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that of Chicago make the whole service the fastest
of its kind in the world."

Such high speed dominance among electric rail-
ways has continued even into recent years, when
the North Shore has regularly scheduled nearly 2000
miles daily of mile-a-minute or better timings.

Samuel Insull's great public utilities complex
weathered the stock market crash of 1929, but fi-
nancial reverses of the next few years forced the util-
ilities mogul into an increasingly difficult position

From a tower overlooking the junction of CA&E's
Aurora and Elgin branches at Wheaton, the line's
dispatcher ran his busy railroad. William D.


Drab platforms were transformed by wet, sticky

snow at the CA&E National Street station in Elgin

as this cold passenger contemplated the joys of

electric heat aboard the coming train. DALE BUFK1N.


and finally, in 1932, the Insull empire collapsed.
Thousands of small investors found their savings
wiped out and Insull, harassed by intense public feel-
ing, fled to Europe to escape prosecution. Seized
aboard a Greek vessel at Istanbul in 1934, Insull was
returned to the U. S. for trial on charges of mail
fraud, violation of federal bankruptcy laws, and
embezzlement, from all of which he eventually won

It is interesting to speculate on what might have
been had the Insull empire survived the depression.
As early as 1925, when Insull's Midland Utilities ac-
quired the bankrupt Chicago, Lake Shore & South
Bend, the electric railway trade press gave serious
attention to rumors that formation of a single giant
Insull interurban extending all the way from Mil-
waukee to Louisville was in the making. The affairs
of the three big Chicago interurbans were close-
ly interlocked following acquisition of control by

Midland Utilities. The three lines engaged in joint
traffic promotion, and two of them, the North Shore
and the South Shore, were headed by the same presi-
dent, Britton I. Budd. The purchase by the South
Shore in 1930 of two new locomotives, designed
for either 1500- or 600-volt operation and trolley,
pantograph, or third-rail current collection to per-
mit their use on any of the three Chicago lines,
hinted at an even closer relationship to come. The
extensive Indiana properties of another Insull hold-
ing company, Midland United, were actually con-
solidated in 1930 into the statewide Indiana Railroad
System, but no effort was ever made to join it with
the Chicago lines. Some initial improvements were
made to the Indiana system, but by this time the
kind of capital needed to rebuild the lines after the
pattern of the Chicago super interurbans was no
longer available and the network vanished scarcely
10 years later. 1

An Insull interurban that never made the grade
uas the Chicago & Interurban Traction Company,
which got as far as Kankakee with a line that was
projected to reach Lafayette, Ind. Ill equipped
to compete with the neighboring Illinois Central
for through business, and paralleled by Illinois' s
first paved highway in 1921, the line suffered
from a chronic shortage of passengers and fre-

quent financial crises. Electrification of Illinois
Central suburban service in 1926, which absorbed
most of the company's suburban business, was the
last straw, and C&IT promptly folded. Soon after
delivery from St. Louis in 1907, car No. 202 of
C&IT -predecessor Chicago & Southern Traction
stepped out on a special excursion. William D.
Middleton Collection.

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Way Down Sout]

The South Central States

Houston Electric Railway's

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Way Down South

The South Central States

AS in the states of the Confederacy along the At-
lantic coast, interurban development in the central
states of the Deep South was rare. In the entire re-
gion, plus the border state of Kentucky, there were
to be found barely a half dozen important interur-
ban systems. Farther west, in Oklahoma and Texas,
electric line development was more frequent, and
the two states boasted several of the most distin-
guished — and financially successful — properties
of the interurban era. Almost every important popu-
lation center in the two states had at least one inter-
urban; and Dallas, the leading traction center of
the entire South Central region, had no less than
six radiating routes, operated by three different in-

terurban systems. Interurban development in the
two states began relatively late, and continued well
after the beginning of the decline and disintegra-
tion of traction systems elsewhere in North Ameri-
ca. The Northeast Oklahoma Railway, for example,
did not electrify its original line until 1921, and
continued the construction of new lines until 1923.
The ill-considered Texas Interurban Railway, which
operated 62 miles of track from Dallas to Terrell
and Denton, was not completed until 1924, al-
though total abandonment came only eight years
later. The very last interurban to begin operation
in North America was the Missouri Pacific's Hous-
ton North Shore Railway, which opened in 1927.

