Open Access Articles- Top Results for Interurban


"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.
An interurban tram from the Philadelphia & Western Railroad, which survived long in the interurban business

The interurban (or radial railway) is a type of electric railway, with streetcar-like light electric self-propelled railcars which run within and between cities or towns. They were prevalent in the United States and Canada between 1900 and 1925, and were also used (and continue to be found) in Europe and Asia. They were used primarily for passenger travel between cities and their surrounding suburban and rural communities.

The term Interurban referred to the interurban company, the infrastructure of the transport system it provided, and to the passenger cars that ran on the rails. Light rail and tram-train are similar to the interurbans.[1][2][3]

The interurban, especially in the U.S., was a valuable cultural institution in the early twentieth century. Most roads and town streets were unpaved, 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, Script error: No such module "convert". of interurban railways were operating in the U.S. For a time, interurban railways were the fifth-largest industry in the U.S.[4] They were also poorly constructed and suffered from mismanagement.[5]

By 1930, most interurbans were gone with 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."[5]


Definition of "interurban"

File:Detroit united railway map-1904.PNG
A map showing the Detroit United Railway's network in 1904. Interurban routes link street railroads in Detroit, Port Huron, and Windsor.

The term "interurban" was coined by Charles L. Henry, a state senator in Indiana. The Latin, inter urbes, means "between cities".[6] The interurban fit on a continuum between urban street railways and full-fledged railroads. George W. Hilton and John F. Due identified four characteristics of an interurban:[7]

  • 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.[citation needed]

In 1905 the United States Census Bureau defined an interurban as "a street railway having more than half its trackage outside municipal limits." It drew a distinction between "interurban" and "suburban" railroads. A suburban system was oriented toward a city center in a single urban area and served commuter traffic. A regular railroad 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.[8]


City streetcar lines become interurban systems

The first electric streetcars came into being in the 1880s, following the successful development 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 inventor Frank J. Sprague.[9][full citation needed] [10] 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.[11] In 1900, Script error: No such module "convert". of interurban track existed, but by 1915–1916, this had jumped to Script error: No such module "convert"., which was an exceptional increase.[12] 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."[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16] The 130-mile long Sacramento Northern Railway, stopped carrying passengers in 1940 but continued hauling freight using heavy electric locomotives into the 1960s.[17]


Interurbans business increased during World War II due to fuel oil rationing and wartime employment. When the war ended in 1945 and riders went back to automobiles, most of these lines were finally abandoned.[18] 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.[19]


At one time or another, nearly every interurban found itself in receivership; many did 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 enough to meet expenses plus eventually meet 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 monitored 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.[20] In the case of many 1920 interurbans, often the hoped for financial recovery did not happen and the company would finally go bankrupt and 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. When a company liquidates, its plant and equipment are sold and current debts are paid with the money harvested, and bond holders are paid with the remainder, often only partially, if at all. Steam railroads as well as interurbans often faced bankruptcy, particularly during the Depression, and steam railroads also went into receivership. Two large railroads that recently went bankrupt rather than operate in receivership and were dismantled were the Rock Island and the Milwaukee Road.[21]

Surviving operations

SEPTA's Norristown line

The third-rail operated 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 MU cars, which were able to run at Script error: No such module "convert". in tests. The very well constructed mostly two-track line running 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 1/2") 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

First Passenger Interurban to Bellefontaine, Ohio July 1, 1908

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.)[22] 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.[23] 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 Script error: No such module "convert". 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.[24][25][26]

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.[27]

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 Script error: No such module "convert"., 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 Script error: No such module "convert".. 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.[28] (One ton is 2000 pounds, 907.19 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.[29] 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,[30] 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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] 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 led to strenuous objections by town councils.[34]

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.[35] 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.[36][37]

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.[38] 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.[39] The Sacramento Northern's predecessor Northern Electric home built a massive 82-ton third rail freight locomotive in the early 1900s.[40] Box motors were built by the same companies that manufactured interurban passenger cars.[41]

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."[42] 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.[43]

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 widespread 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 [44] discusses how the Terre Haute, Indianapolis, and Eastern's track from Indianapolis to Terre 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 Terre 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.[45] 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 engine couldn't, and track was sometimes placed in surprisingly steep and tight locations.[46]

Track gauge

Most interurbans were built to standard gauge (4 ft 8 12 in or 1,435 mm), 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 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge, 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 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm). 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 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge track, and the Los Angeles Railway, the city's streetcar system, using 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) 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.[47] 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 large and expensive piece of electrical machinery that converted AC voltage to DC voltage, and a rotary converter was required every eight to ten miles of track to provide an adequate voltage level to the trolley wire. 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.[48] A substation might be built attached to a depot so that the station agent could also act as the operator.[49] 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.[50] 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. An example of this on-board ac to dc conversion was on the Pennsylvania RR's famous GG1 locomotive.

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.[51] 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 resistance "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.[52]

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.[53] 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

A pre-1910, all-wood heavy interurban car of the Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Traction Company, preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum

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[54] 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-parlor-buffet-solarium car manufactured by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1906.) 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.[55] Starting around 1912, manufacturers turned to steel which led to safer but heavier equipment, some in excess of 40 tons.[56] 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.

File:CNSM 700.jpg
A standard red and green coach near North Chicago around 1957

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 Cincinnati in 1923.

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.
A preserved box motor from Iowa

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.[57] 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."[58]

Improving interurban car design

Indiana Railroad Car number 65, now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum, was built in 1931. These cars were able to run at up to 160 km/h.
File:Philadelphia & Western Railway 206.jpg
Bullet, another high-speed interurban, created by J.G.Brill Co. and P&W after wind tunnel experiments. P&W #206 on display at Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Electroliner, the last masterpiece of St. Louis Car Company, was an articulated interurban with Jakobs bogies. Only two were built, originally for the Chicago-Milwaukee route. Passengers boarding the restored Electroliner at the Illinois Railway Museum.

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 60 tons.[59] 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.[60] 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.[61] 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.[62] The developed in a wind tunnel slope roofed Bullet cars built by J.G.Brill Co. 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 companies 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 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm). 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: Light rail

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 dedicated 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.

Interurbans in North America

United States

In the late 1890s, electrified railed city transportation systems called streetcars, which had been developed a decade earlier by Frank Sprague and others, expanded rapidly from towns into the countryside and to adjacent towns and were called Interurbans. By 1900, just over Script error: No such module "convert". of track had been laid, and by 1916, at the Interurban peak, over Script error: No such module "convert". were in service. Most of the interurban track that had been laid was located in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana; Ohio and Indiana alone had Script error: No such module "convert". of track. In Michigan and Illinois there was another Script error: No such module "convert". of track which was interconnected. In Texas and in California, thousands of miles of additional track was also laid down by different companies. The first Interurban in Texas was the Denison and Sherman Railway, completed in 1901. In central Virginia, interurban lines connected City Point and Hopewell with Petersburg, and Petersburg with Richmond. Another connected Richmond with Ashland. Between 1900 and the middle 1920s, most rural roads in the United States were unpaved and were primarily traveled by horse-drawn buggies and wagons. In wet weather and in winter, these roads were often impassable. The wheels of wagons could sink axle deep and the horses would struggle to move them. The towns and cities themselves slowly paved their dirt streets, often using brick, and many had electric streetcar lines. Entrepreneurs began to form groups of local investors to build side of road single track trolley lines to connect to these town street car lines. The result was the start of a vast interurban trolley system within the nation. The interurban track was constructed above grade and was usually unaffected by weather, so these country trolley/interurban lines became a reliable source of travel for people and for moving farm and dairy products to town.

