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Radial railway

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Radial railway

"Interurbans" redirects here. For the publishing company once known by that name, see Interurban Press.
In Australia, "interurban" is a general term for intercity rail.

The interurban was a type of electric railway, particularly prevalent in the United States and Canada, in the period 1900 to 1925, specializing primarily in the conveyance of passengers between cities. They also allowed fast and easy access to those cities to people who lived in the suburban or rural areas beyond. When the interurban first was built into a town, it often was met with a celebration and even subsidies.[1] They were a hybrid between a city streetcar (tram) and a railroad train and are also known as radial railways. Interurban is a term that referred to both the interurban company and to the passenger cars that ran on the rails.

The interurban was a valuable cultural institution in the 1900–1915 time period. Roads were unpaved, many town streets were dirt, and transportation was by horse-drawn carriages and carts. The interurban improved the lives of rural folk by allowing them to easily ride many miles into a city or town to discover what an urban area offered in terms of entertainment and shopping. In 1915, 15,500 miles (24,900 km) of interurban railways were operating in the U. S. For a time, interurban railways were the fifth-largest industry in the U. S.[2] They were also made of poor construction and suffered from mismanagement.[3]

By 1930, most interurbans were gone with a small few surviving into the 1950s. Oliver Jensen, author of American Heritage History of Railroads in America, commented that "...the automobile doomed the interurban whose private tax paying tracks could never compete with the highways that a generous government provided for the motorist."[3]

Definition of "interurban"

The interurban fit on a continuum between wholly urban street railways and full-fledged railroads. George W. Hilton and John F. Due, in the very extensive book The Electric Interurban Railways in America,[4] define an interurban as a transportation system which shares most or all of four characteristics:

  • Electric power for propulsion.
  • Passenger service as the primary business.
  • Equipment heavier and faster than urban streetcars.
  • Operation on tracks in city streets, and in rural areas on roadside tracks or private right-of-way.

The definition of "interurban" is necessarily blurry. Some town streetcar lines evolved into interurban systems by extending streetcar track from town into the countryside to link adjacent towns together, and sometimes by the acquisition of a nearby interurban systems. There was a large amount of consolidation of lines following initial construction. Other interurban lines became, effectively, light rail systems with no street running whatsoever, or they became primarily freight-hauling railroads due to a progressive loss of their initial passenger service over the years.

In the early 1900s, the U. S. Census Bureau defined an interurban as "a street railway having more than half its trackage outside municipal limits."[5] A distinction should be made between "interurban" and "suburban". A suburban system is oriented toward a particular city center in a single urban area and serves primarily commuters who live in the suburbs of that city. A regular railroad's trains moved riders from one city center to another city center and also moved a substantial amount of freight. The typical interurban similarly served more than one city, but it served a smaller region and made more frequent stops, and it was oriented to passenger rather than freight service, although some small-load freight service did occur, especially in the days before trucks (lorries).

City streetcar lines become interurban systems

The first electric streetcars came into being as a result of the 1895 invention of the electric traction motor attached to a geared flanged wheel running on a rail and the soon to follow invention of a practical traction motor controller by productive inventor Frank J. Sprague.[6][7] This new technology encouraged the rapid construction of city streetcar trolley lines throughout the U. S., Canada, and northern Europe. When trolleys proved to be popular and profitable, it was proposed to extend them into the countryside to reach nearby towns. This linking of towns by a network of electrified trolley lines led to the term "Interurban." Local businessmen and entrepreneurs were enthused by the possibility of a new very profitable business, and they raised money and started construction. In 1900 to 1915, when all of this interurban activity first began, travel was difficult. In rural areas, roads were mostly unpaved and could be treacherous with axle deep mud in bad weather. Travel was by horse pulled carriages and freight was hauled in horse pulled wagons, and a substantial weather proof railway system would offer reliable transport. Rural inhabitants would come into town by trolley for entertainment and shopping, and farm products would be brought for sale. As a business, the idea was excellent, but many of the new interurban lines were ill conceived due to overly optimistic financial expectations.

1895 to 1915: Growth

From 1900 to 1915, a large network of interurban lines was constructed in the U.S., particularly in the states of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Utah, and California.[8] In 1900, 2,100 miles (3,400 km) of interurban track existed, but by 1915–1916, this had jumped to 15,500 miles (24,900 km), which was an exceptional increase.[9] During this expansion, in the regions where they operated, particularly in Ohio and Indiana, "...they almost destroyed the local passenger service of the steam railroad."[10] To show how exceptionally busy the interurbans radiating from Indianapolis were in 1926, the immense Indianapolis Traction Terminal (nine roof covered tracks and loading platforms) scheduled 500 trains in and out daily and moved 7 million passengers that year.[11]

1916 to 1930: Decline

Around the middle of World War I, the fortunes of the industry declined. Often this had much to do with how a line had been financed at inception:

  • Debt service: money was raised by selling corporate stock (equity financing) and by selling bonds (debt financing), often to local people. Enthusiastic salesmen sold these stocks and bonds to regional bankers, business owners, and farmers. Everyone was "high" on the idea of this new form of transportation, and the result was that some lines were poorly planned and too hastily constructed. Each interurban company that had issued stocks and bonds was expected to eventually pay a regular stock dividend and was immediately required to pay quarterly bond interest. Many interurbans struggled to do either. A Board of Directors might not have the cash to declare a stock dividend and could not make full bond interest payments due to construction and operating costs eating up every available revenue dollar. If more capital was needed, and often it was, it could be difficult to raise because the company's financial reputation was now poor. A line might be forced to stop construction mid cornfield without reaching the next town until more money could be raised, if it could be raised.
  • Low operating income and high operating expenses: Revenues less and expenses greater than predicted at corporate inception.
  • Acts of nature: Bad weather vulnerability. Floods could (and did particularly annually in the Midwest) wipe out track, damage electrical systems, destroy bridges, and flood buildings, and often there was inadequate cash reserves for rebuilding. If investors and banks were unwilling to lend more, the line might be forced to quit.
  • Disputes with municipalities: in 1895–1910, towns and villages were overjoyed to have an interurban build into their area. The first interurban car to arrive was often met with a civic celebration. Rural roads were treacherous, but the town was now reliably linked to the larger region and its cities and their bustling economy. It was fine with the town if the interurban's track was laid right down the center of all dirt Main Street. But once town streets became paved (usually with brick), disputes almost always developed over the cost of maintaining the street that the interurban track was on, and arguments occurred over the size of municipal tax levies on the interurban company. Street damage occurred due to the operation of heavy interurbans (some reached 40 tons) and in some cases three or more heavy box car freight trains would crawl down those streets. These disputes could result in lawsuits, which the interurban company often lost. By the mid-1920s, many municipalities wanted the interurbans off their streets, at least downtown streets, due to traffic congestion from the dramatic increase in automobiles. Springfield, Ohio, in 1934 sued the very busy frequent train Cincinnati and Lake Erie to stop so much train activity on its streets.[12]

