William D. Middleton.

The interurban era online

. (page 13 of 23)
Online LibraryWilliam D. MiddletonThe interurban era → online text (page 13 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ALU. near Leyden in 1950. The unusual en-
gines were leased from Denver Tramways.
Freight equipment was painted a simple black,
but passenger cars were the same golden yel-
low as DT streetcars. Ross B. Grenard Jr.

Arriving from Colorado Springs, a deck-
roofed Colorado Springs & Interurban car
headed through the streets of Manitou
Springs, past the terminal where passengers
transferred to the cog railroad that scaled
nearby Pikes Peak. Rambling resort hotels,
such as the one seen in the background, ac-
commodated passengers who came to partake
of the health-giving benefits of the mineral
springs. From Railroad Magazine.



The Highest Interurban

The gold mining camps of the mountainous Crip-
ple Creek district, the scene of Colorado's last great
mining boom, were linked by the rails of an early
U. S. interurban, the Cripple Creek District Rail-
way, that began service between Cripple Creek and
nearby Victor early in 1898. This original "High
Line" between the two points traversed an extreme-
ly mountainous area, affording what was perhaps
the most spectacular interurban ride available in
North America. The electric cars negotiated severe
grades, which reached a maximum of 7.5 per cent up
Poverty Gulch, and climbed to an elevation of near-

ly 2 miles above sea level at Midway, making the
line easily the highest electric railway in all of
North America. A year after its opening the electric
line was purchased by the new Colorado Springs &
Cripple Creek District Railway and the latter con-
structed a second, shorter "Low Line" between Crip-
ple Creek and Victor in 1901. During the Cripple
Creek boom times the interurban transported such
later distinguished personages as Bernard Baruch,
Jack Dempsey, Tom Mix, and "Texas" Guinan; and
the famous vaudeville team of Gallagher and Shean
first tried out their routines for passengers on the
mountain interurban, on which they worked as
motorman and conductor.

About 1900, Cripple Creek District Railway's car No. 1, the Evelyn, a Barney &
Smith motor car, stopped at Midway en route from Cripple Creek to Victor.
Barely visible to the south are the peaks of the Sangre de Crista range.
Eddie Wiwatowski Collection.

The interurban's route and the irregular topography of the Cripple Creek District are shown in some-
what exaggerated fashion in this early promoter's view. Trains Collection.

Controlled by the Carlton interests, the Grand
River Valley Railroad, tvhich extended 16 miles
from Grand Junction, Colo., to Fruita, was
once scheduled to become a part of the Colo-
rado Midland's projected western extension to
Salt Lake City. Instead, following World War 1,

the Midland earned the unfortunate distinction
of being the largest single abandonment in
railroad history, and the "fruit Belt Route" con-
tinued to the end of its existence in relative
obscurity. Combine No. 5 J is seen in Grand
Junction. Fred Fellow Collection.

Northernmost of the chain of Utah interurbans
was the Ogden, Logan & Idaho Railway, later known
as the Utah Idaho Central, which meandered north
from Ogden across the Collinston Divide to the
Cache Valley and southern Idaho. Originally the
wealthy David Eccles interests, which built the line,
contemplated an electric trunk line that would
eventually extend all the way to Yellowstone
Park, but traffic was scarce in the lonely UIC coun-
try and prosperity eluded the interurban. In 1910 a

UIC predecessor, the Ogden Rapid Transit Com-
pany, successfully waged a miniature "canyon war"
with Simon Bamberger's Salt Lake & Ogden in-
terurban, when both raced to be the first to build
a line up the scenic Ogden Canyon. While Bam-
berger crews were busy surveying and grading a
new line to the mouth of the canyon, east of Ogden,
ORT managed to get there first by extending an
Ogden local line, and Bamberger was forced to
abandon his virtually completed roadbed.

Winters were severe on the Utah interurbans, and scenes such as this were com-
mon. Home-built wooden freight locomotive No. 6 battled heavy drifts on
the Ogden Rapid- Transit line near Nerva before 1912. Fred Fellow Collection.


Speeding downgrade after topping the Collinston
Divide at Summit, northbound VIC train No. 1
beaded through desolate countryside to Preston.
Ida., in 1947. By this time the company's
passenger operation had declined to a single

daily round trip, and abandonment was only a
month away. The "rising sun" front-end treat-
ment was typical of the flamboyant color schemes
adopted by Utah interurbans during their later
years. Fred Fellow.