Passengers were often picked up in the middle of the street. Freight and express equipment, frequently running in multiple-car trains, would operate in these streets which became an increasing issue with town administrations who were unhappy about blocked traffic, noise, and growing damage to streets. In open country, the right-of-way often tightly paralleled a road or highway on one side, sometimes jogging to the opposite side. The track closely adjacent to auto road traffic, sometimes coming in the facing direction, required for safety that the speed of an interurban get not much over Script error: No such module "convert". There was always the danger of hitting autos suddenly crossing the tracks just ahead of the oncoming interurban. As these parallel roads were paved and improved there were more autos using them, leading to more interurban-car or interurban-truck collisions. These new 1900–1905 interurban lines were expensive to build and often more expensive to maintain than expected. In the enthusiasm that often comes with wanting to start a new business and wanting to attract investors, enterprise start-up costs were often underestimated and operating revenues overestimated. The initial stock offering would be followed by another then another to raise more capital, and possibly dividends were never paid on this stock. Rolling stock, right-of-way, and the very complicated electrical system to operate the trolleys were big initial costs and expensive to maintain. Sometimes coal-fired power houses had to be constructed by the Interurban, but one advantage to this might be a profit from selling excess power to surrounding communities who, in the early 20th century, might have no electricity available prior to that time. A bridge could be a big surprise, where the cost of one might dramatically exceed budget due to unexpected geological problems, and then later if there was a washout. Floods were a big problem to interurbans in the Mid West. Passenger cars, freight motors, trolley wire maintenance equipment, snow sweepers, trolley, signals (if any), buildings for depots, repair "shops,' a coach yard: all had to be provided and all were expensive. Property taxes were levied, often resulting in the Interurban subsidizing road construction. Improved roads and automobiles and trucks on those roads became the demise of many interurbans. Franchise agreements with the various towns had to be obtained and maintained, and not all towns were cooperative. Maintenance was a continuing large expense, particularly if the rolling stock or track suffered from weather or from accidents. A classic photograph in the Belvedere, Illinois archives shows at a rural location a large arch-window interurban coach on its side and crosswise to the track due to derailment from just hitting a cow, apparently a very large cow. The result was that many interurban companies were in financial distress almost from inception and definitely by the 1920s. Many went bankrupt and were financially court ordered "reorganized" in bankruptcy again and again, and then might be combined with neighboring weak interurban lines in the hope that some operating efficiency could be provided, but it often wasn't. Around 1924, serious automobile competition had developed as states and counties began to pave their highways. The result was that five years before the United States began the Great Depression, many interurban lines were gone.

As discussed above, in the early 20th century, interurban transportation became very popular in both rural areas and cities. Electric cars offered greater acceleration and lower fares with a higher frequency of operation and more stops than mainline steam. After 1910, the popularity of the automobile began to diminish interurban ridership, and during the 1920s, many interurban systems were declared bankrupt. Many were also bought out in the so-called Great American Streetcar Scandal and deliberately destroyed. As a result of this shift in transportation methods, the small and unprofitable lines were discontinued. By the 1930s, most of the interurbans had disappeared, although some of their rail lines were taken over for the use of freight drawn by steam engines or continued using electric locomotives (known as juice jacks) such as the Illinois Terminal Railroad which had been the former Illinois Traction System. Most were replaced with buses. By the 1960s, very few lines remained; the Pacific Electric Railway in California final line was abandoned in 1961, and the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad near Chicago in 1963.


Wisconsin had, at the turn of the 20th century, one of the largest networks of Interurban and Streetcar systems in the United States. With one of the earliest, from the 1880s, being The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company, reaching as far north as Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as far west as Watertown, East Troy, and Burlington, also reaching to Kenosha in the south. Dominating the transportation in Milwaukee, before good roads, but by 1939 the Great Depression had started to take its toll on the Interurban system, when they had to close their lines to East Troy and Burlington. The track from East Troy to Mukwonago, was bought by the city and is still in operation as the East Troy Electric Railroad. Another large and notable system Wisconsin hosted was the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad which operated the last commercial interurban line in Wisconsin when it was abandoned on January 21, 1963. It was the fastest Interurban[where?] featuring the Electroliner, an EMU, which reached operating speeds of Script error: No such module "convert". between Milwaukee and Chicago. This road also operated a successful freight service and was the first railroad to use the piggy back system. Ironically, while the line was facing abandonment, Japanese engineers came to study the line while planning their high speed Bullet Trains.


On pages 10–11 of William Middleton's excellent book The Interurban Era is a photograph of a Union Traction of Indiana classic wood interurban car in rural Indiana closing at speed on the photographer in an almost head-on shot. Better than words, this large two-page photo defines what the 1900–1920 interurban was by showing the interurban car, track, overhead trolley wire, a small wayside station, a semaphore signal, and the cornfields beyond. A recent Indiana newspaper article regarding the state's former interurban network said the following: "Between 1900 and the mid-1930s, the best way to get from city to city in Indiana and much of the rest of the U.S. was the "interurban" rail car. Interurbans were like a city streetcar, but they traveled from city to city along dedicated track – single-car electric trains powered by electricity and tethered to power lines running just above the track. They first appeared around 1900 and grew rapidly. Indianapolis was the hub of all the interurban lines in the state and the Indianapolis Traction Terminal station was the largest of its kind in the nation – in fact it was the largest in the world. Competing with the heavier steam trains that came through Indianapolis Union Station, the interurbans ran trips all day long, almost hourly, and were a very reliable form of transportation from one city downtown to the next, and the city streetcars could take you from there."[63] Indiana had some of the busiest interurban lines in the country.[64] With 1,825 miles, Indiana ranked only slightly behind Ohio in interurban mileage.[65] Indiana, like Ohio, saw interurbans rapidly develop throughout the 1900–1915 years and serve nearly every major city and town of significant size. Indianapolis with its extensive 1920s interurban network had an exceptionally busy downtown Indianapolis Traction Terminal with hourly departures and arrivals of the five interurban companies serving Indianapolis. The terminal had a trainshed roof covering nine passenger loading platforms and tracks.[66] Seven routes radiated from Indianapolis like spokes on a wheel, and they were serious competition to the steam railroads in the area. Union Traction was a very efficient and well constructed system that ran north from Indianapolis on two main lines toward Ft. Wayne. One line went by way of Peru, and the other by way of Muncie. It was the largest line in the state (until it became part of the Indiana Railroad in 1930) with a system that extended over 400 miles[67] and connected at both Muncie and Peru with the Ft. Wayne based Indiana Public Service Corporation; the 400 mile "Indianapolis, Terre Haute, and Eastern" ran west to Terre Haute and east to Richmond where it connected to an interurban from Dayton(the Dayton and Western) and also operated other lines northwest from Indianapolis.[68] Interstate Public Service (known simply as "Interstate") ran south to Louisville, Ky, and even briefly provided overnight sleeper service between Indianapolis and Louisville.[69] the AC voltage powered "Indianapolis and Cincinnati" later the "Indianapolis and Southeastern" ran southeast to Greensburg but never reached Cincinnati. Many used heavy large steel interurban cars and combines and, in some cases, had contracts to carry U.S. mail. Both the Interstate and Union Traction operated heavy steel interurbans and trailers equivalent to that of steam railroads with parlor cars and buffets. The Interstate's former sleeper cars as of year 2008 are operating on a railroad in Canada. In 1930, these four lines plus Indiana Public Service and Northern Indiana Public Service centered at Ft. Wayne were combined to become the modernized Indiana Railroad in 1930 where considerable money was invested to purchase new equipment and upgrade track.[70] The Indiana Railroad survived to 1941 by carrying considerable freight which it interchanged with the busy Ohio lines. For more information, see the Wikipedia sites for each interurban line, for the Indiana Railroad, and for the Cincinnati and Lake Erie. What is described as the "worst wreck in Interurban history" occurred at Kingsland, Indiana, on the line that preceded Union Traction. Two passenger cars hit head on and 43 people were killed.[71] Unfortunately, the state was also plagued with several small, disconnected systems that were not able to sustain long-term success and were abandoned by the 1920s, also true with the Ohio lines. The peak of heavy interurban car construction in the United States in terms of size and weight were Indiana Public Service's steel combines #375-378 built by St. Louis Car in 1926. One is pictured on pages 155 and 159 of Middleton's Interurban Era. Interurbans constructed after 1926 emphasized lighter weight and improved power efficiency and passenger comfort, particularly in 1929–39 with the construction of Indiana Railroad's high speed lightweights. In northern Indiana, the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad ran from Chicago east into northwestern Indiana along the lake to South Bend.