The bankruptcy trend accelerated in the middle 1920s due to additional automobiles and trucks operating on new county and state paved highways. A state or county on occasion would even pressure a struggling interurban to abandon so that its adjacent roadbed could be used to widen the highway. A few money losing lines kept going by being subsidized by profits from selling electric power to their community, but often the management of the power company would push to stop rail operations in order to improve overall corporate profits. Such a move often was prevented by the state's Public Utility Commission saying that the trains must run "for the public good," and the trains continued to run at a loss. As the Great Depression escalated, the remaining interurbans operating searched for ways to stay solvent; some converted to freight-hauling operations.

Great Depression

Many financially weak interurbans did not survive the 1920s; others went bankrupt during the Great Depression. A few struggling lines tried combining to form larger systems in an attempt to gain operating efficiency and a broader customer base. This occurred in Ohio in year 1930 with the Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad (C&LE), and in Indiana with the Indiana Railroad. Both had limited success up to 1937–1938 primarily from revenues earned from freight.[13] The 130-mile long Sacramento Northern Railway, stopped carrying passengers in 1940 but continued hauling freight using heavy electric locomotives into the 1960s.[14]

1960: Decline

Interurbans business increased during World War II due gas rationing and wartime employment. When the war ended in 1945 and riders went back to automobiles, most of these lines were finally abandoned.[15] Several survived into the 1960s like the Illinois Terminal Railroad, West Penn Railways, Lehigh Valley Transit Company, Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad and Pacific Electric. Those surviving to the 1960s tended to be lines that had become commuter systems serving large cities, such as Chicago's North Shore Line and the South Shore Line.[16]


At one time or another, nearly every interurban found itself in receivership; many do so within a few years of being constructed. An interurban company might not be earning enough after operating expenses to make interest payments on its outstanding bonds, thus the company was facing bankruptcy if it had no reserves. However, if a bankruptcy court judge could be convinced that the company could in the future improve revenues versus expenses and eventually meet its bond obligations, rather than have the company liquidated, he would appoint a "Receiver" and allow operations to continue. Payments on bonded debt were judicially suspended, but the receiver's actions were closely momitored by the judge who had to give approval for unusual expenditures beyond normal day to day expenses. The appointed receiver usually was not the CEO of the company when it was in distress, but sometimes it was.[17] A Receiver was tasked with improving revenue and profit to the point where the company could exit receivership and allow interest to be paid on the company's outstanding bonds, but often this did not happen and the company would eventually be abandoned. The primary reasons for a judge approving receivership were to keep an important public service operating, maintain employment, and prevent immediate liquidation which would mean that bond holders would receive only a fraction of their original investment. Hopefully, the company would do well enough in the future to meet all of its debt obligations. When a company liquidates, plant and equipment are sold, current debts are paid with the money harvested, and bond holders are paid with the remainder, sometimes only partially if at all. Steam railroads as well as interurbans often faced bankruptcy, particularly during the Depression, and steam railroads went into receivership also. Two large railroads that recently went bankrupt rather than operate in receivership and were dismantled were the Rock Island and the Milwaukee Road.[18]

Surviving operations

SEPTA's Norristown line

The unusual single-car, third-rail operation Philadelphia & Western still runs from Philadelphia's 69th Street Terminal, now as the Norristown High Speed Line of SEPTA, as it did from inception. For years, the P&W operated streamlined Bullet cars. The very well constructed mostly two-track system entirely on exclusive right-of-way is the same as originally built, as is the line's high steel Schuylkill River bridge into downtown Norristown.

SEPTA's Sharon Hill and Media lines

The broad gauge (5'2") trolley wire powered original Philadelphia and West Chester Traction Company operated from the 69th Street Terminal to West Chester, Media and Sharon Hill west of Philadelphia using the large classic all-wood, arch-window interurban cars of the 1900–1915 period. They later converted to steel, arch-windowed interurbans constructed by Philadelphia-based J. C. Brill Company. The Philadelphia and West Chester later became the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company also known as the Red Arrow Lines. It operated interurbans and buses throughout the western Philadelphia suburbs. The very long West Chester line ran down the center of Pennsylvania's divided highway Route 3, the West Chester Turnpike. When it got close to West Chester, it shifted to the southern edge of the Turnpike and was then a true 1920s-style side-of-road interurban. Struggling with inadequate ridership and automobile congestion on Route 3, it was abandoned to bus operation in the 1950s. The Sharon Hill and the Media lines still operate today on broad gauge right-of-way constructed over 100 years ago. The two lines diverge at Drexel Hill Junction. The system's track switches (also known as turnouts) are activated by the motorman reaching out of his window and pushing a button. Usually operated with one car, they sometimes run two coupled. The Media line today has many of the characteristics of a typical 1920s interurban, including heavily wooded ravine creekside operation on a signalled single track followed by eight blocks of operation in downtown Media. It slowly proceeds along Media's narrow State Street jostling for room with automobiles and pausing for traffic signals. This is SEPTA's route 101. The Sharon Hill line is SEPTA route 102. Philadelphia's 69th Street terminal is the end of the line for Philadelphia's Market Street Subway. SEPTA is the region's tax-subsidized very extensive transportation system which operates buses, city trolleys, the three former interurban lines just described, and regional trains on an electrified railroad system that was once operated by the Reading Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Passenger operation

