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Interurbans, and their suburban counterparts (the streetcar), were once common throughout the country. 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.
In retrospect, the financial interests behind these traction railroads were largely misplaced.
As William Middleton notes in his book, "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.
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.
The Panic of 1903 ended this fervor but it reignited again between 19 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.Sprague failed to interest the New York Elevated but others were impressed. Brill Company Jewett Car Company Niles Car & Manufacturing Company St.
He eventually secured a contract in May of 1887 with the Richmond Union Passenger Railway in Virginia to provide cars for its operation. Louis Car Company Birneys Electroliners Presidents’ Conference Committee Streetcars, PCCs 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.The latter alternative was cheaper but the resulting grades and curves were less than ideal, a problem only compounded when freight movements were involved.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, "" (Page 57).