Ohio, with flat terrain, a relatively dense population, and small agricultural communities scattered between and among many larger industrial cities, was an ideal place to build interurban railways. Dayton, Toledo, Columbus, Lima, and Cleveland were hubs. Dayton had lines radiating south to Cincinnati, north to Toledo, east to Columbus and west into Indiana with its complex of interurban lines. Toledo was served by 11 interurban companies and had frequent service to local towns Monroe, Blissfield, Metamora, Wauseon, Waterville, Bowling Green, Fostoria, Oak Harbor, Genoa, and other nearby towns plus more distant cities like Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton. Lima had lines running to Toledo, Springfield, and Ft. Wayne. Columbus had lines radiating to Cleveland and to Springfield. For a brief time, the interurban industry was the fifth largest employer in the country, and it employed many in Ohio.[72] Ohio was a large industrial state, and in the 1930s when Ohio interurbans guaranteed 5 pm to 8 am overnight freight delivery to Cleveland from Cincinnati via Toledo, the volume of freight passing through Toledo exceeded 10,000,000 pounds one year, which is approximately 13 tons per day.[73][74]


Conestoga Traction, later Conestoga Transportation Company, was a classic country interurban that operated seven routes radiating spoke-like from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to numerous neighboring towns and farm villages. It ran side-of-road trolleys through Amish farm country east to Coatesville and Strasburg/Quarryville, Pequea, Columbia/Marietta, Elizabethtown, north to Manheim/Lititz, and north east to Ephrata/Adamstown/Terre Hill.[1][2] CT also transported farm freight, such as milk and produce, in its little cars. With a connection with neighboring Hershey Transit interurban, CT shipped Amish farm milk to the Hershey Company for use in chocolate production. A trolley connection at Coatesville and then at West Chester could provide a rider a trip from Lancaster to Philadelphia.[75] The CT was much more of a rural streetcar interurban in that its equipment was small city style streetcars running through the countryside compared to steam railroad style 60-foot long 50 ton interurbans operating in Indiana. A popular national newspaper cartoon strip was the "Toonerville Folks." It began in 1908 and ran to 1955. Central to the strip was a bouncy little trolley called the "Toonerville Trolley That Met All The Trains," operated by a grizzled old conductor and his silly motorman. The strip was modeled after Conestoga Traction and similar rural interurban trolley lines in Pennsylvania.[76] West Penn Railways operated a very extensive rural trolley system throughout the coal country southeast of Pittsburgh centered around McKeesport-Greensburg-Connellsville-Uniontown until 1955. Lehigh Valley Transit operated a true legacy Pennsylvania interurban which wandered through village streets, ran side of road, over hill and dale from Philadelphia's 69th Street terminal to Allentown through Lansdale and Souderton, approximately 53 miles, until 1951.[77][78] For more information, see the Wikipedia sites for Conestoga Traction Company, West Penn Railways, Lehigh Valley Transit, plus the Wikipedia site for "Toonerville Folks." (ref, Wikipedia LVT)
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area had several interurbans. The most travelled was the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley, commonly referred to as the Laurel Line, ran about 20 miles, connecting passengers to the cities of Scranton, Pittston and Wilkes-Barre from 1903 to 1952. The Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton ran for 30 miles between its namesake cities. Finally, the Scranton, Montrose and Binghamton Railroad, commonly referred to as the Northern Electric, was used primarily in the northern suburbs of Scranton from 1906 through 1932.[79]


Chicago had three major interurbans: The Chicago, North Shore, and Milwaukee; the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin (third rail); and the Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend. All had early 1900s interurban origins. In later years, the North Shore and the "Roaring" Elgin operated into downtown on Chicago's elevated system. The South Shore operated from South Bend (Notre Dame University) into downtown Chicago on the tracks of the electricfied tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad. All three became rush hour commuter railroads and were weak financially. The CA&E abandoned in 1955; the North Shore in 1963; and the South Shore still runs and moves freight. For more information, see the Wikipedia site for line.


Although not concentrated around one city or in one area, Iowa had a number of very active interurban lines. Some had a substantial freight business, particularly the Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and Northern which owned six electric locomotive "juice jacks." The 147-mile-long Ft. Dodge, Des Moines, and Southern was active freight and passenger operator[80] and owned a very impressive tall 800-foot-long steel bridge spanning a valley south of Des Moines.[81] It ran passenger service until 1956 and continued to move considerable freight. The smaller Cedar Rapids and Iowa City operated second hand Cincinnati and Lake Erie "Red Devils" between the university town and Cedar Rapids.[82] The short Iowa Traction Railway (10.4 miles remaining, formerly the "Mason City and Clear Lake RR") moves considerable revenue freight today using a roster of 4 well-maintained, ninety-year-old Baldwin-Westinghouse bright orange "juice jacks." The Iowa Traction Ry. does have a trolley passenger coach, #727, and does offer some very limited passenger excursions from time to time. The very short "Charles City & Western Ry." ran between Charles City and Marble Rock and had an operating interurban coach at Charles City for an occasional excursion up until 1986 when the line was discontinued by abandonment. Charles City's primary revenue business was freight from a very small group of local shippers and its connecting steam railroads.


California had a large amount of interurban mileage, particularly in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.