The first true passenger interurbans were horsecars (horse-drawn rail cars) operating on city and town streets. In the 1890s, these lines were electrified and track was extended outside of towns, thus providing local trolley service into adjacent rural areas. But most people consider the "first" true interurbans to be the very large all-wood coaches and combines (coaches with a separate section for passengers and freight) running adjacent to dirt roads between towns in the 1900 to 1920 time period. (See the photo at the right of the interurban in Ohio.)[19] Due to the tendency for these wood cars to "telescope" into each other in head on collisions, and there were some disasters with many dead, around 1912 car manufacturers turned to manufacturing wood cars mounted on steel frames, and by 1915 to all-steel construction. The major car manufacturers were J. G. Brill, Cincinnati Car Company, Niles, St. Louis Car Company, Kuhlman, and, later, Pullman. Regarding interurban competition with steam railroads, these locally focused routers offered more frequent service, slightly lower fares, and frequent stops, often at an individual farm or home upon request. The interurban wanted to accommodate the rider and retain the business. Limited service, if offered, was more restrictive about the number of stops.[20] Interurban car stops were usually around a mile apart, and the interurban would stop at a signal, in some cases given by a lineside waiting rider waving a hand or newspaper. At night, the signal to an approaching interurban sometimes was by waving a burning newspaper. In open country, these heavy interurbans could run as fast as 45 miles per hour or more and the motorman needed adequate stopping distance. Almost always, the interurban was only a single track line with passing sidings, and scheduling for passing was critical. Not only did the typical interurban stop at closely spaced stations, it also offered frequent service where hourly and even half hourly cars might be scheduled from 5:00 am to near midnight. In this respect, the interurban was quite different from the steam railroad where stops were widely spaced and only five or six trains might be scheduled daily. Fares were about 2 to 3 cents per mile, surprisingly a considerable amount even in those days. Eventually, interurban lines began to acquire equipment that was more efficient in operation regarding power consumption, more comfortable for the rider, and capable of faster operation. This is covered in a following section.

Until cost issues caused interurban companies to "one man" their cars, a single interurban car on a scheduled run had a crew of a motorman and a conductor. The conductor wore the classic railroad uniform of a dark suit with vest, shirt, tie, and a pill box hat. The motorman would run the car and the conductor collected fares. The conductor stepped down to assist riders, throw switches, reset the trolley pole if it disengaged, flag the car across roads and other railroad crossings, stand behind a stalled car to provide flag protection, and telephone the dispatcher as required. If a second car was attached to the first, there would be a second conductor. Freight trains required a third crewman, a brakeman to also handle switching and signaling. When interurban cars were one manned, which was fought by unions, the motorman had to do everything. The union's argument was that this was dangerous, and it seems that some very serious accidents were definitely caused by a distracted motorman.[21][22][23]

Places for opposing cars to meet and pass were at "sidings" as required and were specified by the crew's company timetable, or the crew might receive special written orders from the dispatcher. The conductor threw the "turnout" to allow the car to enter or leave a siding. In that regard, the motorman had a more comfortable job in bad weather because the conductor had to be outside frequently. Both might get out and struggle if a turnout was frozen. A dispatcher's telephone often was provided at each siding for the conductor. The dispatcher at his office plotted locations of all operating equipment. If a car got off schedule or was not met by an opposing car as expected, the conductor was obligated to call the dispatcher before proceeding. Many of the phone installations had a signal light that the dispatcher could turn on to summon the crew for a call. The dispatcher might order the car to proceed, to hold, or in rare cases to back up and return to an earlier siding or station in the event of a major problem ahead. Some systems provided the conductor with a portable telephone. He would clip his phone wires to trackside telephone lines and call the dispatcher. When passenger loads were heavy, a scheduled run might use two "sections." A second car might follow the first by a few minutes and would often catch up at each stop which would help distribute the passenger load to prevent standing. There were incidents with second sections. In Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley Transit had a mild collision with two of its very fast quick accelerating "Liberty Bell Limiteds" after dark in a wooded area north of Perkasie. The first car lost its trolley pole climbing a grade and the "second section" car following came around a curve and hit the first. Luckily, there was little damage. LVT dispatching rules were changed and speeds were reduced.[24]

Some interurban lines were signalled but many were not. If signalled, the line was organized into "blocks," and the system would detect when a car was in the block and would energize red lights ahead and behind. In theory, no other car would be in the block. Some of these systems worked by electrical sensing between the rails, but many were triggered by the trolley pole striking a switch or with the crew reaching out and throwing a switch. The latter arrangement was a problem with snow and ice. When crossing another railroad line, particularly a very active steam railroad, the crossing was heavily protected with signals at a manned "interlocking" tower. The interurban was required to stop, then proceed. The steam railroad was not. There were few problems reported.

In open country, the typical interurban proceeded at 40 to 45 mph, usually briefly due to many stops. The typical interurban, needing all the revenue possible, would stop for anyone waving. It might even back up to the potential rider. In towns with the middle of the street operation, speeds were slow and dictated by the town. The result was that the average speed of a scheduled trip was low, as much as under twenty miles per hour. Once roads became better and more personal automobiles were being used, the interurban was hurt by slow running, and an automobile could travel faster.

Freight operation

An interurban was a trolley line, and it is hard to imagine a "trolley line" being a mover of freight, but they all were, and some moved a surprisingly large amount. In 1926, a Cincinnati interurban in Ohio transported 57,000 tons of freight per month. By 1929, this had risen to 83,000 tons per month.[25] (One ton is 2000 pounds, approximately 1000 kilos.) This particular line, the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton (CH&D), was only 55 miles in length, but it was in a densely populated and very industrial part of Ohio, and it was willing to handle LCL (less than car load) freight when most steam railroads only wanted to handle a fully loaded box car. That left extensive LCL business to the interurbans.[26] Revenue from freight was the salvation of many lines because revenue from passengers was declining due to the growing use of automobiles. As of 1924, 15% of interurban revenue was estimated to come from freight, and it was growing. Interurban companies transporting freight were typically the last to abandon,[27] although competition from trucking companies eventually won out in the late 1930s. The CH&D company had a very formal and efficient freight department. A staff of freight agents vigorously solicited shipments from local businesses. At the freight warehouse with multiple loading platforms and tracks, freight handlers loaded freight from local delivery trucks, usually in the afternoon, into the interurban's box cars waiting on sidings. In the very early morning, they unloaded from arriving trains into local delivery trucks in the destination towns. Outgoing trains' box cars were arranged by destination and were locked, not to be opened until reaching the destination. A specific car might be dropped off at a town on the home interurban's line and the remainder dropped up the line or handed over to another interurban at an interchange point. The trains moved at night due to many town ordinances to refuse freight train operation on their streets in daytime.[28] After loaded outbound trains left in the evening, there would be a calm stretch around midnight for paperwork. Then inbound trains would arrive around dawn to be unloaded. Ohio had a dense network of interurbans that interchanged freight destined for locations far and wide, including to New York and Illinois. Interurban freight was so extensive that Indianapolis constructed a very large freight handling warehouse which all of Indianapolis' seven interurbans companies used.[29] The "roaring" 1920s were a busy time for the industrial world of Ohio and Indiana and a busy time for the transporting of freight. Dayton was a busy interchange point sending freight west to Indiana (Dayton and Western Ry) and north to Toledo, and Toledo was a major interchange connection to Detroit (Southern Michigan Ry) and to Cleveland (Lake Shore Electric Ry). In 1935, Toledo interchanged 10,000,000 pounds (5,000 tons) of freight on a monthly average. This is 167 tons per day.[30] To save time, locomotive power, always a "box motor," (powered cars designed only to carry freight) would run straight through. This would mean that a box motor owned by the C&LE would appear at Cleveland in the morning, then head back with a train to Cincinnati the next night. Proven 5 pm to 8 am overnight guaranteed freight delivery was something that the steam roads could not equal.

