Published: October 18, 2022
By: Adam Burns
Pennsylvania ranked third in total interurban mileage, containing, at its peak, 1,498 miles according to Dr. George Hilton and John Due's authoritative book, "The Electric Interurban Railways In America."
The state was well positioned to thrive in the fleeting era of streetcars and trolleys thanks to its combination of large and medium-sized cities scattered throughout its borders.
Not surprisingly, most of its network was concentrated to the east around Philadelphia although Pittsburgh also contained considerable trackage, as did the Scranton and Erie areas.
Pennsylvania is not a part of New England, of course, but it did contain interurbans with many local, streetcar-like characteristics which defined that part of the country. Most of Pennsylvania's systems, outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (which survived as rapid transit services), were gone by the 1930s. A few did manage to carry on after World War II as traditional short line freight haulers.
The Allentown & Reading Traction Company Allentown, Kutztown and Reading beginning operations in 1902. It remained in operation until 1930 when streetcars were replaced by buses.
The Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway began operations in 1893 originally connecting Altoona with Hollidaysburg.
In 1894 it built a branch between Altoona and Bellwood, and later extended it to Tyrone in 1902. Its original main line continued to operate streetcars until 1954 when it was finally replaced by buses.
The Butler Passenger Railway began operations in 1899 serving the town of Butler. In 1914 it was renamed the Pittsburgh & Butler Railway and again in 1917 as Butler Railways. Streetcar operations remained until 1941 when they were abandoned in favor of buses.
The Chambersburg, Greencastle & Waynesboro Street Railway began operations in 1903 and connected its namesake cities (as well as the towns of Rouzerville and Pen Mar), completed the line by 1908. It remained in operation until 1932 when streetcar services were abandoned.
The Chambersburg & Shippensburg Railway began operations in 1914 connecting its namesake cities. It operated streetcars until 1928 when bus services took over being operated by the Cumberland Valley Transit Company.
The Danville & Bloomsburg Street Railway served the City of Danville and also connected the nearby town of Bloomsburg. It began operations in October of 1904 and remained in service until March of 1924 when operations were discontinued in favor of buses.
The Columbia & Montour Electric Railway served the City of Bloomsburg beginning operations in 1901. It was renamed North Branch Transit in 1913 and remained in service until 1926 when operations were discontinued in favor of buses.
The Berwick & Nescopeck Street Railway served the town of Berwick operating from 1910 to 1924 before streetcars were replaced by bus service.
The Bradford & Kendall Passenger Railway began operations in 1879 serving the Bradford area.
It was renamed the Bradford Electric Street Railway in 1896, again in 1906 as the Western New York & Pennsylvania Traction Company and finally as the Olean Bradford & Salamanca Railway Company in 1921. Streetcar service survived until 1927 when buses took over.
The Du Bois Traction Passenger Railway began operations in 1891 serving the City of Du Bois. In 1897 the line was renamed the Du Bois Traction Company and was again changed in 1902 as the Du Bois Electric & Traction Company. Streetcar service lasted until 1926 when buses took over interurban operations.
The Gettysburg Electric Railroad served the famous Civil War town of Gettysburg beginning operations in 1894. It was renamed the Gettysburg Transit Company in 1897 and again changed its name in 1909 as the Gettysburg Railway. It was discontinued a short time later, a rather unsuccessful venture.
The Indiana County Street Railway served the town of Indiana beginning operations in 1907. It remained in service until 1933 when streetcars were abandoned in favor of buses.
The Lock Haven Electric Railway served the town of Lock Haven beginning operations in 1894.
A year later it was renamed the Lock Haven Traction Company and again changed its name in 1900 as the Susquehanna Traction Company. Streetcar service survived until 1930 when operations were abandoned.
The Meadville Traction Company served the town of Meadville from 1898 until its discontinuance in 1927 when rail services were abandoned in favor of buses.
The Harrisburg City Passenger Railway was the first interurban to serve the capital city dating back to 1861 as a horse-powered operation.
It remained in service for thirty years before being renamed the East Harrisburg Passenger Railway in 1891 and again changed its named as the Harrisburg Traction Company in 1895.
In 1903 the system once more changed hands as the Central Pennsylvania Traction Company with its final reorganization in 1912 as Harrisburg Railways, which provided streetcar service until 1939 when buses replaced interurban lines.
The Harrisburg & Mechanicsburg Electric Railway began operations in 1894 serving the area of Mechanicsburg.