A Los Angeles Pacific Railroad streetcar on Santa Monica Boulevard in Sawtelle, 1890
Los Angeles Pacific Railroad

Los Angeles Pacific Railroad was started in 1890 by General M.H. Sherman and E.P. Clark, at is peak it had 180-mile track in the western portions of Los Angeles County, from Pasadena, California to Santa Monica and running down the coast line. The rapid interurban transit of the Los Angeles Pacific Railroad, and the other system, the Big Red Cars, enticed many new residents to LA. It also helped Los Angeles get out the economic slump of 1890. It encouraged new investments in manufacturing. On March 19, 1906 in was sold to Henry Huntington’s Pacific Electric Railway [83]

Pacific Electric Railway
Main article: Pacific Electric

The Pacific Electric Railway (PE) ran interurban trains to many points outside Los Angeles through what was then mostly orange groves and ranches, particularly east of Pomona. The longest and fastest PE line was to San Bernardino, fifty miles eastward, and it competed effectively with the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe railroads for passengers, freight, and mail. Other lines radiated from Los Angeles to Pasadena, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Manhattan-Hermosa-Redondo Beaches, Monrovia, Riverside, and Redlands. Operating over 1000 miles of track, the Pacific Electric was the most expansive interurban in the United States.

Sacramento Northern Railroad
File:654 on Plumas - Flickr - drewj1946.jpg
A GE Steeplecab street-running in Yuba City, California in 1964

The Sacramento Northern Railroad (SN) ran from Oakland through Concord and Sacramento to Chico, 185 miles in length with branches east to Oroville from Yuba City and west to Woodland from Sacramento. The SN was a railfan favorite because it featured a trolley wire equipped railroad car ferry (with coffee and sandwich concession) to carry both passenger and freight trains across an arm of Suisun Bay. It reached the San Francisco Bay area at Oakland through a half mile long single track tunnel in the Oakland Hills. Sacramento to Oakland was well patronized, and four- and five-car passenger trains ran until 1940 including brief operation over the new Bay Bridge into San Francisco and freight operation using Westinghouse electric locomotives (juice jacks) into the 1960s. Operation in the Oakland Hills had very steep grades. The Sacramento Northern and interurban cousins Central California Traction (Sacramento to Stockton) and Tidewater Southern (Stockton to Modesto and Turlock) were subsidiaries of the Western Pacific Railroad after 1926.[84] During WW2, the one mile long aging wood Yolo viaduct dropped domino style under a freight train carrying heavy steel plate.[85]

Visalia Electric Railroad

Unique with its high voltage AC operation and pantograph equipped passenger and freight equipment, the Visalia Electric ran from Visalia in the San Joaquin Valley eastward into an adjacent agricultural area. Built to high standards in 1904 and using pantograph equipped passenger cars and freight locomotives, its passenger business ended in 1924. Electric operation ended in 1944.


Although low in population density, Utah had an active electric interurban network that survived into the 1950s. One could ride from Preston, Idaho, through Logan, Ogden, and Salt Lake City, to Provo, Utah (151 miles) on three lines. The Utah-Idaho Central ran south from Preston to Ogden. The Bamberger (named after its founder) ran from Ogden to Salt Lake City on a double tracked line using unusual high speed Bullet cars purchased second hand from the Fonda, Johnstown, and Gloversville interurban in upstate New York. The Salt Lake and Utah ran from Salt Lake City to Provo. All three lines operated modern interurbans cars on substantial roadbeds, plus the Bamberger had an active freight business and used Westinghouse freight locomotives pulling standard railroad sized freight cars from its interchange with the Western Pacific and the Union Pacific. A fourth line, the Salt Lake, Garfield, and Western went straight west from Salt Lake City to a resort and amusement center at the edge of lake Salt Lake.

New York

The Rochester and Buffalo areas had a number of classic heavy wood coach interurban lines that tended to not survive very long after inception. For one thing, they competed with a number of very active steam railroads such as the New York Central and the Nickel Plate Road connecting the same major towns. Another problem that caused them serious expense was fighting the continual heavy winter snows off the Great Lakes. The Jamestown, Westfield, and Northwestern provided an essential link from furniture manufacturing Jamestown to the main line of the New York Central at Westfield. The big red steel electric passenger cars of the JW&NW provided passenger connection service to Jamestown for New York Central passengers, and it also moved considerable freight to Westfield from Jamestown for pick up by the NYC. The JW&NW survived into the 1950s due to its freight business.


South Shore train in the streets of Michigan City, Indiana in 2002

Few historic interurban lines are still operated in their original form, although a number of more recently constructed transit lines could be considered interurbans by Hilton and Due's standards above.

The streetcar systems constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries typically only ran in single-car setups. Some rail lines experimented with multiple unit configurations, where streetcars were joined together to make short trains, but this did not become common until later. When lines were built over longer distances (typically with a single track) before good roads were common, they were generally called interurban streetcars in most of North America or radial railways in Ontario. After World War II, seven major North American cities (Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Newark, and New Orleans) continued to operate large streetcar systems. When these cities upgraded to new technology, they called it light rail to differentiate it from their existing streetcars since some continued to operate both the old and new systems.

Other lines that have some characteristics of an interurban include:

Present-day interurban style street-running freight train operation



In 1887 the St. Catharines and Niagara Central Railway, the first interurban line in the world, started operations. It ran between St. Catharines and Thorold, Ontario, Canada. Not only was this the first interurban line in the world, but it was also one of the first commercially successful implementations of electric streetcars in the world.

In Southern Ontario, intercity streetcar lines were called radial railways, because their routes generally radiated from a central city. The longest routes from Toronto included one running to Lake Simcoe and another to Guelph. A portion of one of these lines is preserved and plays host to a working museum of streetcars and other transit vehicles at the Halton County Radial Railway in Milton. A notable feature of Toronto's radial railways was that because the city streetcar tracks of the Toronto Railway Company (later taken over by the Toronto Transportation Commission) were built to a wider gauge (which is still used to this day), radial cars from the outlying areas could not pass the city limits, requiring passengers to change trains.

Some of the closer sections of Toronto's radial railways were assimilated into the city's streetcar network, and with the city's expansion, some communities once linked by radial railway now have relatively central stations on the Toronto subway. On a regional level, GO Transit's commuter railway network is designed on a similar radial principle, though it uses much heavier-capacity mainline trains.

There were also significant radial systems operating from Hamilton, St. Catharines, Windsor, and throughout the Grand River Valley, the last of which will see a revival since The Region of Waterloo approved a plan to build a light railway between Waterloo, Kitchener, and eventually Cambridge, running partially on the tracks of the former Grand River Railway.[86] Hamilton and the Niagara Region are also investigating the possibility of reviving former interurban railway routes as modern light rail. Another southern Ontario line, the London and Port Stanley Railway, is notable for hauling large quantities of coal from Port Stanley that would arrive via railway ferry from Conneaut, Ohio.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, five interurban lines were operated by the British Columbia Electric Railway Company. The private right-of-way of the Central Park line, between Commercial Drive in Vancouver and New Westminster, is now used by the SkyTrain's Expo Line. The Fraser Valley Line became the British Columbia Hydro Railway when BC Electric was nationalized in the 1960s; it was later privatized and is now the Southern Railway of British Columbia, a local shortline freight railway. The BCER also operated interurban trains between Vancouver and Marpole, and between Marpole, Steveston and New Westminster on the Vancouver and Lulu Island Railway, which it leased from Canadian Pacific. This railway is also known as Arbutus Corridor route. Likewise, the Millennium Line of the SkyTrain connects the same communities as the former Burnaby Lake Line; however, the new SkyTrain line does not follow the original right-of-way, which is now the route of Highway 1 through Burnaby. The fifth BCER interurban connected Victoria and Patricia Bay on the Saanich Peninsula. Its right-of-way is commemorated by Interurban Road in Saanich.