The most successful of the two interurbans operating from Nash-
ville, Tenn., was the Nashville Interurban Railway, later the Nash-
ville-Franklin Railway. These two photographs showing a freight
train and one of the company's original passenger cars were taken
shortly after the line began operation in 1909, and track ballast was
still conspicuously absent. Both Photos: Mack Craig Collection.


During the '30's the N-F acquired a few
secondhand Cincinnati lightweights such
as this one at the Tennessee Central cross-
ing in Nashville in 1940, the last year of
passenger operation. Nashville's other
interurban, the Nashville-Gallatin Inter-
urban Railway, opened a 24-mile high-
speed, 1200-volt route to Gallatin in 1913.
The company proposed ultimately to ex-
tend its system clear across the state of
Kentucky through Bowling Green to
Louisville, where a direct connection was
to be made with the great traction net-
works of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
Nothing, of course, ever came of the
scheme, and the company quietly folded
after 19 years of operation. Stephen D.

The first interurban to adopt the Cin-
cinnati curved-side lightweight cat-
was the Kentucky Traction & Ter-
minal Company, which bought 10 of
them in 1 922 for service on its four inter-
urban routes radiating from Lexington.
The phenomenal success of the light-
weights in achieving economies and
increasing patronage led to their wide
adoption on Midwestern interurbans.
One of the original KT&T light-
weights, No. ill, was photographed
at Frankfort en route to Lexington in
1932. Abandonment came two years
later. Howard E. Johnston






Although brightly painted cars such as the Piankasha provided frequent passenger service to points in the
mining district in the Oklahoma-Missouri-Kansas corner, the Northeast Oklahoma Railroad's principal
business was the transportation of ore from the lead and zinc mines to the smelters of owner Eagle-Picher
Alining & Smelting Company. The last passenger cars quit running in 1940, but freight traffic continues
behind diesel power. George Krambles Collection.

The 24-mile Pittsburg County Railway began op-
eration between McAlester and Hartshorne, Okla.,
in 190 3. Although frequent passenger service con-
tinued almost to the time of abandonment in 1947,
carload coal traffic from the mines of eastern Okla-
homa brought in most of the company's revenue.
Box motor *>2 snitched a strip mine near Alderson
in 1946. Preston George.

The Pittsburg County, in operation for four years
when Oklahoma became a state, originally was
called the Indian Territory Traction Company. In
1946 car 55 zipped along the highway between
Bache and Dow. After 1924, three of these Cin-
cinnati cars operated all passenger schedules.
Preston George.

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The Sand Springs Line began the replacement of its original heavy wooden equip-
ment with secondhand lightweight cars during the '30's. Here, at Lake Station
in 1946, are former Oklahoma Union Railway lightweight No. 69, en route from
Tulsa to Sand Springs, and Tulsa-bound No. 62, one of the five lightweights ac-
quired from the Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg & Aurora in 1934. Built by the Cin-
cinnati Car Company in 1918, the CL&A cars were among the first lightweight
cars built. Gordon Lloyd.

Former Union Electric Railway No. 75 arrived at Tulsa in. 1954 on double track which
paralleled the Frisco's Tulsa-Oklahoma City main line. William D. Middleton.


To augment the motive power available for its growing freight traffic, the Sand Springs purchased
two 11-ton locomotives from the Niagara Junction Railway of New York in 1946. One of the radio-
equipped steeple-cabs, No. 1006, pulled a cut of tankers from the Sinclair plant at Sand Springs in 1934.


Charity's Interurban

In 1908 Oklahoma oilman, industrialist, and phi-
lanthropist Charles Page began construction of his
Sand Springs Home for orphans and widows on 160
acres of onetime camping ground in the former
Osage Indian Nation a few miles west of Tulsa. Dis-
pleased with the undependable flagstop transporta-
tion service afforded by a nearby Katy branch line.
Page decided to build his own railroad to the Home.
Completed in 1911, the Sand Springs Railway was

initially operated with McKeen gasoline cars, but
was soon electrified. To assure a permanent income
for the Home, Page established the City of Sand
Springs as a model industrial center and liberally
endowed the Home with tracts of industrial land and
a multitude of business enterprises, chief among
them the Sand Springs Railway itself. A highly
successful electric railway, the Sand Springs Line
continued passenger operation until 1955, when
lack of profits, not a shortage of passengers, brought
its abandonment. Diesel freight operation continues.