It was renamed the Valley Traction Company in 1904 and again changed hands in 1913 as Valley Railways. Streetcar service remained until buses took over after 1938.
The Lebanon & Annville Street Railway began operations in 1891 serving the area of Lebanon. It was renamed the Lebanon Valley Street Railway in 1899, Reading Transit Company in 1910, Reading Transit & Light Company in 1913, Reading Transit Company in 1919 and finally the Reading Street Railway Company in 1929. Streetcar service was discontinued a year later in 1930.
The Hershey Transit Company was created in 1913 through the merger of several smaller surrounding systems. It operated a system that stretched roughly 32 miles and remained in operation until 1955 when buses took over.
The Southern Cambria Railway served the town of Jackson and began operations in 1912. The line also connected the towns of Nanty-Glo, Ebensburg and Johnstown. Operations survived until the 1920s when they were abandoned in favor of buses.
Conestoga Transportation served the Lancaster area and remained in operation until its discontinuance in 1947.
The operation began as the Conestoga Traction Company connecting Lancaster with Millersville, Columbia, Marietta, Lititz, Ephrata, Manheim, Strasburg, Adamstown, Rocky Springs, Terre Hill, Quarry Hill, Elizabethtown and Coatesville.
Interestingly, the line was reopened due to the traffic rush of World War II and survived another six years until its final closure in 1947.
The Lehigh Valley Transit Company began operations at the turn of the 20th century and would eventually connect the Upper Darby area of Philadelphia with Allentown (it also reached Bethlehem and Easton) on a system that stretched 45 miles.
It remained in service until 1951 when it suddenly discontinued operations without warning.
The Latrobe Street Railway served the town of Latrobe beginning operations in 1900. In 1906 it was renamed the West Penn Railways and operated streetcars until 1952 when service was abandoned in favor of buses.
The Northwestern Pennsylvania Railway began operations in 1911 taking over several smaller operations which connected Erie, Cambridge Springs, Meadville, Conneaut Lake and Linesville.
In 1923 the system became part of the Northwestern Electric Service Company and was discontinued in 1928.
The Conneaut & Erie Traction Company began operations in 1903 serving a 33-mile system connecting its namesake cities.
Unable to earn much in the way of profits it fell into bankruptcy in 1907 and was renamed the Cleveland & Erie Railway. It operated until 1920 when services were abandoned and the system was sold for scrap.
Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Railroad began operations in 1903 connecting Scranton to Wilkes-Barre on a system that stretched 19 miles.
The L&WV operated both interurban passenger and freight service, the former being abandoned in 1952. Electric operation lasted a year later until 1953 before it too was scrapped.
Freight service survived until 1976 when it was folded into a Conrail having been a subsidiary of the Erie Lackawanna Railway (the railroad had been purchased by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in 1957).
The Philadelphia & Easton Electric Railway began operations in 1904 connecting Doylestown and Easton, suburbs of Philadelphia, on a 5.5 mile system. It remained in operation until 1926 when operations were replaced by buses.
The P&W was a typical interurban serving the Philadelphia region. It began service between 63rd Street and nearby Strafford Township in 1907 utilizing a standard gauge operation (this section was later abandoned in 1956).
In 1912 it completed a branch from Villanova to Norristown, which later became its main line. Its traffic consisted almost entirely of passengers but the system nevertheless proved successful thanks to heavy commuter demand.
In 1953 it was fully absorbed by the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company, which had controlled it for some time. Today, the remaining section is operated by SEPTA as their "Norristown High Speed Line."
The New Jersey & Pennsylvania Traction Company began operations in 1901 consolidating several smaller lines.
In all it served the communities of Bristol, Langhorne, Newtown, Wycombe, Doylestown, Trenton, Yardley and Lambertville. Passenger service ended in 1934 but then owner of the line, Reading Railroad, continued operating freight trains on the line as far as Lawrenceville.
The Eastern Pennsylvania Railway was the creation of a merger by several smaller lines in 1906. It connected Pottsville to Mauch Chunk on a 35-mile route that remained in operation until 1931.
The Ephrata & Lebanon Traction Company began operations in 1915 connecting its namesake towns. This operation fell into bankruptcy in 1923 and emerged as the Lancaster, Ephrata & Lebanon Railway in 1925. Losses continued to mount and operations were abandoned in 1931.