The biggest problem faced by all interurban lines was tracks that ran directly on city and town streets. In the early years, this was acceptable for passenger cars and the occasional freight box motor with trailer. But in the later years as the lines began to move the very large amounts of freight as discussed above, and frequent and longer trains were coming through, town running was a serious loss of time and to strenuous objections by town councils.[31]

The Illinois Insull lines' focus on freight revenue subsidized their money-losing passenger operations. Why then would they continue with passengers? The State Public Utility Commission would not let them abandon as they were providing an "essential public service." Freight movement was particularly good on the Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend due to its many interchange points with steam railroad. The South Shore still operates. Smaller interurbans usually carried only LCL (the term in the days of the interurban and on regular railroads for a longer period of time – LCL= less than carload lot) freight such as packages, newspapers, chickens in crates, and 20-gallon milk canisters in the vestibules of passenger cars or in a box motor. Some interurban lines had heavy electric locomotives that could pull fairly long trains, but the typical interurban "freight train" consisted of a powered box motor pulling one to four freight cars. The problem with interurban freight was that these trains operated directly on town streets and made grinding and squealing hard turns at street corners and even go through the town commercial center on "Main Street." This could be disruptive to automobile traffic as well as create loud noise, thus many towns restricted interurban freight operation to late night to dawn, and even that was discouraged. Some towns even in the early years refused to allow a freight "locomotive" to appear on their streets, thus interurbans had designed freight motors to look like a passenger interurban to be town accepted.[32] A "box motor" looked like an interurban car and had traction motors, windows fore and aft, a trolley pole, controls for the motorman, no side windows, and wide, freight-loading sliding doors. LCL (small quantity) freight pickup might occur at a farm or rural road crossing, where the interurban would be met by a farm wagon. Equivalent milk, vegetable, and package pickups by an interurban occur in Switzerland today.

Although some steam railroads were very annoyed by the competition, the interurban could be a good source of business. An example of this was at Westfield, New York, where the regional electric interurban Jamestown, Westfield, and Northwestern at Westfield met the large New York Central Railroad's very active Chicago-New York main line. The two had a good interchange relationship. Jamestown was a furniture manufacturing town, and finished furniture went from Jamestown on the interurban to be picked up by the NYC, and raw hardwood and stock steel and other material was shipped to Jamestown. The two lines also interchanged passengers. The interurban's Westfield terminal was part of the NYC station.[33][34]

Full carload freight tended to be a minor income generator for most small interurbans except for those that served a particular industry, such as a cement plant, a coal fired power plant, a quarry, or an on-line grain elevator. In 1922, a very impressive 8500 cars of livestock were hauled to Indianapolis by interurban freight.[35] For some of the stronger lines in more densely populated regions, freight revenue was growing and passenger business was holding steady. Then around 1926, the states and counties began to rapidly pave their roads, and more cars and trucks were driving on them. Interurban revenue began to decline. A few interurbans established their own trucking companies and their own bus lines to compete. Some larger interurban lines had more freight-hauling capability than just four car box motor trains pulled through towns. The North Shore Line was an early adopter of TOFC trains, and the South Shore Line operated long and heavy freight trains using three very large pantograph equipped 800-class 130 ton Little Joe electric locomotives. Not only were the Little Joes exceptionally large for an interurban, they were some of the largest and most powerful electric locomotives ever built for any railroad. Typically, interurban freight if not hauled in box motor LCL fashion was hauled behind steeple-cab locomotives with a footprint similar to a GE 80-ton diesel locomotive. Some interurbans had auxiliary battery power on their locomotives for operation into spurs without power. Frequently, box motors were old passenger interurban cars rebuilt by a company's shop to save money. Traction motors were regeared for pulling power rather than speed, seats and windows removed, and wide side doors added. Some of these looked odd due to passenger windows remaining and only being boarded up, but money was tight. "Steeple-cab" 42 ton freight locomotives were built by General Electric, Baldwin-Westinghouse, or by a line's own shops from the ground up.[36] The Sacramento Northern's predecessor Northern Electric home built a massive 82-ton third rail freight locomotive in the early 1900s.[37] Box motors were built by the same companies that manufactured interurban passenger cars.[38]

The Cincinnati and Lake Erie in the period 1930 to 1938 expanded and vastly improved its Cincinnati-to-Toledo line and facilities and emphasized earning freight revenue in order to survive. Keenan's essay on the subject says the following regarding the company's guarantee to provide 5 pm to 8 am overnight freight delivery: "Consider what it managed to do. The company's freight department lined up a set of freight trains that ran nightly 126 miles between Cincinnati and Toledo, 275 miles between Cincinnati and Detroit, and 335 miles between Cincinnati and Cleveland. In addition, Conway's road exchanged freight cars with lines serving Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and the greater Indiana market. C&LE's overnight trains pulled into their destinations early the next morning, the last one by 8:00 am. The company ran this service day in and day out with precision and regularity."[39] One of its best customers was the General Motors Frigidaire plant at Moraine shipping parts in and refrigerators out. C&LE's best year, 1937, it moved 10,000,000 pounds of freight both ways through Toledo, according to CEO Conway. That is an average of 26,000 pounds (17 tons!) daily. This was remarkable for an interurban trolley line. Even with that, busy 1937 was a year with no profit.[40]

