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Interurbans, and their suburban counterparts (the streetcar), were once common throughout the country. The mania began during the late 19th century and spilled over into the early 1900's as thousands of miles were laid down from New England to California.
In retrospect, the financial interests behind these traction railroads were largely misplaced.
By 1950 just 1,519 miles remained and the number dropped to 209 miles by 1959.
As William Middleton notes in his book, " The interurban was conceived as a transit system, developed from the basic streetcars of the era.
For power, most interurbans used overhead catenary (energized electric lines attached to line-side poles), usually rated at around 600 volts.
It seems surreal that a train could actually fit on such a narrow patch of right-of-way where a railroad doesn't even appear to exist!
Much of the trackage was situated east of the Mississippi River as the interurban offered flexibility and affordability for the everyday commuter.
It is rather amazing so much capital was expended on these operations, which struggled to make a profit right from the start.
In 1889 there were just 7 miles of interurbans in service, a number which jumped to 3,122 by 1901, and finally peaked at 15,580 in 1916.
These numbers slowly receded into the 1920's as abandonment hastened through the 1930's.