Valley Railways dates back to the Valley Traction Company of 1903 which connected Harrisburg with the west bank of the Susquehanna River. Later extensions reached Carlisle, Marysville, White Hill and New Cumberland.
The VT was a rather unprofitable operation and was reorganized in 1913 as Valley Railways. In 1922 the railroad was forced to repave city streets in Carlisle but opted to abandon the route instead. All operations were abandoned by 1938.
The Jefferson County Traction Company served Big Run, Punxsutawney and Reynoldsville on a system that stretched 35 miles beginning operations in 1902. It remained in service until 1927 at which point operations were abandoned.
The United Traction Street Railway began operations in 1906 serving Du Bois and Sykesville. It remained in operation until its abandonment in 1928.
The Scranton & Binghamton Traction Company began operations in 1908 connecting Scranton and Montrose. It remained in service until 1931 when operations were suspended.
The Warren & Jamestown Street Railway connected its namesake cities beginning operations in 1905. Service lasted only until 1929 when buses replaced rail operations.
The Wilkes-Barre & Hazelton Railway began operations in 1903 connecting its namesake cities. It remained in service for 30 years before buses took over for streetcars after 1933.
Beaver Valley Traction Company began operations in 1908 connecting Leetsdale, Morado, Rochester and Vanport. It remained in operation until 1937 when buses replaced streetcar service.
The Centre & Clearfield Railway began operations in 1903 connecting Philipsburg and Winburne. It remained in service until 1927 when operations were abandoned.
The Corry & Columbus Street Railway began operations in 1906 connecting its namesake towns. A rather unprofitable operation it was abandoned after 1924.
The Johnstown & Somerset Railway was a short-lived interurban connecting Johnstown and Jerome. It remained in operation between 1921 and 1933 before abandoning operations.
The Lancaster & York Furnace Railway connected its namesake towns beginning operations in 1903. Operations lasted until 1930 before being abandoned.
The Northampton Traction Company connected Easton and Portland beginning operations in 1903. Services survived until 1933 before operations were abandoned.
The Northern Cambria Railway connected Patton and Barnsboro, operating streetcar service for 20 years between 1906 and 1926.
The Pennsylvania & Maryland Street Railway began operations in 1908 connecting Salisbury, Meyersdale and Garrett. The original line between Salisbury and Meyersdale remained in service until 1927.
The Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company began operations in 1899 connecting many areas of Philadelphia. Today it is operated by SEPTA the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
Pittsburgh Railways served the Pittsburgh area connecting the city with Washington (Pennsylvania), Charleroi, Black Diamond and Donora. Operations survived as late as 1952 before being replaced by buses.
The Schuylkill Railway connected Mahanoy City and Ashland operating between 1893 and 1931 before services were replaced by buses.
The South Fork-Portage Railway operated between South Fork and Summer Hill from 1913 to 1928 before operations were abandoned.
The Slate Belt Electric Street Railway served the towns of Nazareth and Bangor beginning operations in 1899. Streetcar service remained until 1926 when operations were suspended.
The Stroudsburg, Water Gap & Portland Railway began operations in 1907 originally connecting Stroudsburg and Water Gap. In 1911 the line was extended to Portland and the interurban remained in service until 1928 when operations were abandoned.
The West Chester, Kennett & Wilmington Electric Railway connected Wilmington to Kennett Square beginning operations in 1903 and lasted for 20 years before abandoning services in 1923.
York Railways began operations in 1901 originally connecting York with Bittersville and Dover. It soon had built branches reaching York Haven, Wrightsville and Hanover. Operations survived until 1939 when buses replaced streetcars on the final two lines still in service.
The New Castle Electric Street Railway served the town of New Castle beginning operations in 1890.
The operation was renamed several times over the course of its life including the New Castle Traction Company (1897), Mahoning & Shenango Valley Railway & Light Company (1906), Pennsylvania-Ohio Electric Company (1920), Pennsylvania-Ohio Public Service Company (1929) and finally the New Castle Electric Street Railway of 1930.
After this final reorganization the system lasted only until 1939 when operations were abandoned.
The Citizens Traction Company served Franklin and Oil City operating until 1928 when operations were discontinued.
The Pottstown Passenger Railway served the city of Pottstown beginning operations in 1890. It was renamed the Pottstown & Reading Street Railway in 1905 and again changed hands as the Pottstown & Phoenixville Railway in 1912.