Interurban technology

Track and roadbed

Right-of-way location and construction

To minimize the cost of roadbed acquisition and track construction, an interurban typically ran along or on a public right-of-way. In town, rails were usually in the streets, often the center. Town street operation could require the negotiation of very sharp turns at intersections and the need to climb steep grades. In rural areas, the track might be closely adjacent to a public road. In the 1890 to 1910s, when interurbans were first constructed, horses and wagons predominated. Rural roads were unpaved and could become deep mud during summer wet periods or in winter thaws, and horses would struggle to pull carriages and wagons. In some areas (a good example was rural Pennsylvania in Lancaster County which was the home of the wide spread Conestoga Traction Company), the interurban might be the only reliable form of transportation both for moving people and freight. Track along the side of roads was typical. Less common was long unencumbered stretches of private right-of-way not adjacent to a road. Bradley [41] discusses how the Terre Haute, Indianapolis, and Eastern's track from Indianapolis to Terra Haute ran tightly adjacent to a steam railroad out of Indianapolis, then went cross country with a well-engineered and constructed cut-and-fill right-of-way, and then went to meandering up and down side-of-road operation into Terra Haute, even wandering from one side of the road to the other depending upon a farmer's cooperation regarding right-of-way leases at construction. Once arriving at a town, an interurban's track went directly onto streets, but sometimes it was constructed at the town's periphery. In later years, when car traffic had grown and town councils were complaining about the interurban, it was fortuitous if the tracks were away from a town's center. As an example, four interurbans ran on the streets of Toledo, Ohio, well into the 1930s. Three were very busy with both passenger and freight. Luckily, their trackage, freight facilities, and passenger terminal were somewhat away from Toledo's busy downtown.[42] Regarding grades and curves, due to the good torque characteristics of the electric motor, an interurban car could operate on steeper grades and go where a steam engines couldn't, and track was sometimes placed in surprisingly steep and tight locations.[43]

Track gauge

Most interurbans were built to standard gauge (), but there were exceptions. Interurbans often used the tracks of existing street railways through city and town streets, and if these street railways were not built to , the interurbans had to use the non-standard gauges as well or face the expense of building their own separate trackage through urban areas. Some municipalities very early (1900) had wisely ordained the use of non-standard gauges in town so that railroad freight cars could never appear on public streets, and in many municipalities where standard gauge interurbans operated, such as extensively in Ohio and Indiana, that is exactly what happened. Interurban freight trains ran on town streets, and in some towns, Springfield, Ohio a particular case, the towns objected to the point of lawsuits. In Pennsylvania, many interurbans were constructed using the wide "Pennsylvania trolley gauge" of . Philadelphia's former Red Arrow and now SEPTA Routes 101 and 102 were constructed as an interurban with this gauge over 100 years ago and use it to this day. So does Philadelphia's six surface trolley lines and its subway-elevated lines. In Los Angeles, the interurban Pacific Electric Railway, using standard gauge track, and the Los Angeles Railway, the city's streetcar system, using narrow gauge, shared dual-gauge track in downtown Los Angeles with one rail common to each. Track turnouts/switches were complex as a result.


Power systems and voltages

Most interurban railways in North America were constructed using the same low-voltage 500 to 600 volt direct current (DC) trolley power in use by the street railways to which they connected.[44] This enabled interurban cars to use the same overhead trolley power on town street car tracks with no electrical change on the cars to accommodate a different voltage. By 1905, 600 volts had become the industry standard and allowed same car operation over neighboring lines. However, a low-voltage system such as 600 volts had/have a problem of a dropping voltage levels over a long distance due to the electrical resistance of the copper trolley wire, which was a relatively small. This voltage drop is called "copper loss." To counter this voltage drop, voltage-boosting substations were established trackside at intervals of up to every ten miles to feed DC to the trolley wire. High-voltage AC was delivered to the substation from a distant powerhouse and converted to 600 volts DC. Early interurban companies sometimes had constructed coal fired powerhouses to provide power to their interurban line as there were few commercial power companies in existence in 1890–1900, and the result was that the interurban often evolved into the electric residential power supplier to the local region. After their railway operations ended, they often remained as regional electric power providers.

AC to DC rotary converter

Trolley wire power was provided lineside by rotary converters in small buildings called substations. The rotary converter was a relatively massive and expensive piece of electrical machinery that converted AC voltage to DC voltage. High voltage AC came to the substation, a transformer dropped it to a lower voltage, the rotary converter changed it to 600 volts DC which went to the trolley wire. A rotary converter was large and heavy (up to 8 tons) and required a complicated start-up procedure. It had to rotate precisely at the same speed as the frequency of the input AC and often "hunted" trying to make this necessary frequency match to the frustration of the station operator before he could connect it to the trolley wire.[45] A substation might be built attached to a depot so that the station agent could also act as the operator.[46] Rotary converter design improved to provide self-starting and synchronizing. The rotary converter avoids converting electrical power into mechanical power and back to electrical power which is what occurs with the AC motor-DC generator set. The electrical energy instead flows directly (commutated)from input to output, allowing the rotary converter to be much smaller and lighter than a motor-generator set of an equivalent power-handling capability.[47] In the 1930s, the less expensive and smaller mercury arc rectifier (ignitron) replaced the rotary converter in new installations, and eventually high current capable semiconductor rectifiers made the conversion. The mercury arc rectifier/ignitron was small enough to be carried on rolling stock.

Other designs

In 1904, a high voltage single-phase alternating current (AC) system where AC was delivered directly to the interurban car became available and was promoted and distributed by Westinghouse and competitor General Electric. It proved expensive to maintain, and it increased wear and tear on operating equipment and track, plus the much higher voltage had its arcing dangers. The on board electrical equipment, which included a transformer, had to have insulation to withstand the high voltage, and 1900s rubber based electrical insulation could age and dry out, then break down, there could be arcing, then smoke and flames. This was a short-lived design, and no systems were sold after 1910. When the Pittsburgh and Butler railway converted from its original AC to 600 VDC, the company reported that power consumption dropped 15% and car weight dropped by 6 tons due to the removal of on board AC hardware.[48] In 1907, a system using 1200 volts DC was promoted which allowed for easy conversion from other DC systems and was cheaper to maintain. This made good sense because a higher voltage meant a corresponding lower current flow to deliver the same power. Trolley wire "copper loss" was reduced as would be the number of required rotary converter substations. But it came too late and few interurban railways adopted it. Had it been available 1890-1900, it possibly would have become the industry standard. The Indianapolis and Cincinnati (which never reached Cincinnati) started with the Westinghouse AC system then later converted to DC. The related cost had much to do with the early bankruptcy of the company.[49]

Power collection by rolling stock

Most interurban cars and freight locomotives collected current from an overhead trolley wire. The cars contacted this wire through the use of a trolley pole or a pantograph. Another design was to collect current from a third rail. Some interurbans used both. In open country, the third rail was used and in town, a trolley pole was raised. An example of this was the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin where a trolley pole was used in both Aurora and Elgin. Third rail was cheaper to maintain and improved electric conductivity, but it was more expensive to construct initially and it did not eliminate the need for AC transformers, AC transmission lines, and AC/DC conversion systems. Also, third rail was a serious danger to trespassers and animals. In winter, third rails were difficult to keep clear of ice, although when conditions were severe the trolley wire could also ice, and it would have to be mechanically scraped off a third rail or off a trolley wire. The 185 mile Sacramento Northern in California was an unusual case. It had three power collection devices on each car: a third rail for the Chico to Sacramento district, a trolley pole for the Sacramento to Oakland district, and a pantograph when on the Key System.[50] Because the 500–600 DC voltage systems had disadvantages as previously explained with trolley wire voltage drops, some attempts were made to try other power delivery schemes. If a high horsepower trolley pickup electric locomotive was operating, two trolley poles might be used to prevent arc damage to the trolley wire. Illinois Terminal's largest electric freight "juice jacks" used two poles.