The Oklahoma Railway's steel combine Lindbergh was built for the company m 1917 by the St. Louts
Car Company. Scrollwork painting and the glass in the lower panels of the baggage door augmented
the "de luxe" appearance lent by white tires. O. F. Lee Collection.


Oklahoma's largest traction system was that of the
Oklahoma Railway, which operated interurban
routes from Oklahoma City to Guthrie, El Reno,
and Norman, as well as street railway lines within
the capital city. The company's interurban routes
survived through World War II, when they were
subjected to a tremendous traffic growth resulting

from defense plant activity and installation of a
huge Naval Training Station at Norman. The com-
pany, which had purchased a considerable number
of relatively modern interurbans on the secondhand
market during the '30's, sought still more, and old
passenger cars which had been converted for freight
service were re-equipped for passenger operation.

Arriving at Oklahoma City from Guthrie in 1946 was a former Rock ford (III.) Public Service Com-
pany interurban obtained in 1917. Preston GEORGE.

One of the different car types acquired by the Oklahoma Railway from aban-
doned Midwestern properties during the '30's lias this former Fort Wayne-Lima
Railroad lightweight shown at the Norman depot in 19 IX. Preston George.


The original composite wood and steel equipment of the two predecessor companies operated
virtually all Texas Electric passenger schedules throughout the system's existence. Much rebuilt
through the years, the cars were maintained to high standards even in the company's last years. Hand-
somely groomed No. 368 was photographed at Vickery on a northbound trip in the summer of 1947,
little more than a year before Texas Electric abandoned its entire system. A head-on collision be-
tween two passenger cars in 1948 hastened the company's liquidation. George A. Roush.

Texas Electric was the last interurban, save Pacific Electric, to operate Railway Post Of-
fice equipment. In 1941 the company's RPO car No. 362, southbound from Denison to
Dallas, was just north of Vickery, where the interurban line made an abrupt change of
direction to pass under the T&NO Railroad. George A. Roush.



Arch Windows Across
the bluebonnet state

Texas interurban development was largely cen-
tered about the populous Dallas-Fort Worth area,
and a large portion of the state's electric mileage was
under the control of the Stone & Webster Manage-
ment Association of Boston. Street railways in both
Dallas and Fort Worth were Stone & Webster-man-
aged, along with the high-class Northern Texas
Traction Company, which connected the two cities
with a 35-mile line, and the Tarrant County Traction
Company, which operated 30 miles south from Fort
Worth to Cleburne. The Texas Traction Company,
operating north from Dallas to Sherman, and

the Southern Traction Company, operating south-
ward to Corsicana and Waco, on the other hand,
were locally owned and managed, and South-
ern Traction was sometimes known as the "Home
Interurban" for its predominance of local stock
ownership. The two affiliated companies, both pro-
moted by J. F. Strickland of Dallas, were merged in
1917 to form the 250-mile Texas Electric Railway,
the longest interurban in the entire south. Despite
its failure to develop more than a modest freight
traffic, Texas Electric was a remarkably successful
interurban, and its Denison and Waco lines con-
tinued through World War II, when passenger rev-
enues reached a peak of nearly 2 million dollars ;
year, and the company even paid a few dividends.


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These interurban terminal facilities in
Dallas were provided by the local city
system. At the terminal in 1948 were red
and cream TE RPO car No. 350 and coach
No. 326, one of the jew all-steel cars op-
erated by the company. George A. Roush.

Shortly before abandonment in
194H of the largest interurban of
the entire South Central region, this
Texas Electric interurban traveled
to Waco on a special run with a
party of railroad enthusiasts.
W. P. Donalson Jr.

After Northern Texas Traction was
abandoned in 1934, Texas Electric
acquired a few of NTT's distinguished
arch-roofed wooden cars. Two of
them met at George siding be-
tween Dallas and Denison in 1940.
C. D. Savage.