During July and August 2013, a portion of the interurban tram in Cloverdale was opened as a tourist railway with one of the surviving interurban railcars.


Only one electric interurban railway was operated in Canada's three prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), the Winnpeg, Selkirk and Lake Winnipeg Railway connecting Winnipeg, Manitoba, with Selkirk, Stony Mountain, and Stonewall. Two other railways operating gasoline-powered railcars operated in Alberta, the Edmonton Interurban Railway between Edmonton and Saint Albert, and the Lacombe and Blindman Valley Electric Railway connecting Lacombe with Bentley and Rimbey.


In Quebec, the Montreal and Southern Counties Railway operated electric interurban lines from central Montreal across the Saint Lawrence River to Longueuil and Granby from 1909 to 1956. The Montreal Park and Island Railway ran suburban radial lines in Montreal starting in 1894, to Sault-au-Récollet, Cartierville, and Lachine. The company was absorbed into the city streetcar system in 1911 and the lines remained in operation until 1958.

The Quebec Railway, Light and Power Company ran from Québec City to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré between 1904 and 1959.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, the Cape Breton Electric Company operated interurban services between Sydney, Glace Bay and New Waterford from 1901 to 1947, and the Pictou County Electric Company operated interurban services between the five towns of Pictou County from 1904 to 1931.

Interurbans in Mexico

In the 1900s (decade), Canadian investors purchased the Mexico City tram operator Compañía de Tranvías de México, and attempted to create an interurban radial-railway system on the Canadian model, beginning work on lines that were intended to reach Toluca and Puebla. Typical US-style interurban electric cars built by the St. Louis Car Company were imported for the service. Expenses due to Mexico's difficult terrain and political instability that culminated in the Mexican Revolution combined to end this project, although lines were completed as far as La Venta and Tulyehualco and a popular suburban line was built to San Angel and Coyoacán.[87] A portion of the ex-Puebla line operates today as the Xochimilco Light Rail system. Another Mexican system that would have been considered of an interurban type was the Playa Miramar high-speed line in Tampico.

The Mexican state of Yucatán had approximately 1,500 kilometers of interurban tramway network, mostly narrow gauge and either animal powered (mule or horsecars) or gasoline powered.[88]

Interurbans in Cuba

The Hershey train is an electrified train from Havana to Matanzas that was built by the Hershey Company in order to facilitate transport of workers and products after it had bought sugar plantations in 1916. It is a commuter service running in northern Havana and Matanzas provinces, some original equipment still exists.


In Europe, there are some interurbans - both old and new ones. However, lines that fit the interurban definition were not as common or widely distributed as in the U.S. A large interurban system, the Silesian Interurbans in Upper Silesia, Poland, has been in continuous operation since 1894.


Switzerland has a large number of narrow gauge interurban electric rail lines. Some are operated by the Swiss Federal Railways, but most are canton owned or are privately owned. In Europe, tram-trains began running on the streets in cities, particularly Germany, in the mid-late 19th century. Then heavier equipment railroad style regional railway lines from cities to the suburbs and nearby countryside developed in the mid 20th century. The Swiss narrow gauge mountain lines are operated primarily for tourism and are heavily subsidized by the Swiss government.

Lake Geneva

Geneva-Nyon-Morges region

Narrow gauge interurban lines run from the shore of Lake Geneva north into the foothills of the Jura mountains that separate Switzerland from France. These include the NStCM (Nyon, St Cergue, Morez) originating at the SBB station in Nyon. The NStCM continued to Morez in France.This ended years ago and the line terminates at Le Cure. The BAM (Biere, Apples, Morges) runs from the Morges SBB station to Biere with a branch to L'Isle.

Lausanne-Blonay-Vevey-Montreux region

The LEB (Lausanne-Echallens-Bercher) operates interurbans north 24 km to Echallens-Bercher. The MOB (Montreux-Oberland-Bernois) operates locomotive pulled trains (including the Panorama Express and the Chocolate Train) to Montbovan (junction), Gastaad and Zweizimmen near Interlochen. From Interlaken, the narrow-gauge Brünigbahn section of the Zentralbahn runs 74 kilometres further to Lucerne. The section from Montreux to Zweisimmen, approximately 63 kilometres long, is part of the "Golden Pass Panorama" trip from Montreux to Lucerne, a trip which combines rides on the MOB, the BLS and the Brünig lines. It skirts Lake Brienz and passes through the range of mountains to the north of the lake via Brünig pass, and then drops into the Sarner Aa valley to Lucerne.

The GFM (Gruyere-Fribourg-Montabon) (renamed TPF for the Transports Publics de Fribourg) meets the MOB line at Montbovan for TPF's Chocolate Train to the cheese-making village of Gruyere and the Nestle chocolate factory, and TPF's freight trains transport chocolate from Nestle. The MVR (Montreux-Vevey-Riviera) (former CEV) runs from Vevey to Blonay, a suburb of Lausanne, and to the 2000 meter altitude regional park Les Pleiades. Chamby just east of Blonay has a narrow gauge railroad museum with considerable operating equipment owned by local rail enthusiasts and open to the public in the summer on weekends. At Montreux, the MGR operates a 800mm gauge rack railway to Glion and Rochers-de-Ney.[89] The Montreux-Oberland Bernois line runs 75 kilometres from Montreux on Lake Geneva to Zweisimmen, with a connecting line to Lenk in the Simmental.

Northwestern Jura Region

The meter gauge TRAVAYS railway runs from the Valorbe SBB terminal at the French-Swiss border into the Valle De Joux along the north side of Lake Joux terminating at Le Brassus. TRAVYS also operates a meter gauge railway connecting Yverdon les Bains to Sainte Croix in the Lake Neuchatel area.

Valais and Vaud Cantons

Aigle: Transports Publics du Chablais (TPC) is a combined group of four formerly separate meter gauge mountain interurbans. The TPC is headquartered at the municipality of Aigle (Eagle), population 8,100, 13 km southeast of Montreux at the foot of the Bernese Alps in the Canton of Valais just across the Rhone from the Canton of Vaud. ("Chablais" is a historic name for a large former French region which is now the two Swiss cantons. Some local history: in the 1847, a group of Catholic cantons, including Valais, tried to leave the Swiss Confederation. This was stopped by Federal troops in a brief low casualty civil war called the Sonderbund.) The four legacy lines of the TPC are: the ASD (Aigle-Sepey-Diablerets) which runs east from Aigle in the Rhone valley to the ski resort of Diablerets; the AL (Aigle-Leysin) which runs east from Aigle to the ski resort of Leysin; the AOMC (Aigle-Ollon-Monthey-Champerey) which runs west from Aigle across the Rhone River into the Canton of Vaud to reach Monthey and Champery. These three meter gauge lines plus the BVB (Bex-Villars-Bretaye) which runs east from Bex, a village just south of Aigle, are operated by the TPC. In 2007, TPC carried 2.1 million passengers, producing 14.5 million passenger-km. In 2008, after opening new combined line narrow-gauge platforms in Aigle adjacent to the Swiss Federal France-Italy main line depot, it was decided to change the voltage on the AOMC line from 900 to 1500vdc. Some AOMC trainsets were adapted while older ones were retired, and some AL and ASD trainsets reach the new depot trackage under reduced power. In the summer of 2010, the railway took a step towards a unified brand image with the introduction of a two tone green livery for its cars. AL and ASD: 6.2 km and 23 km long respectively, meter gauge, electrified at 1500vdc. AOMC: 23 km long, meter gauge, electrified at now 1500vdc. BVB: 17 km long, meter gauge, electrified at 650vdc. (ref: three Wikipedia sites: TCP Switzerland; Valais; Vaud.) The wintertime ski business and the summertime tourist business are very important to this mostly agricultural (wine grapes) region, but the TCP cost to the two canton's taxpayers (the lines are heavily subsidized by both the cantons and the federal government) has been the subject of debate over the years. These train-an-hour electric mountain side interurbans require expensive maintenance due to avalanche, rock slides, washouts, and bridge repair.[90]