With the great Mormon Temple prominent in the
background, a three-car Bamberger train headed
north out of Salt Lake City for Ogden in 1950.
John Stern.

Garbed in brilliant orange and cream
colors, a Bamberger interurban approached
North Salt Lake station in the wake of a
February snowstorm in 1951. Originally
constructed as an open trailer car in 1916
by the Jewett Car Company, car 355 was
rebuilt numerous times b\ company shops
in later years. After being gutted in a half-
million-dollar Ogden carbouse fire in 1918,
No. 355 and five identical cars were rebuilt
in company shops as enclosed motor cars.
Their last rebuilding came in 1946 in
preparation for a new high-speed "Flyer"
service; interiors were completely refur-
bished and new gearing was installed which
permitted top speeds of 73 miles per hour.
William D. Middleton.

Dissatisfied with the indifferent service offered
between Salt Lake City and Ogden by the Union
Pacific and the Denver & Rio Grande, and con-
vinced that a local railroad devoted to local interests
was required, Simon Bamberger, later a Utah gov-
ernor, organized the Salt Lake & Ogden Railway,
which completed construction of a line between the
two cities in 1908. Originally steam powered, the
SL&O was converted to electric power in 1910, and
still later adopted the Bamberger family name as its
corporate title. Connecting Utah's two principal
cities, and traversing the rich Mormon lowlands
between the Wasatch Range and Great Salt Lake, the
Bamberger line developed a rich traffic and survived
well beyond the midcentury.


Just north of Farmington, Utah,
Salt Lake & Ogden construc-
tion crews drained a swamp,
created an artificial lake, and
built the elaborate Lagoon
amusement park that soon be-
came a major source of the com-
pany's passenger traffic. Jam-
packed with passengers in a
holiday mood, a five-car Fourth
of July special rumbled through
Farmington on the way from
Salt Lake City to the park.
Fred Fellow.

In company with their steam railroad con-
temporaries, interurban proprietors considered the
monumental passenger terminal, befitting the im-
portance and substantial character of their lines, a
necessary adjunct to the passenger business. Among
the most imposing of such structures was the great
terminal erected in 192} on Salt Lake City's Temple
Square by Utah interurban tycoons Simon Bam-
berger atid W . C. Orem for the joint use of their
Bamberger Railroad and Salt Lake & Utah
electric cars. Fred Fellow Collection.

Marble and tile finishes were lavishly employed
in the public rooms of the Salt Lake terminal,
which cost $300,000. Space was provided for a
restaurant, stores, and other facilities befitting an
important passenger terminal, as well as office
spaces for both companies. A Salt Lake & Utah
train unloaded at the platforms in the rear of the
terminal. Fred Fellow Collection.

South from Salt Lake City into the Utah Valley,
during the final years of the great electric railway
boom, Boston mining and railroad tycoon Walter C.
Orem pushed the rails of his high grade Salt Lake &
Utah Railroad. Among the contractors who built
the "Orem Road" was Mrs. W. M. Smith, a rather
remarkable lady who was claimed to be the only
woman railroad contractor in the world. Reputed to
be worth a half million dollars, Mrs. Smith had
built branches for Union Pacific and Southern Pa-
cific and a portion of the Western Pacific main line
before taking the Salt Lake & Utah job. Working
with Mrs. Smith on the interurban was her daughter
Irene, who was learning the business. Said Mrs.
Smith, who bossed her own track gangs, "There is
good money in the contracting business and I don't
see why a woman shouldn't succeed in it as well as
a man. Certainly I can look along a rail and see
if it is laid straight. If it isn't I make the men take
it up and fix it."

In common with most western interur-
bans. Salt Lake & Utah operated an ex-
tensive freight business, interchanging
traffic with its interurban and steam rail-
road connections alike. Steeple-cab loco-
motive No. 52, shown with a tonnage train
of coal from the line's Utah Railway con-
nection at Provo, was a 1922 product of
the company shops at Payson. Rebuilt
from the remains of an earlier locomotive
demolished in a head-on collision with a
steam locomotive, No. 52 met a similar
fate 20 years later when it was completely
wrecked in another "cornfield meet," an
event that occurred altogether too fre-
quently in SL&U history. Fred Fellow






Only two years after completion of the Ore/n Road, these SL&U trains met on multiple track not far
from Salt Lake City. Fred Fellow Collection.


