Here we have some info about the history of old streetcars, their impact on US cities, as well as some interesting tidbits. So say “ding ding ding!” and hop on board this trolley journey through time!
Judy Garland sings The Trolley Song in “Meet Me in St Louis” (1944)
The birth of streetcars
Chattanooga Valley trolley on an incline in 1891
Tacoma Railway and Motor Company car house – Washington State in 1892
Trolley in Paterson, New Jersey in 1892
Cleveland City Cable Railway taking people to a baseball game in 1892
Street railway transfer station – Lexington Kentucky in 1892
The golden age of old streetcars
San Francisco and San Mateo Railway Co – 11 percent grade hill in 1892
The old Houston City Street Railway in the business district in 1892
Hawaiian Tramways in Honolulu in 1892
The Presidential Car – Portland Cable Railway in 1892
Nashville street railway with passengers in 1892
Chicago City railway car on the street from 1894
Sioux City electric sweeper snow plow from 1895
Bicycles on a trolley car in Butte, Montana (1895)
Fancy antique trolley party car from 1895
Old trolley summer and winter seating from 1895
Luxurious trolley train car interior with chairs and curtains from 1895
New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company car
Fancy trolley car being shown at the World’s Fair
Fun facts about old streetcars
- The world’s first electric streetcar line was built in 1888 in Richmond, Virginia, designed by inventor Frank J. Sprague.
- San Francisco’s cable cars and the New Orleans’ St. Charles Avenue Line are the only moving National Historic Landmarks in the United States.
- The distinction of being the longest surviving streetcar line in the U.S. is also awarded to the St. Charles Avenue Line in New Orleans, in operation since 1835.
- The term “trolley” comes from the trolley pole, a device used to transfer electricity from overhead wires to the streetcar’s motor. While sometimes incorrectly called trolleys, cable cars do not utilize overhead wires nor a trolley pole in their operation.
Old Chicago trolley punch tickets from 1897
How old streetcars impacted US cities
Antique funeral trolley car in San Francisco from 1897
Vintage trolley car running along Gorge Road Little Rock, Arkansas from 1897
Old trolley ticket – Toledo Ohio from 1897
Old Chicago City Train – Trolley from 1898
Electric Package Company, Cleveland from 1900
Trolley car rides in Alabama (1901)
Trolleys – Boston, Public Garden Entrance to Subway (1905)
Crossing the Kishwaukee River near Cherry Valley, Illinois from 1903
Historical Herkimer Trolley Bridge (1903)
Empty old Oakland/San Francisco street railway car from 1903
Schenectady city trolley system from 1903
How to get off old streetcars from 1903
The People’s Automobile
Cover of the St Paul Globe’s Magazine Section – Sunday, July 10, 1904
With clang of gong and happy song, And laughter backward trailing,
The trolley fleet o’er city’s street And country road goes sailing.
Yo ho! Hurray! It speeds away, The Auto of the Masses!
The humblest hand in all the land May stop it as it passes.
No tires to pump, no bolts to thump, No monkey wrench to vex us.
No breaking down eight miles from town, No wicked nail that wrecks us.
Yo ho ! Hurray! Away, away! None dares to call you fickle,
For rich and poor you’re swift and sure, Dear Auto, for a Nickel!
Through country glades your lovely maids will soon be gaily speeding,
And not a maid will feel afraid of cows that “moo!” while feeding;
The horrid cow that braves her now will graze yon lofty steeple.
Clang, clang! Hurray! For naught can stay
The Auto of the People!
– Earle Hooker Eaton
The decline of streetcars
Old trolleys hold a special place in American history and culture. They revolutionized urban transportation and contributed to the growth and development of cities. Although their heyday has long passed, the remaining streetcar lines and museums serve as reminders of a bygone era and offer a unique glimpse into our past. The legacy of old streetcars continues to captivate and inspire, making them an enduring symbol of Americana!