In 1889 there were just 7 miles of interurbans in service, a number which jumped to 3,122 by 1901, and finally peaked at 15,580 in 1916.
These numbers slowly receded into the 1920's as abandonment hastened through the 1930's.
There was also the added perk of providing some freight business.
As interubans expanded they did indeed initially prove popular offering quick service, multiple schedules daily (the large Illinois Traction system, for instance, was dispatching 106 trains out of Springfield, Illinois everyday by 1906), and with fares only a few cents each way.
Visually, the interurban was classic Americana as a car sped along a grass-covered right-of-way with its trolley pole extended high.
While postdating the industry, one the great depictions of interurban right-of-way is illustrated in Trains Magazine's October, 1993 issue under a segment entitled, "" (Page 57).
It is rather amazing so much capital was expended on these operations, which struggled to make a profit right from the start.
A few, such as the Illinois Terminal and Piedmont & Northern, bucked this trend and blossomed into successful freight carriers while the Pacific Electric Railway is regarded as the greatest of all interurbans.For power, most interurbans used overhead catenary (energized electric lines attached to line-side poles), usually rated at around 600 volts.However, in some cases third-rail was utilized and the electricity greater.He eventually secured a contract in May of 1887 with the Richmond Union Passenger Railway in Virginia to provide cars for its operation. Louis Car Company Birneys Electroliners Presidents’ Conference Committee Streetcars, PCCs A History Of Streetcars And Trolleys Another important developer was Sidney Howe Short who invented a double-reduction, gearless motor and also learned that overhead catenary was the best means for electrical pickup.It opened on February 2, 1888 and proved successful." Walla Walla Valley Railway: Handling Agriculture Near Walla Walla, Washington Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern Railway Service Across East-Central Iowa Yakima Valley Transportation: Serving Central-Washington's Agriculture Industry Barney & Smith Car Company Cincinnati Car Company G. Short conceived another important development, the contact "shoe." By the time main line electrified systems were introduced in 1895, when the Baltimore & Ohio energized 4 miles of its Baltimore trackage (including the 1.4-mile Howard Street Tunnel), the technology was quite advanced (according to the railroad's "Official List No. In retrospect, the financial interests behind these traction railroads were largely misplaced.