began operations in 1901 connecting Louisville and Crestwood and six years later extended its route to LaGrange.

Because the route was built to a five-foot gauge specification it was extremely difficult to interchange with, thus the L&E was a rather unprofitable railroad. It lasted until October of 1935 when service was suspended.

Louisville & Interurban Railroad: The Louisville & Interurban Railroad opened in 1901 connecting Louisville to La Grange and soon after extended to Jefferstown (1904), Prospect (1904), Okalona (1905), Orell (1907), Fern Creek (1908) and Shelbyville (1910). It remained in operation until 1935 when its final operating route between Louisville and Orell was discontinued.

Louisville Railway: The Louisville Railway was one of the state's oldest interurbans dating back to 1859 when it was a horse-powered operation known as the Louisville City Railway.

It was renamed the Louisville Railway in 1890 when the Louisville City Railway and another small operation merged. Streetcar service survived until 1948 when it was discontinued in favor of buses.

Louisiana

Orleans-Kenner Electric Railway: The Orleans-Kenner Electric Railway connected New Orleans (using a private right-of-way located on the north side of the city) and Kenner operating between 1914 and 1930 before service was discontinued in favor of buses.

Before service was completely abandoned the system had come under the management of the New Orleans Public Service Company

Southwestern Traction & Power Company: The Southwestern Traction & Power Company was never a very profitable operation. It served New Iberia and Jeanerette operating a 12-mile system between 1912 and 1918 before falling into bankruptcy and service was abandoned. The line was not taken up for scrap, however, until the early 1920s.

St. Tammany & New Orleans Railway & Ferry CompanyThe St. Tammany & New Orleans Railway & Ferry Company was a very short-lived interurban railroad. It served Mandeville and Covington on a system covering some 14 miles. It was opened in 1909 as a standard railroad using gasoline-powered "Doodlebugs".

However, in 1915 the service was upgraded to full electric power. From this point it operated until 1918 until the system was completely abandoned due to low traffic.

New Orleans City & Lake Railroad: The New Orleans City & Lake Railroad was created in 1883 from the New Orleans City Railroad. It operated until 1892 when it became part of the New Orleans Traction Company.

6802309572634625728936020938.jpgSouth Shore Line R-2 boxcabs #705 and #706 at work near the freight depot in South Bend, Indiana on May 10, 1964. American-Rails.com collection.

Mississippi

Gulfport & Mississippi Coast Traction Company: The Gulfport & Mississippi Coast Traction connected Pass Christian, Biloxi, and Gulfport on a system that was about 24 miles in length.

The interurban began operations in 1905 and later extended services through 1907. Early on the company was able to move substantial amounts of passenger traffic given the larger cities it served.

However, by the oncoming of the automobiles in the 1920s and lack of freight service this quickly played out. It remained in service until 1926 when streetcar service was discontinued in favor of buses.

Part of railroad continued to carry the remaining freight services until 1949 when this too was abandoned.

Greenville Street Railway: The Greenville Street Railway served the City of Greenville beginning operations in 1901. At its peak it would operation eight miles of track.

Over the years it was known by several different names; Greenville Light & Car Company, Delta Electric Light Power & Manufacturing Company, Delta Light & Traction Company and Mississippi Power & Light Company. Streetcars remained in service until 1929 when they were discontinued.

Hattiesburg Street RailwayThe Hattiesburg Street Railway was a small interurban operation serving the City of Hattiesburg. It operated between West Main Street and 8th Street remaining in service until the late 1920s when it was abandoned.

Pascagoula Street Railway & Power Company: The Pascagoula Street Railway & Power Company began operations in January of 1903 and would eventually connect Anderson Park, Moss Point and Dantzler Shipyard. It remained in service until 1925 at which time streetcars were discontinued in favor of buses.

Vicksburg Street Railway: The Vicksburg Street Railway dates back to 1891 and at its peak operated about seven miles of track in the city.

Over the years it was known by several different names; Vicksburg Railroad Power & Manufacturing Company, Vicksburg Railway & Light Company, Vicksburg Traction Company, Vicksburg Light & Traction Company and the Mississippi Power & Light Company.

Streetcar service remained until 1935 when it was discontinued in favor of buses.

Montana

Anaconda Street Railway: The Anaconda Street Railway served the City of Anaconda until the early 1940s. The interurban railroad is survived today by two of its carbarns which still stand in the city.

Billings Traction Company: The Billings Traction Company served the City of Billings. The operation was shortlived beginning in 1906 and abandoning railroad operations around 1917.

Butte Electric Railway: The Butte Electric Railway began operations in 1899 taking over property originally built by the Butte City Street Railroad in 1886. It continued operating streetcars until the service was discontinued in 1937 and sold to National City Lines, which began operating buses.

Great Falls Street Railway: As its name implies the Great Falls Street Railway served the City of Great Falls operating streetcars from 1890 until it was sold to the Montana Power Company in 1931. In 1938 the railroad was sold to National City Lines, which discontinued streetcar service in favor of buses.

Missoula Street Railway: The Missoula Street Railway was incorporated in 1912 serving the City of Missoula. It operated streetcars until the 1930s when the railroad was replaced by buses.

Nebraska

Lincoln Traction Company: The Lincoln Traction Company, as its name implies served the City of Lincoln. It began operations in 1897 after the Lincoln Street Railway was reorganized.

The interurban railroad operated until 1943 when it was sold to National City Lines. NCL continued to operate streetcars for about three years until all rail service was discontinued in 1946 being replaced by buses.

Nebraska Traction & Power Company: The Nebraska Traction & Power Company began operations on May 19, 1909, connecting Omaha and nearby suburbs of South Omaha, Ralston and Papillion.

