William D. Middleton.

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Bound for a Fraser Valley excursion on the Chil-
liwack line, a train of commodious BCER in-
terurbans paused at New Westminster in 1914.
four years after the line was opened. Outings to
the valley by interurban were long popular.

As late as 1940 BCER operated special "bicycle
trains" into the country for a Vancouver club.
A baggage car was provided for the trans-
portation of members' bicycles. Ernie Plant

Interurban Trams to Chilliwack.

Canada's largest interurban system was that of
the British Columbia Electric Railway, which op-
erated an extensive suburban service around Van-
couver, a long and scenic route through the Fraser
River Valley to Chilliwack, and a disconnected,
short-lived line north from Victoria on Vancouver

Island. Vancouver is more British in character than
much of Canada, and it was not uncommon to hear
local people speak of the "interurban trams." British
capital, as a matter of fact, built BCER, and this may
have accounted for the presence of several British-
built Dick Kerr electric locomotives among the
company's roster of otherwise conventional equip-
ment of North American manufacture. i


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• • • •
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/« J9i2, ///>o« //)e occasion of a visit to
western Canada by the Duke of Con-
naught, interurban car No. 1 304 was
repainted, fitted with drapes and a red
carpet, and the Connaught crest applied
to each corner in preparation for serv-
ice on a special train transporting the
Duke over the Chilliwack line. Fol-
lowing completion of the trip No. 1304
was shorn of its special furnishings and
operated in more mundane passenger
service until the mid-'50's. It is now
owned by an Oregon historical group.
Ernie Plant Collection.


Against a backdrop of threatening skies, this Fraser Valley train waited on the
loop at Chilliwack before beginning the 76-mile return trip to Vancouver.
David A. Strassman.



While one of the company's PCC streetcars discharged passengers in the street, a pair of BCER in-
terurbans waited to depart from the Carrall Street depot in Vancouver on their respective late evening
journeys to Burnaby Lake and New Westminster. Stan F. Styles.

Highlighted by the morning sun, three cars full of BCER commuters hurried across Gladstone Trestle on a
12-mile run from New Westminster to Vancouver over the Central Park line. Stan F. Styles.


Two steam railroads shared the Fraser River bridge at New
Westminster with interurbans of British Columbia Electric's
Chilliwack line. In 1948 the two-car interurban train was
about to follow the center track to Chilliwack. The track to
the right carried Canadian National transcontinental traffic,
while that to the left handled international traffic on Great
Northern's line to Seattle. Ernie Plant.

Behind a former Oregon Electric steeple-cab locomotive, freight

extra 961 West waited in a forested siding at Bradner, on the

Chilliwack line, to permit the passage of a Vancouver passenger

train headed by baggage motor No. 1700. Stan F. Styles.


Traction in the Tropics

>ey Cuban passengers begim their journey
fr>&rn Havana aboard 5-cent motor launches,
whttb^ cross the harbor between the old coloni-
al seclfbuof Havanajfnd the interurban terminal
at C.asahkinca. Just beyond the noisy waterfront

dive that houses the ticket office, a three-car
train waited for the run to Matanzas in 1957.
The big maroon cars were little changed from
the day they rolled out of the J. G. Brill
plant 40 years before. William D. Middleton.


Traction in the Tropics

oOUTH of U. S. borders the interurban was almost
nonexistent. Street railways were a common means
of mass transportation in the larger cities of Central
and South America, and remain so today in many
cases. But only occasionally, in such cities as Mexico
City and Buenos Aires, did electric railways venture
into the suburban countryside on lines with interur-
ban characteristics.

Both severe topography and an almost continual
state of revolution that discouraged investment capi-
tal during much of the interurban era combined to
deter the development of true interurbans in
Mexico. The Mexican Tramways Company in 1927
advanced an interesting proposal to construct a 130-
mile electric interurban from Mexico City to Pueblo,
and another, 60 miles in length, to Pachuca, but
nothing ever came of it.