Martigny: The municipality of Martigny lies south of Aigle and Bex at the mountainous point where the Rhone makes a ninety degree turn from the east and flows north toward Lake Geneva. Like Aigle, it sits on the main Swiss Federal line from Italy. The MO and the MC system now is called the TMRSA (Transports de Martigny et Regions) which operates the local narrow gauge lines, all of which reach ski resorts. The MC runs from Martigny to le Chatelard at the French border and continues into France to Chamonix. The Martigny–Châtelard railway is 19 km long, with one rack railway section. It connects with the Saint-Gervais–Vallorcine railway in France, the joint services being marketed as Mont-Blanc Express. The MO runs from Martigny to Semmbenacher where it splits and one line goes south to Orsieres and the other eastward to Chable. It operates the St. Bernard Express to Orsieres. The TMRSA employs 180 permanent staff.[91]


The Netherlands used to have an extensive "tram-system" that came very close to the American-style interurban. The standard gauge NZH trams in the area between The Hague, Leiden and Haarlem were fairly big electric trams running on 1200 volt with in-street running in towns and quite a lot of private right-of-way outside towns. Especially the "Budapester" trams (see picture) resembled American interurban cars. A typical tram was made up by coupling a motorised unit (A400 or A500 series) with one or two trailers (B400/B500). In common with American practice the NZH also had local streetcar lines in The Hague, Leiden and Haarlem sharing some of the track with the interurban routes. Power supply was entirely by overhead wire. Although there was a connection between tram and train tracks in Leiden it was not possible to convey railway cars on NZH track due to differing track and wheel geometry, curve radius and loading gauge. The A/B600 series of twin-cars, built around 1930, resemble those of Oakland's Key System 'Bridge Units' built slightly later.

Part of the NZH system was built to metre-gauge. In the 1920s the same "Budapester" interurbans were bought for use here (with narrower wheel-sets of course). It was envisioned that some of this track would be converted to standard gauge at a later date but the axe fell before this could occur. Because the terminus of one of these lines was at Spui in the centre of Amsterdam (where the streetcars use standard gauge) some three-rail track (combined standard/narrow gauge) existed there. Long after the demise of the NZH-interurbans the tree-rail track was still present in some streets with interesting pointwork where streets crossed.

File:ZHESM materieel Hofpleinlijn.jpg
1908 Interurban-style car of the Hofplein-line, preserved in the Dutch Railway Museum, Utrecht

Nowadays few lines remain, one of which is Line 1 of HTM, running from Scheveningen to Delft. NZH turned into a bus company and in 1999 was taken over by Connexxion. However Connexxion also runs the light-rail line from Utrecht to Nieuwegein that was built around 1980 but has roots in the steam-tram era. In addition, until 2006 Nederlandse Spoorwegen ran two regional lines between The Hague and Rotterdam Hofplein/Zoetemeer as a train (heavy-rail) service, and these were then transformed into Randstadrail, a concept similar to the old interurbans. Interestingly this "Hofplein-line" started early 20th century as a separate company (ZHESM) modelled after the American style interurbans (running fully electric multiple-unit trains right from the start) but was included into the nationalised rail system later on.


The Belgian Vicinal tramway system had many characteristics of the American interurban, although operating speeds and vehicle comfort were only comparable on a few of the more important services. The main surviving section is the Belgian Coast Tram, which has been in service since 1885. With 70 stations along its 68-kilometre line, connecting the cities and towns along the entire Belgian (West Flanders) coastline, it is the longest tram line in the world. Some other sections were absorbed into urban tramway systems, especially in Charleroi.

Czech Republic

Two interurban lines exist, both connected to city street car systems, the Liberec-Jablonec line and the Most-Litvinov line. The Liberec-Jablonec line is notable for being metre-gauge.


File:KVB2226 Uedorf.jpg
Stadtbahn between Cologne and Bonn

In Germany, interurbans that fit the whole definition were uncommon. However, in many instances the definition is almost met.

One of these cases are the many early secondary (connecting) railway lines that were built in the onset of the 20th century. Many of them were street-running in urban and suburban areas while using a dedicated right of way in less populated areas. Those lines were usually operated with mainline stock, however very few were electrified. Most of them have disappeared or were moved onto a fully dedicated right-of-way due to increasing street traffic and safety concerns. One of the few such railway lines still in service is the steam operated narrow-gauge Molli train between Bad Doberan and Kühlungsborn West on the shore of the Baltic Sea in the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern which is street-running inside Bad Doberan and has its own right-of-way on the rest of the line.

Another not-uncommon case are interurban tramways. Germany has numerous areas where several larger cities are clustered together, and there were always places not served by mainline railway lines. Often urban tramways companies jumped at the opportunity and built over-land tramway lines, sometimes linking two existing tramway networks together. Those lines were run with standard tramway cars. The most extensive system was the originally German Silesian interurbans, which are now in Poland.

After World War II these interurban tramways were modernised and now dubbed Stadtbahn. All of them are street-running in city areas and use a dedicated right-of-way between cities, and all of them are electrified. Rolling stock used is either standard tramcars or special heavier cars which still qualify for tramway use in street-running lines as regulated in BOStrab. Generally, the Stadtbahn systems fit the definition of an interurban once their network leaves city boundaries. This is especially true for the ones which run both in the streets and on true railway (often S-Bahn) tracks. This requires two power systems (German: Zweisystemstadtbahn): Both the common 600 V DC tram voltage, and the 15 kV AC used by German railways. On the railway tracks, they run at up to 114 km/h. Such tram-train systems have been constructed in some cities, including Karlsruhe and Kassel, and later also in countries other than Germany, including Spain and France.

One particularly large effort was the Stadtbahn Rhein-Ruhr, which was meant to grow to a length of Script error: No such module "convert"., spanning over 10 cities of the Ruhrgebiet industrial area, building upon already existing interurban and urban tramway lines. It is the longest Tram network in the world, but it has for every city its own operator. Although those plans were later abandoned due to exploding costs, 17 Stadtbahn lines between Krefeld in the west and Dortmund in the east were finished, and today one can travel from Krefeld to Witten without using a single mainline train. The only link missing is between Bochum (one city before Witten) and Dortmund.


In Poland interurban tram lines - in addition to the Silesian interurbans - exist in Łódź agglomeration. They were built before first world war and served Ozorków, Zgierz, Pabianice, Konstantynow, Lutomiersk, Aleksandrów and Tuszyn. Today the first four of these are still active. The line to Ozorków is 38 km long, the second longest in the world after the Belgian coastal tram line.[citation needed]


One short 14 km line linking Sintra to the seaside opened in 1904 and runs today, after a chequered past, mainly as a tourist attraction.