Rolling stock

Interurban car design and manufacturers

Many interurban car manufacturers employed hundreds of workers in the 1890 to 1915 time period building cars. These were all wood, large and heavy and were the classic arch-window look with truss-rods and huge cow catchers. Three of the best known of the early companies were Jewett, Niles, and Kuhlman, all of Ohio. Jewett[51] was a very large multi-building operation in Newark, Ohio, devoted to drying and cutting wood and it had craftsmen woodworkers that turned out beautifully made interurban coaches and combines featuring interiors of highly polished mahogany, oak, and cherry wood with inlays of holly. (A car that had a section for passengers and a separate section for freight was called a combination car, or "combine." The picture at the right is of an all-wood frame truss rod combine manufactured by Kuhlman in 1905.) This type of construction was overly expensive and unnecessary, but it shows the enthusiasm that existed at the start of the interurban era in the early 1900s. Niles quit in 1917 and Jewett in 1918 due to the decline in interurban equipment orders, and Kuhlman was absorbed by J. G. Brill. Other manufacturers in the early all-wood days were the Cincinnati Car Company and J. G. Brill Company of Philadelphia. Structural weakness was a serious problem with all wood designs in a wreck, even with just a simple derailment. In the occasional head-on collision, and there were a few bad ones, one car could ride high in a crash and "telescope" the other causing many fatalities.[52] Starting around 1912, manufacturers turned to steel which led to safer but heavier equipment, some in excess of 40 tons.[53] Many steel interurban cars and freight motors ("box motors") were built by Brill, Cincinnati Car Company, St. Louis Car Company, and Pullman. Cincinnati and Brill were both known for excellent engineering and production capabilities. They designed trucks (bogies) and widely used by the industry.

Most traction motors were made by General Electric and Westinghouse. Car manufacturer Cincinnati quit in 1931, and Brill's last production rail car was in 1941. Brill had absorbed many of the smaller companies, like Kuhlman, over the years and eventually was the largest interurban manufacturer, but in 1941, it combined with American Car and Foundry to manufacture ACF-Brill buses. St. Louis Car in 1940 designed and constructed the very successful four-car lightweight very fast articulated train sets called Electroliners for the Chicago, North Shore, and Milwaukee Railroad and in 1946 constructed two similar but non articulated train sets for the Illinois Terminal. St. Louis and Pullman built many subway-elevated cars for New York City and Chicago, but St. Louis Car closed in 1973. Manufacturing of light rail cars and trainsets today is primarily done in Europe and Japan, but German-owned Siemens builds light rail cars in Florin, California. The steel interurban coach (above) on the North Shore line was manufactured by Pullman in 1926.

Freight locomotives and other rolling stock

Interurban companies purchased a considerable amount of rolling stock committed to freight and to line maintenance. All interurban manufacturers such as Cincinnati Car and Brill built freight hauling box motors to order. A "box motor" was a powered car exclusive for freight that looked like a passenger interurban without windows and had wide side doors for loading freight. A freight motor was geared for power rather than speed and could pull up to six freight cars depending upon the load and grades. Freight cars for interurbans tended to be smaller than those for steam railroads, and they had to have special extended couplers to prevent car corner contact at the very tight grinding turns at city street corners. Many electric locomotives designed to pull long and heavy freight trains were constructed by competitors General Electric and Westinghouse for the interurban industry. They were known as "Steeple Cabs" and "Juice Jacks." The Sacramento Northern used GE and Westinghouse locomotives for freight hauls due to its 4% grades in the Oakland hills area. The Illinois Terminal for its significant steam railroad freight interchange business built in its innovative shops locomotives with articulated sub-frames containing traction motors mounted under the main locomotive frame. They had two active trolley pickups and unusual streamlined European style bodies.[54] Other powered equipment was on the roster of every interurban company, including "line cars" with roof platforms for the trolley wire repair crew, snow plows and snow sweepers with rotating brushes, a car for weed control and to maintain track and ballast. In order to save money, many companies constructed these in their shops using retired or semi wrecked passenger cars for the frame and the traction motor mounted trucks. The third rail Northern Electric (predecessor to the Sacramento Northern) in 1905 home built a freight locomotive that weighed 85 tons.

Reducing costs

As discussed in a preceding section, almost all interurban railways were in financial trouble from the very beginning. Even if ticket revenue from passengers riding this new form of transportation met expectations, and in the early 1900s interurbans were welcomed with open arms as they were constructed into towns and villages, the costs of operations were almost always higher than projected. Not only were there two employees on each interurban out on the line (conductor and motorman), there was front office staff, multiple shift station agents at larger towns where a station existed for selling tickets and providing rider shelter, operators at the power house and at power substations along the right of way, shop manpower for cleaning and repairing interurban cars and other rolling stock, right-of-way crews to maintain bridges, track, signals, and the trolley wire. A large often unpredictable and very costly item was rewiring traction motors which could easily burn out if overtaxed by a careless motorman. Another was replacing damaged car wheels, or at least lathe turning them. A hard brake application that locked a wheel could leave flat spots. One of the first attempts at reducing operating costs was to “one man” the two man interurbans. This required structurally modifying the interurbans to require passengers to enter and leave only at the front and to provide the motorman a ticket selling system to manage while also operating the car. The danger was that a preoccupied motorman could pass a red signal or leave a siding where he was dispatcher ordered to wait for an opposing interurban or two. It was leaving before the second car's arrival that often led to wrecks. This could be a very serious result of "one manning."[55]