A notable exception to the dearth of interurbans
in Latin America was Cuba's Hershey Cuban Rail-
way, which survives into 1961 as the last example
in all North America of the typical heavy electric
interurban railway.* The Hershey Cuban's princi-
pal reason for existence was the development by
the parent Hershey Chocolate Corporation of its
own Cuban sugar enterprise at the end of World
War I. A vast acreage of sugar plantations and sev-
eral mills, for conversion of the cane to raw brown
sugar, were centered around the company's prin-

ed by decree of the Ca

cipal mill, a refinery, and power plant at Central
Hershey, east of Havana. A network of rail lines
was constructed to gather the cane from the sur-
rounding plantations, and a main line was installed
to transport the refined sugar down to Havana har-
bor. Developing its railroad on the principle that it
should be a self-supporting enterprise rather than
just an accessory to sugar manufacture, Hershey ex-
tended the main line to Matanzas, 56 miles east of
Havana, in order to establish a year-around com-
mon carrier freight and passenger business.

Crews of Jamaican laborers completed the first
section of line, between Havana and Central Her-
shey, in 1918, and it was immediately placed in
operation with steam power to haul construction
materials for the refinery and power plant. The en-
tire railway, comprising some 100 track miles under
a 1200-volt D.C. catenary system, and several times
that amount of steam-operated sugar cane trackage,
was officially opened four years later.

The J. G. Brill Company delivered a fleet of heavy
maroon-clad wood and steel multiple-unit interur-
bans. Interiors were plainly finished in mahogany
and were fitted with durable rattan-upholstered
walkover seats. Splendidly maintained by the rail-
way's thoroughly equipped shops, these cars re-
main today in virtually "as built" condition. A
group of lighter single-unit cars, designed for
branch-line service, came a few years later from the
Cincinnati Car Company, i


Late one June afternoon in 1957 train No. 33,
westbound from Central Hershey to Casablanca,
backed into the siding at Justiz for a cruzando
(meet) with eastbound Matanzas train No. 8.
Headed by a big wood-bodied mail-baggage car,
the three-car train came swaying through the

tropical undergrowth at a respectable 30 miles per
hour. Train crews shouted cheerful Spanish greet-
ings, the conductor threw the switch to let No. 33
back on the main line, and the journey to Casa-
blanca was once more in progress. William D.




Central Hershey is a handsome "company town"
with elegant residences for company executives and
such attractions as a golf course, tropical gardens,
and a comfortable small hotel. Tours of the re-
finery have long been popular, and in earlier years
the railway offered a handy "package tour" from
Havana which included interurban transportation,
a conducted tour of the sugar mill, lunch at the
Hershey Hotel, and an automobile tour through
the scenic byways of the surrounding countryside.
Four times daily the Hershey Cuban's mainline
passenger trains are scheduled to meet at Central
Hershey. During the ^-minute stop of a pair of
Casablanca-Matanzas trains one hot June morn-
ing, the quiet station became the scene of frantic

activity. The brown-uniformed train crews gath-
ered on the platform to exchange small talk,
while crowds of passengers boarded and left the
interurbans. The camarero (baggageman) un-
loaded a few pieces of express. Friends and idlers
chatted through open windows, and a boy passed
from window to window hawking candies held
up on a stick for the passengers' inspection. Then
the motoristas returned to their controllers, and
the conductors signaled departure time with a
blast from their whistles. The big red cars went
rumbling out of town, the crowd thinned, dogs
went back to sleep in the shade, and Central Hershey
station grew quiet again. All Photos, William D.


Clattering along an irregular roadbed,
the ponderous interurbans nosed gently
from side to side as they followed the
rails through a verdant trough in
vegetation that frequently stands as
high as a man. Windows were thrown
wide open to the warmth of the Cuban
summer. William D. Middleton.

Awaiting the end of the day shift,
a Cincinnati-built interurban stood
in the street outside the main gate
of the Central Hershey sugar mill
and refinery. Soon the train would
be off with homeward-bound work-
ers to Santa Cruz del Norte, on the
edge of the Atlantic. The June
afternoon was hot and humid, and
an ice cream salesman was doing
business in the shade of a nearby
tree. William D. Middleton.

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Approaching Matanzas the Hershey Cuban traverses
some of central Cuba's finest scenery. Having just
completed its circuit of the spectacular Yumuri
Valley, an eastbound train came rolling between

the rock cliffs of the gap which carries the Yumuri
River, a country road, and the interurban from the
valley to the Bay of Matanzas. William D.



Inter urban No. 21 3 had just completed its daily afternoon run from Central
Hershey to Bainoa. While the crew stepped into the weathered masonry depot
shared with the Occidentales de Cuba to call the dispatcher for return trip orders,
a small boy clambered about the fascinating electric car. William D. Middleton.