At Granger, south of Salt Lake, the SL&U Magna branch headed west from the
main line. Car No. 610 was bound down the branch while train No. 5, headed
by combine No. 603, accommodated "Red Arrow Fast Freight" and passengers

Freshly outshopped, a pair of the handsome Niles-built steel interurbans that operated Salt Lake &
Utah passenger service throughout U years of electric operation were lined up in a Salt Lake City street
for a 1935 publicity photograph. Fred Fellow Collection.


To provide suitable class on its crack Utah County
Limited and Zion Limited, Salt Lake & Utah ac-
quired a pair of roomy observation cars from the
Niles Car Company in 1916. Local farmers liked to
enrich the family homestead by tossing the chairs
off the observation platform as the electric cars sped

by their farms. To solve what was probably a
unique problem among interurban lines, SL&U
was finally forced to remove all of the seats from
the platforms. This gay group rode south from
Salt Lake City on the Utah County Limited in 1916.
Fred Fellow Collection.

Ready for the return trip to Salt Lake City, a Saltair train made up of two McGuire-Cummings com-

Except for the proceeds of a modest freight traf-
fic, the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western derived vir-
tually all of its revenues from the transportation of
great throngs of pleasure seekers to the company-

owned Saltair resort on Great Salt Lake. In addi-
tion to effortless bathing in Great Salt Lake, such
assorted attractions were offered as a roller coaster
and one of the world's largest dancing pavilions.


bines and a brace of company-built open trailers loaded at Saltair pavilion in 1950. Fred H. Matthews Jr.

Heading due west from Salt Lake City over a straight
and level line laid on the bed of prehistoric Lake
Bonneville, the Saltair line opened for business in
1893 as a steam railroad with the grandiose title of

the Salt Lake & Los Angeles Railway. Aside fro!
building a short-lived branch to Garfield, the rail
never did manage to do anything about its c
for rails to the west. 1


In the Far West

The Pacific States


Luxurious Oregon Electric rolling stock such as that shown in this verdant Willamette Val-
ley scene, combined with lower fares and superior schedules, diverted large numbers of
passengers from rival Southern Pacific's steam trains. For only 35 cents extra passengers
could ride in the opulent parlor-bufjet-observation car Sacajawea, or the identical Cham-
poeg, delivered in 1910 by the Niles Car works. Light lunches and spirituous refresh-
ments were dispensed from the car's miniature buffet. University of Oregon Library.



In the Far West

The Pacific States

In the states of the Pacific Coast grew some of the
finest traction properties of the interurban era.
Except in the matter of their motive power, the trac-
tion systems of the Far West frequently resembled
steam railroads more than they did their electric
contemporaries of the Midwest and East. Construc-
tion standards were usually high, steam railroad op-
erating rules were frequently observed, and many
of the Western electrics engaged in heavy freight
business from their very beginning, often function-
ing essentially as short line feeders to the steam
systems. Such attributes served them well, for long
after the decline of interurban passenger business
and electric traction many of the Far West interur-
bans continued to perform a useful service as freight-
only carriers.

19 Orders and Motor neers

A dominant force in electric interurban develop-
ment in the Puget Sound region was Boston's Stone
& Webster Engineering Company. The earliest of
the Stone & Webster interurbans was the splendidly
engineered third-rail Puget Sound Electric Railway
opened in 1902 between Seattle and Tacoma. By
1907, when Stone & Webster's Seattle-Everett Trac-
tion Company was reaching northward from Seattle
and construction forces were ready to move south

from Bellingham, company executive C. D. Wyman
was able to speak confidently of plans for a Stone
& Webster traction empire that would soon stretch
from the International Boundary south to Olympia
and Chehalis, and perhaps eventually to the Grays
Harbor country and Portland. By 1913 Stone &
Webster's Pacific Northwest Traction Company was
operating two separate divisions, between Seattle
and Everett and between Mount Vernon and Bell-
ingham, with construction of the 30-mile missing
link scheduled for the "near future." To the north
the British Columbia Electric Railway was ready
with plans for a new line into Bellingham that
would have completed an unbroken interurban
route between Seattle and Vancouver. Temporarily
postponed during World War I, neither project
ever materialized, and interurban construction south
of Tacoma never amounted to more than a few
short branches to nearby towns.