It was changed back to the Pottstown Passenger Railway in 1922 and lasted for another 15 years before abandoning streetcar operations in 1937.
The Shamokin Street Railway began operations in 1891 serving its namesake town. It was renamed the Shamokin & Edgewood Electric Railway in 1900 and remained in service until 1929 when streetcars were replaced by buses.
The Shamokin & Mount Carmel Electric Railway served the town of Mount Carmel beginning operations in 1894. It was renamed the Shamokin & Mount Carmel Transit Company in 1906 and operated for another 30 years until 1936 when bus service replaced streetcars.
The Montgomery County Rapid Transit began operations in 1907 intending to connect Norristown and Souderton. However, the interurban only ever reached Harleysville and was never a very profitable operation, discontinuing service in June of 1925.
The Sunbury & Selinsgrove Railway was a small operation serving its namesake towns beginning operations in 1908. It remained in service until the late 1930s when operations were abandoned.
The PHB&NC was another of Pittsburgh's numerous interurban systems. It dates back to two predecessor lines, the Pittsburgh & Butler Street Railway and the Harmony Route serving New Castle, Elwood City, Beaver Falls, Morado, and Butler.
Both systems were opened between 1907-1908 and combined in 1917 to form the Pittsburgh, Mars & Butler Railway. The company went through several ownership changes in the 1920s until finally being abandoned in favor of buses in 1931.
This little interurban served Chambersburg and Caledonia Park, opening in 1903.
It was intended to also link the historic town of Gettysburg but was far too expensive due to the hilly terrain and was never completed. It was purchased by the main line railroad, Cumberland Valley, in 1905 and electrified. Given the lightly populated area the company only survived until late 1926.
This company was created in 1908, just after the end of the last major construction period and connected Carlisle to Newville, a distance of 12 miles. Further expansions were hoped for but never realized. It did acquire the nearby Carlisle & Mount Holly but was abandoned early in 1920.
The West Penn Railways was a consortium of interurbans located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio that was very large when combined, spanning 339 miles.
The earliest lines were built in 1889 and at its peak the company's operations in Pennsylvania were located primarily southeast of Pittsburgh serving towns such as Greensburg, Connellsville, Fairchance, Irvin, Scottsdale, and Mt. Pleasant.
The company slowly began to cutback services in the late 1930s and also switched over to bus operations. It was a long-lasting interurban and did not give up services entirely until August, 1952.
The Tarentum, Brackenridge & Butler Street Railway never reached its ending point of Butler only connecting Tarentum, Brackenridge and the small community of Birdville. It remained in service until its abandonment in 1937.
The Williamsport Railway, the city's first, dates as far back as 1865 when it operated a short stretch (about 1 mile) of horse-powered streetcar trackage in the city.
In 1891 streetcar operations in Williamsport were electrified and a year later six interurbans chartered to operate within the city. By the early 1950s the city had lost all of its streetcar service.
The Woodlawn & Southern Street Railway served the town of Aliquippa. It began operations in 1912 and lasted until 1937 when buses replaced streetcar service in the town.
The A&R dated back to the Allentown & Kutztown Traction Company, which began operations in 1902 on a 20-mile system that served its namesake towns.
It was renamed later that year as the Allentown & Reading when it took over another operation that connected to Reading, a distance of 20 miles. It remained in operation until 1934 when the Great Depression forced it out of business.
Northampton Traction began service in 1903 serving Easton and Bangor on a 22 mile system, later building to Portland giving it an additional nine miles.
It was an early casualty and went bankrupt in 1919. It was reorganized as the Northampton Transit Company, which purchased new equipment and operated the line for another 10 years or so before finally abandoning in 1933.
Carlisle & Mt. Holly Railway
Chester Traction Company
Dallas & Harvey Lake Railway
Easton & Nazareth Street Railway
Easton Transit Company
Erie Traction Company
Greensburg & Hempfield Electric Railway
Hestonville, Mantua & Fairmount Park Railroad
Homestead & Mifflin Street Railway
Irwin & Herminie Traction Company
Lewistown & Readsville Electric Railway
Magee Shortway Electric Railway
Monongahela Traction Company
Newtown, Langhorne & Bristol Trolley Street Railway
Oley Valley Railway
Pittsburgh-Butler Short Line
Southern Penn Traction Company
Sunbury & Northumberland Railway
Tamaqua & Lansford Street Railway
Waverly, Sayre & Athens Street Railway