Returning to Central Hershey from an afternoon trip down the Bainoa branch,
Cincinnati interurban 213 rejoined the Hershey Cuban main line at San Mateo

Junction. William D. Middleton.









Powered by a bright silver and red diesel,
Hershey's weekly mixed train departed
from Central San Antonio for the return
trip over nonele drifted branch-line track-
age to Central Hershey. With eight tank
cars of molasses, a box car of miscellaneous
freight, and a Brill interurban trailer, the
little diesel had all it could do to get the
train under way. William D. Middleton.

Time freight No. 53, westbound from
Matanzas to Havana harbor behind a
pair of GE steeple-cab locomotives, headed
out of the siding at Canasi as an east-
bound passenger train cleared the main
line. William D. Middleton.

Almost hidden by trackside growth, east-
bound Havana- Matanzas time freight
52 came grinding up the long grade into
Central Hershey. The steeple-cabs' panto-
graphs reached high for the 1200-volt
catenary. William D. Middleton.

A trim little GE locomotive switched Ferrocarriles Occidentals de Cuba passen-
ger cars at Havana's Central Station in 1957. The Occidentals, formerly the
Havana Central, once operated interurban passenger equipment in an extensive
suburban service, and is still possessed of a generous amount of 600-volt overhead
in the Havana area. William D. Middleton.







7. '-

As the electric street and interurban railways declined in North America, a con-
siderable amount of their still-serviceable rolling stock found its way to the electric
lines of Central and South America. In 1952 a train of former Pacific Electric
Hollywood suburban cars, still attired in PE red and orange colors, operated
left-handed on the Federico Lacroze line of the Ferrocarril Nacional General
Urquiza at Buenos Aires. William D. Middleton Collection.




Wrecks and Other Mishaps


TA<? combination of a dispatcher's lap order and a foggy
November morning had this violent aftermath at Fair-
view, Ida., in 1917 on the Ogden, Logan & Idaho Rail-
way. The conductor on the almost completely telescoped
wooden express motor was killed and three other crew-
men were seriously injured. Fred Fellow Collection.


Wrecks and Other Mishaps

DISASTER AND DEATH along the rails were
sometimes a part of the interurban era. Most in-
terurbans were single tracked and rarely were
equipped with such safety refinements as block sig-
nals. The tragedy of a high-speed collision result-
ing from an overlooked meeting point or a forgotten
special train, combined, perhaps, with the restricted
visibility of hills and curves or a foggy night, is a
recurring theme in interurban history.

The first interurban, Portland's East Side Rail-
way, was only a few months old when the car Inez,
inbound from Oregon City one misty November
morning, slid on frosty rail and plunged through
the open Madison Street drawbridge in Portland.
Most of the passengers saved themselves by jumping
as the interurban hung in the air momentarily, but
7 were killed when the car plummeted into 35 feet
of water.

The worst interurban accident of all occurred at
Kingsland, Ind., on September 21, 1910, when an
extra car on the Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Trac-
tion Company overran a meeting point and collided
head-on at high speed with a northbound local. The
crowded local was completely telescoped, and 41 lost
their lives in the splintered wreckage of the wood-
en car.

The old adage that "bad accidents come in threes"
seemed to hold some truth, for during the same week
that the Kingsland disaster occurred, 5 were killed in
a collision on the neighboring Indiana Union Trac-
tion Company, and less than two weeks later 36 met
death in a head-on Illinois Traction System crash,
which took place under similar circumstances of an
overlooked meet.

The public outcry following the Kingsland and
other accidents was predictable. The Indiana Rail-
road Commission demanded the installation of block
signals on all interurbans in the state. Illinois Trac-
tion voluntarily began the costly installation of sig-

nals on all of its major lines and by 1915 had 150
miles of track under continuous block signals. Adept
at making the best of a bad thing, ITS extracted
maximum publicity benefits from its new signals.
Full-size models of the signals were displayed on
street corners in principal cities, and the workings
of their mechanism explained to the curious. "Travel
is perfection under IT block protection," proclaimed
the company's advertising, and nervous passengers
were assured "they never sleep."