With trolley rope bowed in the

breeze, a Puget Sound Electric

Railway Seattle-Tacoma local raced

along near Fife on a stretch of track

where the transition from overhead

to third-rail power collection was

made. General Railway Signal





Led by a combine laden with an impressive
variety of front-end accessories, a three-car Puget
Sound Electric Seattle Limited paused near Kent
in 1915. Operating in strict accordance
with steam railroad rules, PSE crews picked up
"19" orders and clearances on the fly with tradi-
tional order hoops, and the motorman went by

the hybrid title of "motorneer." A never fully
explained PSE phenomenon was the tendency of
its third rail to travel — one stretch of third rail
moved over 60 feet in the space of only a few
years — and PSE maintenance crews were for-
ever removing or adding pieces of third rail.
H. A. Hill Collection.

Street traffic magically melted in the path of PSE's formidable interurbans. This Tacoma Limited was all
set to rumble off from Seattle in 1924. Washington State Historical Society, from Robert S. Wilson.

Virtual twins of the handsome cars that plied
Stone & Webster's Texas interurban properties,
a half dozen wooden Niles interurbans were
standard equipment for Pacific Northwest Trac-
tion's Seattle-Everett Southern Division from

1910 until abandonment nearly 30 years later.
No. 54 was fresh from the Ohio builder's plant
when this view was recorded. Washington
State Historical Society, from Robert S.

Trolley Varnish in the Inland Empire

Grown shabby in their last years
in the clamp coastal air, these two
North Coast Lines interurbans
met at Ronald siding on the
Seattle-Everett line shortly be-
fore abandonment in 1939.
Stuart B. Hertz.

Operating eastward to Coeur d'Alene, Ida., and south to Colfax,
Wash., and Moscow, Ida., the interurbans of the Inland Empire System
traversed the rich agricultural and forest lands of the Columbia
Plateau. In the early years the electric cars did a brisk picnic business
out of Spokane to nearby lakes in Washington and Idaho, and dur-
ing the summers a special "Campers' Limited Train" operated be-
tween Spokane and Hayden Lake. This holiday crowd jammed a
Coeur d'Alene train at the big Spokane terminal not too many years
after the line's 1903 opening. LeRoy O. King Jr. Collection.


Inland Empire luxury travel was provided by
two Brill parlor-observation cars. The Shoshone,
shown here, operated over the Coeur d'Alene line,
ivhile the Kootenai handled extra-fare trade on
the Moscow line. The company's crack Shoshone

Flyer covered the 32 miles to Coeur d'Alene in an
even hour, making connections with the Coeur
d'Alene Lake steamers of the Red Collar Steam-
boat Company for widespread western Idaho
points. LeRoy O. King Jr. Collection.

Brill-built combine 8 and trailers 61 and 62 rested at Coeur d'Alene in 1908. The trailers had observa-
tion platforms, and trolleys for standby lighting. LeRov O. King Jr. Collection.

Four cars of excursionists prepared to venture down
the Liberty Lake branch, while a Coeur d'Alene
local paused on freshly ballasted mainline double
track at Liberty Lake junction. After an involved
series of changes in organization and corporate title,

the Inland Empire System became a Great Northern
subsidiary in 1 927, and was eventually merged with
the steam road. GN freights still traverse the one-
time interurban main lines, but the electric cars
are long gone. LeRoy O. King Jr. Collection.

In true Western railroad fashion, white flags and
an "X-6" train indicator designated an extra train
of Brill cars bound out of Spokane on Washington
Water Power Company's I 1 -mile line to Medical
Lake. Short lived (1906-1921) because of poor
patronage, this route and a branch to Cheney were
nevertheless distinguished for their open-platform

observation cars and an interesting automatic block
system with train stop. Mechanically linked to
upper quadrant semaphores, an arm extending
from the mast in the stop position would break
a glass tube on the car roof, exhausting the
brake line and applying the brakes. O. F. Lee

A lonely survivor of Washington's interurban era
is the Yakima Valley Transportation Company,
which still does a modest freight business. Steeple-
cab locomotive No. 298 headed for the Union Pa-
cific interchange in 1958 with a single reefer from

a packing shed near Yakima. In passenger-carrying
days the company's two short lines out of Yakima
were serviced by two wooden Niles interurbans
that, although compact in their dimensions, were
constructed to the classic pattern. Fred MATTHEWS.


On rails which once led all the way to Estacada, a Portland Traction utilitarian-
pattern wooden interurban, constructed by the company shops in 1910, rolled
through a forested countryside near Gresham about 1952. At Haij.

In its declining years Portland Traction operated a collection of secondhand rolling stock of wide-
spread origins. Lightweight car 4007, shown on the Bellrose line in 1952, had previously operated
on New York's Albany Southern and Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville lines. William C. Downey Jr.