Improving interurban car design

Interurban cars constructed in the 1890 to 1910 period were made of wood and often were very large, weighing up to 40 tons and measuring as long as 60 feet. By 1910, most new interurban cars were constructed of steel, so they were even heavier, up to 60tons.[56] By 1925, interurban companies and manufacturers were attempting to reduce car weight and wind resistance in order to reduce power consumption. The wheel and motorized truck assemblies (bogies) were improved to provide a better ride, acceleration, and speed but with reduced power consumption. In the 1930s, the use of better quality and lighter steel and even aluminum was being used to reduce weight, and the car and truck assemblies were designed to significantly lower the height of the cars and their wind resistance. Car design reached a design peak for efficiency and comfort in the early 1930s with the 27 ton 47-foot long “Red Devil” interurban cars of the Cincinnati and Lake Erie and the similar cars of the Indiana Railroad.[57] In 1930, the new Cincinnati and Lake Erie interurban system (a recent consolidation of three regional lines) worked with manufacturer Cincinnati Car Company to develop an innovative design. Using aluminum to provide lower weight and designing new trucks for a lower center of gravity and for an improved ride on often what was rough track, the Cincinnati and Lake Erie purchased 20 of these which it called "Red Devils." They dramatically improved schedules and, for a while, business. The C&LE operated these interurbans daily from Cincinnati in southern Ohio all the way to Detroit, Michigan, for a few years, and they took enough business away from local steam railroads to cause trains to be dropped.[58] In 1931, the new Indiana Railroad system purchased lightweights of the Red Devil design from Pullman and ACF and operated them out of Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne all over Indiana and across the Ohio River to Louisville, Ky.[59] The developed in a wind tunnel slope roofed Bullet cars built by JCF Brill for the Philadelphia and Western in 1930 and then a later order for the Fonda, Johnstown, and Gloversville (New York) in 1932, were innovative and successful designs, but no other Bullets were ordered. The Philadelphia and Western's Bullets ran to the 1980s operated by SEPTA in Philadelphia.

Buses replace interurbans

In the 1940s, longtime interurban manufacturer J.G. Brill built buses with American Car and Foundry Company with the logo "ACF-Brill." These operated in Pennsylvania and nearby Delaware. With the demise of the interurban, many former interurban routes were taken over by local buses or regional compamies intercity bus such as Greyhound, Trailways and Peter Pan (New York.) Probably the closest present day trolley line resembling a 1920s interurban with city to country to village, side-of-road operation is the Pennsylvania gauge of . Upper Darby to Media 100-year-old former Red Arrow Line of present-day Philadelphia's SEPTA rail system. The last third of the Media line becomes single-track signaled private right-of-way with sidings for opposing cars to pass. The cars move rapidly into and out of wooded ravines and along creek beds to then emerge into Media Borough where the cars run eight blocks down the center of Media's commercial State Street. In the early 20th century, this had been the Philadelphia and West Chester interurban which operated heavy arch-window interurban cars typical of large all wood interurbans of the era.

Present day light rail

Main article: List of Light Rail systems

Services that were formerly called "interurban" are variously categorized as commuter rail or light rail, depending on operation, and may include urban to rural streetcar lines. The Tram-train may be considered as a modernization of the interurban. As with light rail Rail today, a 1920s interurban car might run fairly fast in open country on its own right-of-way, but once in a city or town, it would proceed slowly down streets, make very tight turns at street corners, and would stop for automobiles and traffic signals. North American light rail movement essentially revived the concept of the interurban, sans the term itself.

San Diego, Denver, Baltimore, Portland, Oregon, Toronto and Vancouver have built light rail systems with characteristics of former interurban operations: slow running in the center of streets, tight-radius turns in town, fast running on private right-of-way outside of town. In Los Angeles, the former Pacific Electric Railway's Los Angeles-Long Beach roadbed was used to construct the city's light rail Blue Line which connects those two cities running multiple car train sets.

See also

Interurban coaches/locomotives
  • Boxcab, another style of electric locomotive
  • Box motor, an interurban specifically built for freight transport. Purchased from a builder, but often a former interurban coach rebuilt and regeared in company shops.
  • Steeplecab, a style of electric locomotive popular on interurban lines for freight service. Built by General Electric, competitor Baldwin-Westinghouse, or by the interurban's own shops. See Illinois Terminal for unique homebuilds.

