Electric Interurbans and the American People
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One of the most intriguing yet neglected pieces of American transportation history, electric interurban railroads were designed to assist shoppers, salesmen, farmers, commuters, and pleasure-seekers alike with short distance travel. At a time when most roads were unpaved and horse and buggy travel were costly and difficult, these streetcar-like electric cars were essential to economic growth. But why did interurban fever strike so suddenly and extensively in the Midwest and other areas? Why did thousands of people withdraw their savings to get onto what they believed to be a "gravy train?" How did officials of competing steam railroads respond to these challenges to their operations? H. Roger Grant explores the rise and fall of this fleeting form of transportation that started in the early 1900s and was defunct just 30 years later. Perfect for railfans, Electric Interurbans and the American People is a comprehensive contribution for those who love the flanged wheel.

Foreword by Norman Carlson
1. Enthusiasm
2. Interurbans in Daily Life
3. Saying Goodbye



Publié par
Date de parution 31 octobre 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253023209
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 4 Mo

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A list of books in the series appears at the end of this volume .
Bloomington Indianapolis
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2016 by H. Roger Grant
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z 39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Grant, H. Roger, [date] author.
Title: Electric interurbans and the American people / H. Roger Grant.
Description: Bloomington : Indiana University Press, [2016] | Series: Railroads past and present | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016013593 (print) | LCCN 2016022115 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253022721 (cl : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253023209 (ebook)
Subjects: LCSH: Street-railroads-United States-History.
Classification: LCC HE 4471 . G 73 2016 (print) | LCC HE 4471 (ebook) | DDC 388.4/60973-dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016013593
1 2 3 4 5 21 20 19 18 17 16
For my grandmother
who wrecked her automobile while chasing a car of the Albia Interurban Railway and never drove again
Indiana was second only to Ohio in the size of its interurban network. This map reveals the gestating Hoosier State network. Not until 1910 did the completion of the Winona Interurban Railway make possible a continuous route between Louisville, Indianapolis, and Chicago, albeit over several independent roads.
Author s collection

FOREWORD by Norman Carlson
By 1910 Ohio rightly claimed to be the heartland for the electric intercity railway. Mileage exceeded 2,500 miles, and more routes were either being planned or built.
Author s collection

TODAY, MANY OF US ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE DOT-COM BOOM OF the 1990s followed by the economic collapse of 2007-2008. A century before, in the 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century, another industry burst into American life, the electric railway interurbans. Expansion of this industry was first affected by the financial impact of 1907 s panic, and the building of paved roads sealed the interurbans doom. Essentially the industry was born, matured, and died within a human life span.
Interurbans were the transition between horse-drawn and motor-powered vehicles, passenger and freight. Their very name, evoking the thought of something running between cities, reflects their profound effect on urban and rural life. Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the interurbans is the genesis of rural electrification.
Especially in midwestern states, the industry was largely owned and promoted by electric utility interests. A power distribution system was needed to provide electric energy for the trains. The investment in these distribution systems was, in part, economically justified by selling power to towns, villages, hamlets, and even individual farms along the way. Electricity changed farm life forever.
Due to their local focus, interurbans created linkages, economic and social, between their terminal cities and the clusters of businesses and population along the way. Markets were created where before none existed. Mobility was provided beyond the range of a horse for both business and pleasure. While the financial and technical aspects of the interurbans have been well documented, the profound sociological impacts of this industry have been rarely addressed. Into this breach H. Roger Grant has stepped.
Grant has nailed it in the work that follows. We now have a definitive study of the impacts of the electric railway industry on life a century ago. Why is this important? Slowly but surely the lines that were abandoned decades ago are being rebuilt at huge capital costs. Where, you ask? Would you believe California and Texas? Light-rail and commuter rail lines have become the interurbans of the twenty-first century. In some cases they are being built on the abandoned interurban rights-of-way. Such is the case in the Los Angeles Basin, the Bay Area, and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
While over a century ago people forsook the horse for motorized vehicles, today there is increasing evidence that young people are forsaking the automobile for mass transit. What was old and forgotten has become new and appealing. We noted that the hard side of the business - corporate, equipment, and technical history-has been well documented. Grant is addressing the largely ignored soft side, namely the social history and its impact. He is addressing such questions as:How did the interurban affect individuals who sought, invested in, and used this flash-in-the-pan transportation phenomenon? How did the rapid collapse of interurbans impact patrons, employees, investors, and the public generally? How have interurbans been remembered?
The approach Grant has taken captures the wide-ranging relationships between people and electric railway interurbans. Still, the content of the three units that make up this book - Enthusiasm Interurbans in Daily Life, and Saying Goodbye -while not encyclopedic, brings new knowledge, even for an industry whose component companies mostly lasted for only a generation.
Electric Interurban Railways and the American People is designed to be a companion work to Grant s Railroads and the American People , published in 2012 by Indiana University Press. This one is admittedly less complex than that study s vast, complicated story of Americans and their steam railroads. Nevertheless, the social history of electric interurbans is significant, being much more than a footnote to the nation s rich transportation heritage. It helps you to understand the human dimensions of an industry that served as the transition between the Age of the Horse and the Automobile Age and changed social behavior. These lessons learned over a century ago bring context and understanding to what is happening in public transit today. At least in large urban areas, the automobile is losing some of its glamor for both environmental and sociological reasons.
Norman Carlson
Lake Forest, Illinois
October 17, 2015

FOR DECADES THE RAGS-TO-RICHES SAGA OF ELECTRIC INTER urbans in the United States has attracted popular interest. Yet, unlike their durable steam railroad counterparts, this transportation form has received only modest publishing attention, likely because it emerged and largely disappeared so rapidly. Those who have written about intercity traction have been primarily amateur historians or juice enthusiasts, and they have commonly focused on a single company. Professional scholars have been less active, although several have made major contributions. The standard study of the industry, The Electric Interurban Railways in America , by George W. Hilton and John F. Due, late economists at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Illinois at Urbana, appeared from Stanford University Press in 1960 and was reprinted with minor revisions four years later. Their work contains a skilled analysis of the rise and fall of interurbans and thumbnail sketches of individual companies and systems. Said one traction authority, Hilton and Due wrote the interurban Bible. And this is not a farfetched statement.
Nevertheless there is a discernable weakness in the existing literature, whether written by amateurs or by professionals. While writers have produced what veteran interurban historian Norman Carlson has called the hard side of the corporate, equipment, and technical history, they have largely ignored the soft side, namely social history. The approach that I have taken is intended to capture the wide-ranging relationships between people and electric interurbans. This human dimension is something that is much more significant than being merely an interesting footnote to the nation s rich transportation past. It underscores Americans constant desire to have the best possible mobility.

NO SCHOLAR CREATES A BOOK ALONE, AND IN THE COURSE OF MY work on the social history of America s electric interurbans, I have incurred multiple debts. There are obvious and not-so-obvious acknowledgments to be made.
Those individuals who have assisted me include (in alphabetical order): Sally Bates, Gary Dillon, the late Art Dubin, the late Donald Duke, Tom Fetters, Nick Fry, Dick George, the late Louis Goodwin, Linda Graybeal, John Gruber, Herb Harwood, Tom Hoback, Don Hofsommer, Barb Lamphier, Dave and Roxanne McFarland, the late Jim McFarlane, Barney Olsen, Art Peterson, Carlos Schwantes, and John Spychalski. And interurban historian Norm Carlson kindly read a draft of this manuscript, making corrections and suggestions.

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