To Forest and River

Generally regarded as the first true interurban
line, the Portland Traction Company's Oregon City
line very nearly survived long enough to become
the last as well. In their earlier years the Portland
electric cars did a lively excursion business. Picnick-
ers rode the cars to Canemah Park above the falls
of the Willamette, south of Oregon City, and the
unhurried among them took advantage of round

trip tickets offered jointly by the interurban and the
steamship company that provided a rival service
on the Willamette River. Long trains of open
trailers pulled by electric locomotives operated be-
tween Portland and the big Oaks amusement park,
and those who wanted to really get away from the
uproar of the city rode all the way to Estacada, far
up the Clackamas River on the interurban's Spring-
water Division, where the company provided a park
and a hotel in a tranquil setting.

Portland Traction No. 4001 — photographed in 1957 on the Clackamas River bridge not jar from

the onetime grounds of the Gladstone Chautauqua, a source of considerable traffic for the electric

cars in earlier years - — originally plied Indiana Railroad rails. Edward S. Miller.

Freight for the Bellrose line thundered through Golf Junction in 1949 be-
hind a brace of Portland Traction steeple-cab motors, one a 1907 GE prod-
uct, the other a near duplicate built in company shops. John Stern.

Last cars to arrive on FT were eight former Pacific Electric "Hollywood"
cars, one of which is seen passing through the company's East Portland
freight yard in 1935. By this time diesel power was sharing freight duties
with the line's aging steeple-cabs. William D. Middleton.




The high construction standards of the Hill-controlled Oregon Electric are evident
in this photograph taken shortly after 1910. Heavy rail and crushed rock ballast
were employed for trackwork, and catenary construction was used for the over-
head trolley wire. On the busiest stretch of OE rail, between Portland and
Garden Home, where passenger train movements alone reached a peak of 36 daily,
continuous block signals were installed. General Railway Signal Company.


Just in from Portland, 123 miles north, an
Oregon Electric train unloaded in 1913 at the
Eugene depot, where a hotel omnibus waited for
prospective guests. For a brief period, from 1913
to 191X, OE offered a leisurely sleeping car serv-
ice between the two cities. The owl trains made
the run in 5 to 6 hours, but passengers remained
in their berths until # a.m. Special "hop pickers
trains" were another feature of Oregon Electric
passenger traffic in earlier years, during the an-
nual exodus from the city to the hop and berry
fields of the Willamette Valley.

Jim Hill's Wedge . . .

During the first decade of the 20th century, the
forces of steam railroad titans Jim Hill and Edward
H. Harriman squared off for the last of the great rail-
road wars, a fight for supremacy in the Northwest.
The first round went to Hill, who in just three years
built his Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway down
the north bank of the Columbia to rival Harriman's
Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company (Union
Pacific) on the opposite bank. The battle turned
then to the rugged Deschutes River canyon, where
Hill launched a successful drive to strike south
through central Oregon with his Oregon Trunk
Railway into the hitherto exclusive Northern Cali-
fornia preserves of Harriman's Southern Pacific.
While Hill and Harriman forces engaged in fre-
quent fisticuffs in the battle for control of the
Deschutes canyon, Hill moved into still other Har-
riman territory with the purchase in 1910 of the
Oregon Electric Railway, whose interurban line ex-

tended south from Portland through the rich, SP-
dominated Willamette Valley to Salem, and whose
plans contemplated an eventual extension to Rose-
burg and perhaps even across the Siskiyous to a
juncture with the Sacramento Northern to create
an all-electric transcoastal route. Under Hill con-
trol, Oregon Electric construction standards were
upgraded to create a first-class railroad capable of
across-the-board competition with Southern Pacific,
and within two years OE trains were running all
the way to Eugene. Harriman countered the threat
of Hill's electric competition in 1912 with plans
for an expansive system of SP branch and subsidiary
line electrification in the Willamette Valley that
would ultimately embrace 330 route miles of track.
By 1914 the splendid new "Red Electrics" were op-
erating from Portland to Whiteson over two al-
ternate routes, and within five years . interurban
service was being operated as far south as Corvallis,
which turned out to be as far as SP's electrification
ever got.

. . . And Harriman's Answer

The superbly constructed permanent way of
Southern Pacific's Oregon interurban system

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryWilliam D. MiddletonThe interurban era → online text (page 13 of 23)