In total the interurban railroad operated about 14 miles of track. It would eventually become part of the Omaha & Lincoln Railway & Light Company. It was never a particularly profitable operation and was abandoned by 1926.

Omaha, Lincoln & Beatrice Railway, "The Big Red Line": The Omaha, Lincoln & Beatrice Railway today is a Class III, shortline freight railroad.

However, it has its roots dating back to 1903 when it was originally meant to connect Lincoln, Omaha and Beatrice but was unable to complete the planned route operating only around Lincoln.

In 1928 it gave up on passenger service but in 1929 was purchased by a company called NEBCO and began hauling freight. The company still owns the railroad today although it has long since scrapped its freight motors for more traditional diesel locomotives.

Part of the reason the company has been able to sustain for so many years is that it earned significant profits as a kind of terminal railroad transferring and shuffling freight around Omaha.

Omaha & Southern Interurban Railway: The O&SI was Nebraska's last notable electric line. It operated an 8-mile line serving Omaha and Fort Cook opening to the public on October 20, 1906.

It was never able to develop a successful freight business and began seeing deficits by the 1920s when automobiles came into widespread use. The system was abandoned by 1931.

Nevada

Reno Traction Company: The Reno Traction Company served its namesake city beginning operations around the turn of the century. It operated on a 600-volt DC system and acquired power by the Reno Power, Light & Water Company. It remained in service until 1927 when operations were abandoned in favor of buses.

New Mexico

City Electric Railway

Las Vegas & Hot Springs Electric Railway

North Dakota

The Capitol Line: The Capitol Line served the capitol building in Bismark on a one-mile system that was state-owned and operated.

Grand Forks Street Railway: The Grand Forks Street Railway served the City of Grand Forks beginning operations in 1908 and taking over from the Grand Forks Transit Company of 1904. Streetcar service on the line lasted until 1934.

Valley City Street & Interurban Railway: The Valley City Street & Interurban Railway began operations in 1905 connecting its namesake city. Streetcar service was abandoned in 1948.

Wahpeton Breckenridge Street Railway: The Wahpeton Breckenridge Street Railway served Wahpeton beginning operations in 1910 and discontinuing service in 1925.

Northern States Power Company

Rhode Island

Union Railroad of Providence: The Union Railroad of Providence dates back to 1865 as a horse-powered operation serving the Providence area. In 1894 the system was electrified and in 1921 it was renamed United Electric Railways. Streetcar service was abandoned in 1948.

Pawtucket Street Railway: The Pawtucket Street Railway, serving Pawtucket, began operations in 1885 and became part of United Electric Railways in 1921. Streetcar service was abandoned in 1948.

Woonsocket Street Railway: The Woonsocket Street Railway served Woonsocket beginning operations in 1887 and becoming part of United Electric Railways in 1921. Streetcar service was discontinued in 1929.

Newport Street Railway: The Newport Street Railway began operations in 1889 connecting the Newport area. It was renamed the Newport & Fall River Street Railway in 1900 and again changed hands in 1920 as the Newport Electric Corporation, which discontinued streetcar service in 1925.

Pawcatuck Valley Street Railway

Providence & Burrillville Street Railway

Rhode Island Company

South Carolina

Anderson Traction Company: The Anderson Traction Company began operations in 1904 serving its namesake city. It was renamed the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway in 1909 and again changed hands in 1924 as the Southern Public Utilities Company before abandoning streetcar operations in 1934.

Spartanburg Railway Gas & Electric Company: The Spartanburg Railway Gas & Electric Company served the Spartanburg area beginning operations in 1900.

In 1912 it was renamed the South Carolina Light Power & Railway Company and changed hands twice more (South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, 1912; Southern Public Utilities Company, 1928) before abandoning operations in 1935.

Columbia Street Railway

South Dakota

Mitchell Street & Interurban Railway: The Mitchell Street & Interurban Railway began operations around the turn of the century serving Mitchell operating a 7-mile system that was electrified in 1913. The operation was never profitable and discontinued service soon after electrification.

Sioux Falls Traction System: The Sioux Falls Traction System served its namesake city beginning operations in 1908 and abandoning service in 1930 in favor of buses.

One of the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western Railway's interurban cars (originally manufactured by the McGuire-Cummings Car Company in 1918) is seen here in Salt Lake City during the 1960s. By this time the road had discontinued passenger operations but still survives today as a freight carrier. American-Rails.com collection.

Utah

Bamberger Electric Railroad: The Bamberger Electric Railroad (originally known as the Salt Lake & Ogden Railway, but changed its name in 1917) began operations in 1908 although the system dated back to the Great Salt Lake & Hot Springs Railway of the 1890s.

At its peak the system connected Ogden and Salt Lake City on a line that was built to very high standards. It was electrified soon after its 1908 opening and carried heavy freight and passenger traffic during its early years.

The depression was unkind to the system and it fell into bankruptcy in 1933 emerging as the Bamberger Railroad in 1939. In 1957 the system was sold to investors, which sold portions of the line to Union Pacific and Denver & Rio Grande Western in 1958.

Utah-Idaho Central RailroadThe Utah-Idaho Central Railroad dates back to the Ogden Rapid Transit Company of 1900.

At its peak this system would operate 95 miles of railroad between Ogden, Utah and Preston, Idaho. The Utah-Idaho Central Railroad began operations in 1918 and operated until February of 1947 when operations were abandoned.

Ogden Rapid Transit Company: The Ogden Rapid Transit Company began operations in 1900 taking over that of the Ogden Electric Railway. The system became part of the Utah-Idaho Central Railroad in 1918.

Salt Lake, Garfield & Western Railway


Wyoming

Sheridan Interurban Railway

Thanks to Ken Johnsen and Yakima Valley Trolleys for help with the information on this page.

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