Sometimes the lessons taught by disaster are for-
gotten, and in 1950, 40 years after the Kingsland
wreck, the last big accident of the interurban era
occurred under almost identical circumstances, when
two Milwaukee interurban excursion trains collided
head-on with a loss of 10 lives. A misunderstand-
ing of orders sent the two trains racing toward each
other on single track, and just as at Kingsland, an
overgrowth of trackside brush at a curve obscured
visibility for the motormen until too late.

More often though, interurban mishaps were not
so deadly. One of the most bizarre and spectacular
interurban accidents, which happened on the In-
diana Service Corporation at Lafayette, Ind., in 1930,
took place with the almost miraculous absence of
serious injury or death. Approaching Lafayette from
Fort Wayne, motorman Frank Simons, after ap-
parently suffering an attack of dizziness or a faint-
ing spell, toppled through the open door of his in-
terurban car. Running wild with the power still on,
the big wooden car reached an estimated speed of 45
miles per hour before leaving the rails on a curve in
the streets of Lafayette and plunging into a grocery
store, tearing out the entire front of the building
and finally coming to rest within the store in a mass
of tumbled merchandise and debris. The interur-
ban's passengers escaped with bruises and were se-
verely shaken up. The narrowest escape of all was
experienced by little Jimmy Moore, who was in the


I tfCMMftuMOMtfW

Forty-one persons died when these two interurbans slammed together with
brutal force at Kingsland, Ind., in 191Q. It was the worst crash of the interurban
era. Stephen D. Maguire Collection.

store directly in the path of the runaway car. Buried
in the wreckage, the 7-year-old emerged with only
minor cuts. An estimated 10,000 people visited the
scene of the crash and watched efforts to free the in-
terurban from the wreckage.

An Illinois line, the Rockford & Interurban,
seemed to have recurrent trouble with dairy cattle.
On one occasion, not far from Rockford, one of the
line's cars struck a cow, which became wedged under
the car, threw it off the track, and left it at right
angles to the rails. On another occasion a car ran

into a whole herd of cows which had lain down on
the rails at night. Twenty cattle were killed before
the car finally derailed and very nearly plunged into
the Pecatonica River.

A somewhat similar mishap occurred in Ohio in
1907, after a bull escaped from a slaughterhouse at
Jimtown, near Wapakoneta. After chasing residents,
the bull wandered onto the nearby tracks of the
Western Ohio Railway where it charged head-on
into an interurban car. The contest was a draw, for
the bull was killed and the interurban derailed.


Anti-climbers did not always prevent
cars from telescoping. In 1949 a
Milwaukee Electric local car missed
a passenger waiting at Soldiers Home
station, backed up through a protect-
ing block signal, and was rammed by
a limited train running in the yellow
block. The local car was obscured
until the last minute by a hill and
curve. The impact peeled the sides
and roof of the limited car like a
banana and shoved the locked cars 1 50
feet down the track. None of the 21
passengers were fatally injured, but
the horror-stricken waiting passenger
who witnessed the roaring crash fled
the scene, never to be identified.
The Milwaukee Journal.

Disaster was narrowly averted near Delaware, O.,
in 1914 on the Columbus, Delaware & Marion Rail-
way when an unemployed railroad fireman named
Bickle telephoned the dispatcher to advise that a
stretch of track had been torn up in an attempt to
wreck a car. Suspicious officials determined that the
unfortunate Bickle had attempted the train wreck-
ing himself in the hope that by doing them the serv-
ice of calling in time to save the road from accident
he would be taken into their employ.

A newsworthy mishap of another sort took place
near Cleveland in 1905. The New York Central then
had an interest in a number of New York state elec-

tric lines, and the Central's William K. Vanderbilt
Jr. was making a tour of a number of Ohio in-
terurbans aboard the Everett-Moore syndicate's lux-
urious private car Josephine. Vanderbilt's jour-
ney over the Lake Shore Electric was disrupted
when an overheated motor set fire to the floor of the
car. Members of the inspection party rushed to a
nearby farmhouse for water to extinguish the blaze,
and the Josephine was then hauled to a nearby re-
pair shop. While the necessary repairs were being
made, the entire party played baseball, and Mr. Van-
derbilt proved to be a star player, a news story of
the event reported.



This car of the Ballston Terminal

Railroad of New York drew quite

a crowd after lunging off the

rails and heading for the river.