America's Fastest Interurban

Throughout the age of electric traction there
were few interurbans that equaled the magnificent
Galveston-Houston Electric Railway, which was
completed between the two cities in 1911 by the
Stone & Webster Engineering Company. Built with
what the railway's house organ termed "utter disre-
gard for expense," the line observed excep-
tionally high standards of engineering and construc-
tion. For 34 of its 50 route miles the railway's track
was laid on a perfect tangent, and altogether there
were only six curves on the entire interurban sec-
tion, none of them exceeding 2 1 . ? degrees. The maxi-
mum grade on the entire line was only 0.5 per cent,
with the single exception of the approaches to a
crossing over the Santa Fe. Private right of way was
a full 100 feet wide. Eighty-pound rail, founded in
shell ballast, was employed throughout the length of
the line. Catenary construction was employed for the
overhead system, and power was generated in the
company's own modern steam turbine plant. Galves-
ton-Houston traffic proved highly profitable from the
start. During the '20's some of the company's splen-
did standard interurbans were provided with parlor
sections, and accelerated schedules were installed.
Beginning in 1924 the parlor car limiteds Galves-
ton Flyer and Houston Rocket were scheduled twice
daily between the two cities on 75-minute timings,
requiring an average speed of over 40 miles per hour
between downtown terminals. It was the fastest elec-
tric railway service in America, and for two consecu-
tive years the Galveston-Houston line was awarded
the Electric Traction interurban speed trophy. Dur-
ing the summer months Houston pleasure seekers
rode down to the Gulf on equally rapid schedules
aboard the weekday Pleasure Limited and the Sun-

day-only 55 Limiteds, which operated directly to the
beach in Galveston. Late in the evening the north-
bound Moonbeam was scheduled for the return
home. Special excursion fares were offered, among
them such combination tickets as the Pleasure Lim-
ited round trip which included admission to a bath-
house and the Tokio dance hall, and a tourist outing
which included a sight-seeing tour of either Houston
or Galveston. For the convenience of dance hall
patrons, the last train north in the evening, the
Nigbthawk local, was routed by the Tokio at
12:05 a.m. 1

This gay drawing appeared in local news-
papers at the time of the Galveston-Hous-
ton's opening in 1911. Herb Woods

A concrete causeway, over 2 miles in length,
afforded the interurban, five railroads, and a high-
way access to Galveston Island. The electric line
contributed a quarter of the 2-million-dollar con-
struction cost. During the great hurricane of 1915
portions of both approaches to the causeway were
wrecked, stranding a passenger train and a work
train as winds approaching 100 miles per hour

swept sheets of water across the structure. The pas-
senger-train conductor and a number of passengers
who took refuge in the nearby Causeivay Inn lost
their lives when the building was swept away at
the height of the storm. Two passenger cars and an
electric locomotive ivere eventually recovered from
the bay, but a tower car was swept away and never
found. Herb Woods Collection.








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Tu'O jour-car special trains loaded a crowd of Galveston-bound pleasure seekers on Texas Avenue in
Houston about 1927. The two wooden trailer cars in the foreground had come to the rail u ay second-
hand from Pennsylvania's Laurel Line. Herb Woods Collection.


To Far and Lonely Places

The Mountain States


Against a stern Wasatch Range backdrop, a sleek Bamberger Railroad
Bullet raced southward to Salt Lake City in 1950 across the vast and open
spaces that characterized the Utah interurban. William D. Middleton.




To Far and Lonely Places

The Mountain States

VvEST of the Great Plains, in the forbidding
reaches of the Rockies and lesser ranges, the electric
cars became only an infrequent sight. The trans-
portation needs of the thinly populated Mountain
states were already amply accommodated by the
great transcontinental, and the gold and silver dig-
gings of the Colorado Rockies had been thoroughly
covered by the narrow gauge frenzy of a few decades
earlier. Only in the fertile lowlands of Mormon
Utah, where a chain of interurbans extended nearly
200 miles southward from the Idaho border through
the Great Salt Lake basin, did traction develop-
ment approach that of the Midwestern states.

The operations of the omnipresent
Anaconda Copper Mining Com-
pany of Anaconda, Mont., extended
even to a Street Railway Depart-
ment, whose interurban trains ran
to the company's nearby smelter
and the town of Opportunity.
Almost in the shadow of the great
smelter stack, a St. Louis motor
car struggled into Anaconda with
four trailers of homeward-bound
workers in 19W. John Stern.