References and notes


  • Benedict, Roy: Not Only Passengers, CERA Bulletin 129, Central electric Railfan's Assoc, Chicago.
  • Bradley, George K: Indiana Railroad: The Magic Interurban, 224pp, 1984. Central Electric Railfans Association Bulletin #128, Chicago, Illinois. (ISBN 091-5348-284) (Excellent coverage of the expansivce Indiana Railroad interurban of 1930-1941, with many photographs.)
  • Bruce, Alfred: The Steam Locomotive in America, Bonanza Books, New York. 1952: pp. 407–8. (A brief discussion of the impact of the interurban on the steam railroad's local passenger business.)
  • Brough, Larence, Grabener: From Small Town To Downtown: Jewett Car Company. Indiana Univ Press, 2004. ISBN 0-253-34369-0. (History of Jewett Car Company which closed in 1917with the fall off in orders from the industry.)
  • CERA publications: Central Electric Railfans Association, Chicago, IL. Many books published as an annual "CERA Bulletin."
  • CERA Bulletin #17 Indiana Railroad. CERA staff. 1940.
  • CERA Bulletin #25, Columbus, Delaware, and Marion Electric Company; CERA staff.
  • CERA Bulletin #30, Terre Haute, Indianapolis, and Eastern Railway; CERA staff. 1941.
  • CERA Bulletin #96, Electric Railways of Ohio. CERA staff, Chicago, IL.
  • CERA Bulletin #98, Illinois Traction; CERA staff
  • CERA Bulletin #101,#102,#104. Interurbans of Indiana, CERA staff.
  • CERA Bulletin #103, Electric Railways of Michigan CERA staff. 1959. (Eastern Michigan-Toledo Railway was an important C&LE partner for both passenger and freight interchange to Detroit until abandonment in 1932.)
  • CERA Bulletin #106, Interurban to Milwaukee, Bulletin 106, CERA staff. (North Shore Line.)
  • CERA Bulletin #108, Electric Railways of Northeastern Ohio, CERA staff, Joseph Canfield editor.
  • CERA Bulletin #110, West Penn Railway; CERA staff. (Interurban in the western Pennsylvania coal country of Greensburg-Latrobe.)
  • CERA Bulletin #114, Iowa Trolleys; CERA staff, Chicago, 1966. (CRANDIC purchased Red Devils from C&LE.)
  • CERA Bulletin #119, Remember When Trolley Wires Spanned the Country; Norman Carlson.
  • CERA Bulletin #128, Indiana Railroad, Bradley, George. 224pp. 1984.
  • CERA Bulletin #129, Not Only Passengers; CERA staff, 1992. (Coverage of Interurban freight.)
  • CERA Bulletin #136, The Last Interurbans; Middleton, Wm. 1999. (Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend.)
  • CERA, other Bulletins. CERA still publishes, Chicago. IL.
  • Demoro, Harre, and Swett, et al.: Sacramento Northern: Through the Sacramento Valley, 206pp, 1998. Interurban Press Special #26 reissue. (ISBN 978-0916374-471)
  • Demoro, Harre, California's Electric Railways. (ISBN 091-6374-742) Interurbans Press Special #100.
  • Harwood, Herbert: The Lake Shore Electric Railway Story, 297p. Indiana Univ. Press, Bloomington, 2000.(Cincinnati and Lake Erie's 1930s essential freight interchange partner Toledo to Cleveland. Discussion of C&LE, president Thomas Conway. Many photographs.)
  • Hilton, George and Due, John F.: The Electric Interurban Railways in America 375 pp., 1960, reissued 2000. Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, California. (ISBN 978-0804740142) (Scholarly discussion of financing, construction, rolling stock, electrical power, brief history of each line state by state in the United States line, no photographs.)
  • Jackson, Walter: Electric Car Maintenance: Selected from the Electric Railway Journal. McGraw-Hill, 1911.
  • Jensen, Oliver: American Heritage History of Railroads in America, Bonanza Books, New York. 1981. (Brief mention, pp. 256–260 of interurbans as a transportation medium.)
  • Keenan, Jack, Book: Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad, 226p. Golden West Books, San Marino, California. 1974 (ISBN 978-087095-055-1) (Well written very lively history of the 1930s C&LE including operation stories provided by 13 former employees. Many photographs.)
  • Keenan, Jack, essay: The Fight For Survival, 26p. Essay. Available on Internet as of 2012, with cited references: (No photographs included with internet version; original presentation had photographs.)
  • Kulp, Randolph: seven NRHS publications: Liberty Bell Route's Heavy Interurban Cars,History of the Lehigh Valley Transit Co, 1966. LVT's 700 Series Cars; LVT's 1000 Series Cars; LVT's St Louis Cars; Lines of the Lehigh Valley Transit; LVTs 800 Series Cars. Lehigh Valley Chapter, National Railway Historical Society. Allentown, PA. Various years. (Kulp long time chronicler of LVT. Softcover, some photographs.)
  • Marlette, Jerry, Book: Electric Railways of Indiana, Indiana University Press, 1959 reissue 1981. (Spiral bound soft cover.)
  • Marlette, Jerry, Essay: Interstate Public Service-Your Neighborhood Interurban, 10 pages,(internet available essay regarding the interurban that ran between Cincinnati and Louisville. Absorbed by Indiana Railroad in 1930.) (
  • McKelvey, Wm Jr: Lehigh Valley Transit Company's Liberty Bell Route-A Photographic History, Canal Captain's Press, 1988. (Well captioned photographic history of the 1940-1951 LVT as its route progressed from Norristown through Lansdale, Souderton, Perkasie, Quakertown to Allentown. 300 photographs.)
  • Meyers, Allen, Spivak: Philadelphia Trolleys, 128p. Arcadia Publishing, 2004. (ISBN 0-7385-1226-5).
  • Middleton, Wm D: The Interurban Era, 432p. Kalmbach Publishing Co., Milwaukee, WI, 1961, reissue 2003. (ISBN 0-890240-035) (Very complete discussion of interurbans history by region of the United States with excellent photographs.)
  • Middleton, Wm D: The Time of the Trolley, Kalmbach Publishing, 1967. (Mostly about city streetcars, good discussion of the innovative electrical contributions of Frank Sprague.)
  • Middleton, Wm D: Traction Classics Vol I: The Great Wood and Steel Cars, 248pp, 1983; Vol II: Extra Fast, Extra Fare, 179 pp, 1985. Vol III: The Interurban's Interurban Freight, 182pp. Golden West Books, San Marino, CA. 1985 (ISBN 9780-870950-858)
  • Middleton, Wm D: The Last Interurbans, 234p. CERA Bulletin #136 authored by Middleton, Chicago, 2003.
  • Middleton, Wm D Jr, and Wm D. Middleton III: Frank Julian Sprague: Electrical Inventor and Engineer IU Press, 2009. (Sprague was a brilliant 1880s era electrical engineer who was the inventor of many traction motor and related control devices that made the trolley, interurban, and subway possible.)
  • Rohrbeck, Benson: Lehigh Valley Transit Company 1934-1953, 144p, Rohrbeck Traction Publications, W Chester, PA. (Softcover, many maps.)
  • Rowsome, Frank M and Steve Maguire; Trolley Car Treasury, 209pp, Bonanza Books, 1954, NY. (ISBN 561-11054) (Brief survey history horsecars to trolleys to interurbans, with photographs.)
  • Schramm, Henning, Andrews, When Eastern Michigan Rode the Rails, Interurban Press, Glendale, CA. 1988 (ISBN 0-91637-465-3)
  • Springgirth, Kenneth: Suburban Philadelphia Trolleys. Arcadia Publishing, Chicago. 2007. (ISBN 978-0-7385-5043-5) (SEPTA's former 1910 Philadelphia and Westchester Traction lines to Sharon and Media. Philadelphia and Western third rail line to Norristown.)
  • Swett, Ira L,: publisher of Interurban Press and author with others of 97 softcover and loose leaf publications about U.S. interurbans. Interurban Press, Glendale, CA. 1943 to 1988. Swett devoted years to publishing soft cover volumes of interurban history. Examples: Sacramento Northern Album; Special #3, Cars of the Sacramento Northern; Special #32, Pacific Electric Northern District, Pacific Electric Southern District, Pacific Electric Western District, Cars of the Pacific Electric, Interurbans of Utah.
  • Trimble, Paul: Sacramento Northern. Arcadia Publishing, 2005 (ISBN 073-8530-522)
  • Volkmer, Wm D, and King, LeRoy, and other authors;\: Pennsylvania Trolleys in Color, Volumes 1,2,3 and 4: Vol 1, Anthracite and Pennsylvania Dutch Country, (ISBN 1-878887-777); Vol 2, Philadelphia Region, (ISBN 1-878887-998), Vol. 3 Pittsburgh Region and Vol. 4; The 1940s (ISBN 1-582481-171 and 172). Morning Sun Books, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, 2003. (Many photos of former Red Devils now Liberty Bell Limiteds on the LVT, the 700 class center door cars, the arch windowed all wood #812, and freight box motors.)
  • Western New York Railroad Archives: Internet Essay: A Trip on America's Scenic Route: the Jamestown, Westfield, and Northwestern Railroad.

Museums and societies

Eastern states

Midwestern states

Western states

External links

  • Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society
  • East Penn Traction Association
  • National Railway Historical Society, Lehigh Valley Branch
  • Philadelphia Trolley Tracks
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