Isle of Man

The Manx Electric Railway, one of the first interurbans at all, survives after over 100 years of service, using mainly original equipment. It links Douglas with Ramsey. The Snaefell Mountain Railway links the M.E.R with the summit of Snaefell, the highest point on the island.

Interurbans in Asia


Influence of the U. S.

In Japan, no clear distinction of the interurban from the ordinal heavy rail has been settled, but most of the major private railway companies, which now play important role in public transportation, had been influenced greatly by the systems of U.S. interurbans, such as motors and controllers of General Electric, Westinghouse Electric, air brakes of Westinghouse Air Brake Company, trucks of J. G. Brill Company and Baldwin Locomotive Works, just to name some.


The first interurban in Japan was the Hanshin Electric Railway's main line, which opened in 1905 between Osaka and Kobe. In the Greater Tokyo area in the same year, the present Keihin Electric Express Railway (Keikyū) extended its main line to the station of Kanagawa in Yokohama, to connect Tokyo. The followers of this earlier period were Keihan Electric Railway's main line between Kyoto and Osaka in 1910, Nagoya Electric Railway (present Nagoya Railroad) in Nagoya to surrounding towns such as Inuyama (present Inuyama Line) and Tsushima (Tsushima Line). The latter had operated through to the center of Nagoya via streetcar tracks, though the former had planned so in Osaka but the administrating authority refused permission.

Second generation

The second boom of Japanese interurbans occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, unlike the counterparts in the US that declined during that period. The difference between the two countries is the extent of motorization; in Japan, private automobiles remained uncommon until the 1960s. The operators of this generation built their exclusive tracks with heavier rail (e.g. 100 lb. per yard) and fewer curves, and they rarely laid tracks on roads.

In Kansai region, mostly from Osaka:

  • Kobe Line of Hanshin Kyūkō Railway (present Hankyu Corporation)
    competing Hanshin's Main Line in the same region
  • Kobe - Himeji Electric Railway
    western half of the main line of present Sanyo Electric Railway connecting Akashi and Himeji
  • Shin-Keihan Railway
    concurrent to Keihan, later transferred to Hankyū
  • Hanwa Electric Railway
    later merged to the governmental network under wartime condition, presently Hanwa Line
  • Osaka Electric Tramway's main line (present Kintetsu)
    for Nara
  • Nara Electric Railway's line (presently Kintetsu)
    Kyoto and Nara
  • Sangū Kyūkō Electric Railway
    Together with Osaka Electric Tramway line, from Osaka to Ise, exceeding 100 km in distance

In Tokyo:

In other regions


File:OER Odawara Line Seijōgakuen-mae.jpg
Odakyu Odawara Line is an example of the evolution that many Japanese interurbans have undergone

During the Japanese post-war economic miracle (1955–1975), rapid urbanizations increased the traffic and required the capacity expansion. Descendants of interurbans responded by:

  • Extending the length of platforms to accommodate longer trains.
  • Acquiring higher capacity, metro-like trains.
  • Operating trains on shorter headways.
  • Interoperating with subway lines.
  • doubling, tripling, or quadrupling their tracks.
  • grade-separating their lines.

Nowadays, most notably in and around Tokyo and Osaka, companies such as Keikyū, Tōbu, Odakyū, and Hankyu operate trains of 200 m length and tend to resemble commuter rail.

