Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Electric Street Car Part I: The Beginning

The modern electric street car evolved from horse-drawn omnibuses which lasted from 1820s-1880s. Before long, bus operators started running horse cars on rails to reduce rolling resistance and increase speed (this began in 1830s-40s) compared the unpaved surfaces used until then. In 1860s-1890s other forms of motive power (often steam or cable) became more common. Making the switch from horse-drawn trolleys to electric was an obvious choice for most cities wishing to be rid of the care and maintenance horses required.

1882 was the birth of the first electric street car in America in South Bend Indiana. In little more than a decade the electric street car had transformed the urban and suburban landscape of almost 900 U.S. cities. Scranton Pennsylvania was an early adopter of the Electric street car and earned the nickname “The Electric City”. Electricity provided a major advancement in transportation but the use of rail was becoming obsolete; city streets were no longer dirt and the investment of track meant routes could not change to accommodate an evolving city.

Part II >

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