"Interurbans Are the Wave of the Future":
Electric Railway Promotion in Texas
H. ROGER GRANT*
DURING THE CLOSING YEARS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY A NEWLY
perfected form of intercity travel aroused widespread interest.
The debut of the electric interurban railway signaled a transportation
advance that many thought would yield enormous benefits and eco-
nomic opportunities. One optimist at the time saw electric-powered
railroads performing "a service for mankind as notable and perhaps
ultimately as great as that rendered by its steam-operated precursor."
Starting in 1889 as a seven-mile trolley line between Newark and Gran-
ville, Ohio, electric interurbans grew to a nationwide total of more
than 1,500 miles a decade later. The harbinger of the modern trans-
portation era seemed at hand.?
Enthusiasm for interurbans was understandable. Unquestionably
they offered the public clean and convenient service. Unlike the iron
horse, the electric car boasted "no cinders, no dirt, no dust, no smoke."
Electric roads could be operated with greater frequency than steam
lines, since interurbans had dramatically lower operating costs. Most
passenger interurbans ran on hourly or semihourly schedules and
stopped virtually anywhere, while steam-train "varnish" commonly
made only several daily trips, pausing at a limited number of points.
There was also the attraction of transportation at cheaper rates. Typical
charges for interurban travel were less than those of steam carriers.
This made traction especially attractive during a period of intense con-
*H. Roger Grant is an associate professor in the Department of History, the University
of Akron, Akron, Ohio. The title quotation, from a Galveston promoter, appeared in the
Street Railway Journal of May 27, 1907.
1George H. Gibson, "High-Speed Electric Interurban Railways," Annual Report of the
Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C., 1904), 311 (quota-
tion); Poor's Manual of Railroads (New York, 1896), 1,191; George W. Hilton and John F.
Due, The Electric Interurban Railways in America (Stanford, 1960), 186.
2Hilton and Due, Electric Interurban Railways, 7-8; Street Railway journal (hereafter
cited as SRJ), XXIX (Apr. 13, 1907), 637-639; H. Roger Grant, "The Excelsior Springs
Route: Life and Death of a Missouri Interurban," Missouri Historical Review, LXV
(Oct., 1970), 40; H. Roger Grant, "Electric Traction Promotion in the South Iowa Coal-
fields," The Palimpsest, LVII (Jan.-Feb., 1977), 18, ig (first quotation); and H. Roger
Grant, "Electric Traction Promotion in Oklahoma," Donovan L. Hofsommer (ed.), Rail-
roads in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, 1977), 97-98.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/. Accessed December 4, 2013.