Aside from portions of major lines of Utah and Washington which
extended into the state, Idaho's few miles of electric railway were
concentrated in the Boise region. Largest of several Idaho in-
terurbans was the Boise Valley Traction Company that operated
westward from Boise to Caldwell over two alternate routes. The
company's combine No. 7, shown at the Ballantine way station in
1919, was built by American Car Company in 1911. Smokers were
expected to ride in the baggage compartment, which was fitted
with folding wooden seats. Allan H. Berner Collection.


- 1


The Denver & Interurban Railroad was a notable
early experiment in high-voltage, single-phase elec-
trification of Colorado & Southern steam tracks be-
tween Denver and Boulder, employing the Westing-
house 11,000-volt A.C. system. At one time Colo-
rado & Southern plans contemplated a mainline elec-
trification and hourly interurban service all the way
to Fort Collins, but the Burlington, which controlled
C&S after 1908, didn't take to the idea and the
catenary never extended beyond Boulder. The eight
generously proportioned motor cars which were
constructed for the service by the St. Louis Car
Company employed extra-heavy steel frames and

wooden bodies because of operation over the same
tracks with steam trains, and weighed better than
62 tons. The extra weight of bulky A.C. controls in
addition to duplicate D.C. controls for operation
over Denver and Boulder streetcar tracks and such
lavish features as steel plate floors contributed to the
great weight of the cars. The exuberance of the Old
West had not entirely disappeared before the brief
span of D&I operation, and on one occasion an in-
terurban passing through Louisville during a bitter
miners' strike was liberally ventilated by gunfire.
The passengers took to the floor while the electric
car hastened out of range.

In Pullman green trimmed with gold, car A1-J57 paused at D&I Junction

with an inspection party of company officials in 1908, the year of D&l's opening.

Motorman Fred Spencer lounged nonchalantly in the doorway. Andrew W.

Whiteford, from Jack Thode.

A small boy gazed rapturously at the big interur-
ban as a Denver & Interurban train made a station
stop under the A.C. catenary. William D. Mid-
dleton Collection.


Between Denver and D&I Junction, a distance of some 16 miles, Colorado &
Southern deemed it advisable to construct a new and separate line for its electric
subsidiary, but the remainder of the distance to Boulder was operated over either
of two C&S steam lines which had been electrified for the interurban service.
This activity at Louisville about 1910 indicates the close integration of D&I


schedules with those of the parent C&S. The two interurban cars, en route to
and from Denver, are meeting the C&S's Lafayette Stub local, powered by
4-4-0 No. 303. The dual-gauge track was employed for mixed-gauge freights trans-
porting ore concentrates from the Denver, Boulder & Western interchange at
Boulder to the smelter in Denver. Boulder Historical Society.


An interurban with an ambitious past was the
Denver & Intermountain, which extended west from
Denver to Leyden and Golden. Originally built by
David Moffat as the narrow-gauge Denver & North-
western, the line was once possessed of plans to
cross the Continental Divide to Grand Lake, a pop-
ular resort near what is now the Rocky Mountain
National Park. Instead, Moffat built his Denver &

Salt Lake line through Corona Pass and Denver &
Northwestern became an interurban affiliate of
the Denver Tramways. Later on, a second, more
direct route to Golden was provided when the
Tramways took over and electrified a standard-gauge
steam line. Between Arvada and the Leyden Mine
the company operated a rare stretch of dual-gauge
electric track.

This D&IM narrow-gauge interurban, a con-
verted city car, was running at a respectable JO
miles per hour near Arvada, Colo., in l')4H on
dual-gauge track of the old Denver & Northwest-
ern, which was parallel to the rails of D&RG\\"s
Mofjat-built transcontinental. A onetime funeral

car which transported mourners while the cof-
fin rode in a four-wheel trailer behind, car .03
retained its black leather upholstery to the end.
For reasons now obscure, Denver & Intermoun-
tain applied decimal numbers to its narrow-
gauge interurbans. Ross B. Grenard Jr.

Lava-capped North Table Mountain provided a scenic background as a standard-gauge D&IM interurban
rolled eastward out of Golden, Colo., in l l )4 l ), a year before abandonment. John Stern.


Trailing a former Colorado & Southern com-
bine which served as a caboose, a pair of D&IM
narrow-gauge steeple-cab locomotives ran

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Online LibraryWilliam D. MiddletonThe interurban era → online text (page 12 of 23)