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

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Jensen, Pål: Trikk fra by til by, For Jernbane 1/2011 (in Norwegian)
  4. ^ Toledo Blade: May 27, 2007 ...article about the many 1920s interurban lines radiating from Toledo and their employees.
  5. ^ a b Jensen, Oliver (1993). The American Heritage History of Railroads in America. Random House Value Publishing. ISBN 978-0517362365. 
  6. ^ Middleton 1961, p. 13
  7. ^ Hilton & Due 1960, p. 9
  8. ^ Bureau of the Census 1905, p. 5
  9. ^ Middleton: p. 67, the remarkable electrical inventions of Frank J Sprague.
  10. ^ Rowsome, Frank: Trolley Car Treasury: pp. 81–94, Chapter 6 Frank Sprague Builds a Trolley. Discussion of the electric motor ingenuity of remarkable inventor Frank Sprague in 1892-1930.
  11. ^ Rowsome: 119-140, Chapter 8,The Empire of the Interurbans.
  12. ^ Hilton: p. 56, discussion regarding interurban industry's growth.
  13. ^ Alfred, Bruce: The Steam Locomotive in America: pp. 407–8, "But while the interurbans were in operation, interurbans had in many ways ruined the local passenger service of the steam railroads."
  14. ^ Rowsome: p. 179, statistics of operation; p. 138, photo of Indianapolis Traction Terminal and many interurban cars lined up ready to depart.
  15. ^ Keenan, Jack: Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad; p. 64, " grew the ire of the local eight car freight winding its way around several blocks, snarling traffic..."
  16. ^ Keenan, Jack, internet essay; The Fight For Survival, the Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad and the Great Depression, p. 4, amount of tonnage moved at Cincinnati.
  17. ^ Rowsome: p. 176, photo of multiple car Sacramento Northern passenger train on Sacramento street.
  18. ^ Hilton: p. 287, the decline of all interurban business and revenue.
  19. ^ CERA Bulletin: Interurban to Milwaukee, the history of the North Shore Line
  20. ^ Bradley: p. 85,...Elder Bowman and the receivership of the Indiana Railroad.
  21. ^ Hilton: p. 145, Chapter 8, Finance, discusses bankruptcy, receivership, and the role of the State's Public Utility Commission regarding abandonment.
  22. ^ Rowsome, p. 119–140, Chapter: Interurbans, their Origin, the Good Years, and the Decline.
  23. ^ Middleton: p. 10, very impressive two-page photo of onrushing Union Traction Limited to Ft. Wayne.
  24. ^ Keenan: p. 290, C&LE should have paid for track signals rather than pay for many wrecks and settle injury claims.
  25. ^ Kulp: Lehigh Valley Transit's 1000 Series Interurban Cars, multiple death collision at Norristown.
  26. ^ McKelvey: p. 42, photo of LVT collision near Norristown.
  27. ^ Kulp: two section LVT train has slight impact collision.
  28. ^ Keenan essay-lecture: p. 3, "...the CH&D customers shipped (forwarded) 57,000 tons of freight by interurban from Cincinnati to cities in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. By 1929, however, they were shipping about 83,000 tons – an increase of 45%.
  29. ^ Benedict: Not Only Passengers, a book covering the subject of interurban freight.
  30. ^ Middleton: p. 393, ... many of the interurbans ... good freight business ... survived the decline of the interurban era ...
  31. ^ Keenan: p. 32, towns were worried that freight on a streetcar line could become a problem, which it did.
  32. ^ Rowsome: Indianapolis' new "Union Freight Terminal" to be used by all Indianapolis interurban companies.
  33. ^ Keenan essay-lecture: p. 15, "Conway stated ... C&LE ... interchanged ... 10 million pounds of freight per month at Toledo." The C&LE was also interchanging freight at Lima, Springfield, and Columbus.
  34. ^ Keenan: p. 127, Springfield fought to remove the interurban from town streets.
  35. ^ Middleton, p. 391 "... municipal ordinance ... a box motor ... built to resemble a passenger car."
  36. ^ CERA Bulletin 37: Jamestown Westfield and Northwestern, description of Jamestown freight interchanged with the NYC.
  37. ^ Internet available essay: A Trip on America's Scenic Route: The Jamestown, Westfield and Northwestern Railroad, a description of a ride on a scheduled trip of the JW&NW from Jamestown to the NYC station at Westfield.
  38. ^ Middleton: p. 382, large amount of livestock delivered to Indianapolis by interurban freight.
  39. ^ CERA Bulletins: Illinois Traction; North Shore Line; South Shore Line; Not Just Passengers; and Interurbans Press's: Interurbans of Utah.
  40. ^ Middleton: p. 387, photo with caption: "Northern Electric's ... 82 ton #1010 ... was the largest and heaviest in the west."
  41. ^ Keenan: p. 44, CH&D "to the amazement of the rest of the industry" ordered new freight box motors from Cincinnati Car Company although it used the trucks (bogies) and motors removed from retired equipment to save money.
  42. ^ Keenan essay: p. 15, direct quote regarding accomplishments.
  43. ^ Keenan: p. 197, although 1936 had shown a slight profit, 1937 was again a loss.
  44. ^ Bradley, Indiana Railroad, CERA Bulletin
  45. ^ Keenan: appendix, C&LE map of Toledo routes.
  46. ^ Rowsome: p. 67, Track could be located in steep locations with sharp turns.
  47. ^ Hilton: pp. 53–65, details of trolley electrification techniques and power distribution systems.
  48. ^ Hilton: p. 67, discussion of the design, operation, and "hunting" of the rotary converter.
  49. ^ Keenan: p. 46, discussion with photos of substations.
  50. ^ Handbook of Electrical Engineering, John Wiley and Sons publisher, NY.
  51. ^ Middleton, "Interurban Era:" p. 426, high voltage propulsion systems and their problems.
  52. ^ Marlette, Internet article, Indiana Railroad
  53. ^ Swett: entire book discussing motors, pickups, and voltage requirements of each SN car: Cars of the Sacramento Northern, Interurban Press.
  54. ^ Jewett, From Small Town to Downtown, Brough and Graebner, Indiana Univ Press, 2004.
  55. ^ Middleton: p. 368, chapter Wrecks and Other Mishaps.
  56. ^ Marlette: Indiana Railroad, p. 24, Internet available article.
  57. ^ CERA Bulletins; Illinois Traction, Not Just Passengers, Chicago, North Shore, and Milwaukee, and Middleton: p. 380, chapterTrolley Freight.
  58. ^ Keenan, C&LE: Kulp, LVT; Bradley, IR
  59. ^ Keenan, appendix: Equipment Roster
  60. ^ Bradley: p. 187, discussion and photo coverage of IR's new lightweights.
  61. ^ Keenan: p. 54, NYC dropped one passenger train running south from Detroit, and freight business was lost.
  62. ^ Middleton: p. 309, two photos of IR lightweights running in open country.
  63. ^ Indianapolis Star, 1/10/2013
  64. ^ Rowsome: p. 140, map of Midwestern interurbans in 1912.
  65. ^ Hilton: p. 122, Ohio versus Indiana interurban mileage.
  66. ^ Rowsome: p. 64, photo and caption of Indianapolis Traction Terminal in downtown Indianapolis.
  67. ^ Middleton: p. 153, a Union Traction company posed photo with new steel interurban #427.
  68. ^ Middleton: p. 157, huge cow catcher THI&ER combine grinding around a corner in Indianapolis.
  69. ^ Middleton: pp. 152–159, photos and discussion of all the Indiana interurban companies.
  70. ^ Bradley: Indiana Railroad, the Magic Interurban, a history of the Indiana Railroad.
  71. ^ Middleton: p. 370, photo with caption.
  72. ^ Toledo Blade, May 27, 2007)
  73. ^ Keenan: lecture at Indiana History website, CEO Conway's statement regarding shipments at Toledo.
  74. ^ Keenan: entire book describing the rise and fall of the Cincinnati and Lake Erie from 1930 to 1938.
  75. ^ Middleton: pp. 21, 1949 photo and caption showing elderly Red Arrow trolley on the West Chester to Philadelphia line.
  76. ^ Rowsome: discussion and example of the Toonerville comic strip.
  77. ^ Middleton: p. 24, excellent large photograph of Lehigh Valley Transit Liberty Bell Limited interurban car pacing a Reading RR passenger train.
  78. ^ Kulp: four books on the history of the Lehigh Valley Transit Company.
  79. ^ Northern Electric Railway, by Thomas F. Flanagan, published by Ben Rohrbeck Traction Publications 1980.
  80. ^ Middleton: p. 185, discussion of FtDDM&S history with photos of equipment and photo of bridge.
  81. ^ Rowsome: p. 129, excellent photo with caption of the Ft. Dodge line's impressive bridge, with wood arch windowed interurban car #82 crossing; and, p. 178, three Ft. Dodge line's arch windowed interurban cars close to the line's quitting passenger service.
  82. ^ Middleton: pp. 177–178, CRANDIC photos.
  83. ^ Los Angeles Transit History
  84. ^ Middleton: p.26, photo of Sacramento Northern passenger train paused at the Sacramento interurban station.
  85. ^ Middleton: p. 377, photo, and Rowsome p76, photo of multiple car SN passenger train negotiating a street corner in Sacramento.
  86. ^ "Region of Waterloo Rapid Transit". Region of Waterloo. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  87. ^ Morrison, Allen. "The Tramways of Mexico City; Part 2: Early Electrics". The Tramways of Mexico. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  88. ^ Morrison, Allen. "The Tramways of Yucatán; Part 2: Intercity Lines". The Tramways of Mexico. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  89. ^ Data taken from internet sites on these railways and from internet photo sites of the area noted in External Sites
  90. ^ This information is found at the Swiss TCP Internet and Wikipedia sites.
  91. ^ This data and history is found on the internet site for the Swiss TMRSA, MO, and MC railways.

Further reading

  • Benedict, Roy: Not Only Passengers, CERA Bulletin 129, Central electric Railfan's Assoc, Chicago.
  • Bradley, George K: Indiana Railroad: The Magic Interurban, 224 pp, 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.)
  • Bureau of the Census (1905). Street and Electric Railways, 1902: Special Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. OCLC 6024669. 
  • 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. 224 pp. 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, 206 pp, 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, 297 pp. 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 W.; Due, John Fitzgerald (1960). The Electric Interurban Railways in America. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804705534. OCLC 237973. 
  • 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, 226 pp. 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, 26 pp. 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, 128 pp. Arcadia Publishing, 2004. (ISBN 0-7385-1226-5).
  • Middleton, Wm.D: The Interurban Era, Kalmbach Publishing, Milwaukee, WI. ISBN 0-8902-4003-5. (publication on the subject 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, 248 pp, 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, 234 pp. 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, 209 pp, Bonanza Books, 1954, NY. (LCCN Expression error: Unrecognized punctuation character "[". 56-Expression error: Unrecognized punctuation character "[".) (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 978-1-58248-117-3). 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.

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