Stephen D. Maguire Collection.

The Salt Lake & Utah Railroad's
observation car 751 was uncere-
moniously dumped into the street
after this grade crossing tangle
with a Denver & Rio Grande
switch engine at Provo in 1917.
Fred Fellow Collection.

Both wrecking crew and dapper idlers
posed for the photographer during

efforts to restore the derailed Elmira

to the rails on the Elmira & Seneca

Lake line in New York in 1903.

William R. Gordon Collection.

This particularly violent head-on col-
lision occurred in a fog north of Can-
ton, III., on the Illinois Central Electric
Railway. Car No. 12 (background),
since it was higher, overrode car
No. 9, completely destroying it.
Paul Stringham Collection.


f ■


Little more than twisted steel re-
mained of these Waterloo, Cedar
Falls & Northern interurbans in
195-t after a nocturnal fire wiped
out the Waterloo roundhouse. The
lone interurban that escaped the
blaze managed to provide all of
the company's passenger service
until its discontinuance in 1956.
William S. Kuba Jr.

Fire, as a matter of fact, was a constant threat
to the interurbans, particularly during the earlier
years, when wooden cars and inflammable carbarns
were common and electrical apparatus was often er-
ratic. A few years after the Vanderbilt party mishap
another fire had more serious consequences and the
glittering Josephine was completely destroyed. Simi-
lar spectacular conflagrations were recorded in the
history of almost every interurban road with usual-
ly little more remaining than a few smoldering em-
bers and a tangle of heat-twisted metal parts. An-
other all too common occurrence was the midnight
carbarn fire, which more than once left a line with
hardly a single car available at the start of business
the following morning.

The heyday of the train robber was fairly well
over by the time the interurban arrived on the Amer-

ican scene, but there were a few more or less ama-
teurish attempts to knock off an interurban car in
the grand manner of the Old West. One of the first
trolley car holdup attempts occurred on the St. Paul-
Minneapolis Inter-Urban Electric in 1893. Five
toughs boarded the midnight car from St. Paul, and
when it had reached a deserted spot along the line,
one of them pulled down the trolley pole while
the others set upon the conductor, one of them in-
flicting a 2-inch stab wound. The intrepid motor-
man came to the rescue with his brass lever and, ac-
cording to a contemporary account, "the way he
cranked it was a caution to evil-doers, and caused a
general stampede." The conductor replaced the
trolley pole and the car escaped amidst a shower of
stones that smashed all its windows and caused other
damage, but no money was lost to the thugs.

What newspapers described as the most sensational
street accident in Vancouver (B. C.) history occurred
in 1947 when a British Columbia Electric interur-
ban train (left) ran amuck. As the train left the
interurban depot, motorman James Dinsmore was
knocked unconscious when a WO-volt short circuit

passed through the controls of his two-car train.
Hurtling out of control into the street, the inter-
urban sent a taxi flying, derailed two streetcars, and
crushed an automobile in the wreckage. A hun-
dred persons were shaken up by the crash but
miraculously there were no fatalities. Ernie Plant.

As automobiles became common-
place, the grade-crossing accident
became a distressingly frequent
occurrence. The interurban, like
this Pacific Electric car, usually
won out over the early flivvers.
Ira L. Swett Collection.

Dewirement was a frequent
minor mishap on trolley lines.
After the 620 's trolley left the
wire in a high cross wind
and slammed against the cross-
arms, the Niagara, St. Catha-
rines & Toronto crew strug-
gled to replace the wrecked
pole with the spare carried
for just such emergencies.
William D. Middleton.

A pair of bandits who attempted to stick up a
Seattle-Tacoma car on the Puget Sound Electric Rail-
way in 1914 fared even worse. Once their intentions
were made known, the pair were overpowered and
beaten into insensibility by passengers, and a news
account of the affair held little hope for their

Two masked bandits who held up a British Co-
lumbia Electric interurban train on the Marpole line
in 1913 were more successful, managing to make
their escape into a nearby wood after extracting ap-
proximately S100 from the train crew and passen-

Another pair of masked bandits, who knocked
off a Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern car at
Maywood, Ind., in 1923, were better compensated
for their efforts. After stopping the car on signal,
the two climbed aboard, firing into and through the

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Online LibraryWilliam D. MiddletonThe interurban era → online text (page 16 of 23)