• Did interurbans follow commuter rail routes?

  • General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.
General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by rail10
 
were interurban trolley linesfollow the same path as the sururban commuter trains?
  by Ralph D Kautz
 
It depends on which Interurban you are talking about .Some followed Steam Railroad Lines and some did not.Example the West Penn railway from Irwin to Mckeesport Pa followed the PRR Yough Branch from Irwin Pa to Hanhtown Pa then went to privite right of way until it met the Lincoln Way which it followed into McKeesport Pa.The rest of the West Penn followed PRR and B&O Main Line and branches along with Privite Right of Way.Another Interurban The Noeth Shore Followed the C&NW Main Line From Chicago Ill to Milwalkee Wis.It varied from Road to Road <Company to Company so you would have to specify which Company that you are interested in .I hope this helps ,Dan

  by walt
 
Though some interurbans have "mutated" into Suburban Commuter Lines, ( most particularly the "South Shore" Line- Chicago South Shore and South Bend RR) In actuality, the two types have different origins. Electric interurbans were developed from city ( and suburban) streetcar lines. The Interurban car, generally, was a larger, heavier, faster and more comfortable version of the city streetcar, and on many lines, retained basically the same dimensions as streetcars. What we now refer to as Suburban Commuter Railroads began life as steam operated suburban or branch lines operated by the mainline ( steam) railroads. Commuter equipment was more similar to mainline passenger railroad equipment than it was to the Interurban Cars. While there were some notable Interurbans which approached the suburban commuter railroad in scope ( the previously mentioned South Shore Line, as well as its "sister" Interurbans the North Shore Line and the Chicago Aurora & Elgin, along with the Illinois Terminal property are examples of Interurbans which, towards the end of the Interurban era, operated equipment which approached commuter railroad size, and the South Shore Line still does), the typical Interurban railway was closer, in character to the old streetcar lines than they were to past or present day commuter railroad lines.

  by Lucius Kwok
 
The steam railroads with their suburban commuter lines and the electric interurban lines often competed for the same passengers, but they rarely exactly paralleled each other. Here are a few I can think of:

- West Chester Trolley vs. PRR Newtown Square Line & PRR West Chester Line

- Liberty Bell Limited vs. Reading lines from Lansdale to Quakertown, Bethlehem, and Allentown

There's also many short trolley lines that were in competition, but they probably wouldn't be considered interurbans.
  by Ralph D Kautz
 
The West Penn followed the PRR Main line westward from Greensburg Pa to Trafford Pa and the PRR Southwest Pennsylvania Branch from Greensburg Pa to Connellsville Pa and to Uniontown Pa and to the end of one branch at Fairchance Pa.The Pittsburgh Railways followed the Washington branch of the PRR from Cannonsburg Pa to Washington Pa.The Irwin Hermine Traction Line 1908-1931 followed the Youghigeny Branch of the PRR from Irwin Pa to Rillton Pa.Some like the Harmony Route North of Pittsburgh Pa and the Butler Short Line went on their own acrossed the hills like a steam railroad.As I said before if a Railroad ran along side a stream and that was the only way through then the interurbans follwed or paralled the railroads,Sometimes they could beat the steam railroads because they could go down the center of town most times on the local trolley car company tracks .

  by BaltOhio
 
There was a good bit more of this in the Midwest, especially Ohio and Indiana. For example, several parts of the Lake Shore Electric followed the LS&MS (NYC) and Wheeling & Lake Erie. The Fostoria & Fremont actually built most of its line on the right-of-way of the Lake Erie & Western, at that time owned by the NYC and later part of the Nickel Plate.

Some railroads -- the NYC was one -- pragmatically recognized early in the game that their local passenger services were losers, and that the interurbans could relieve them of some of this burden.
  by Ralph D Kautz
 
I realize that the midwest was the home of most interurbans but two of the longest lived. West Penn Railways 1952 and Pittsburgh Railways Interurban operations 1953 had some special problems.First and foremost was the geography.Hills,Hills and more Hills,Four Rivers,Coal Patch towns With branches to each one(West Penn)Steel Mills and a population that for the most part could not read english or read very little.The amount of tresles and bridges was amazing.West Penn was famous for them but Pittsburgh Railways was not far behind.I have seen the Fort Dodge and Southern Tressel but West Penn had 3 Like it within 4 or 5 miles of each other,And streams running everywhere that Coal was found and Coke was made.And Railroads.if the Interurbans didnt Parrellel them it crossed them on you guessed it bridges and tresslesThe West Penn at Dunbar Pa had to climb up and over not just the PRR double tracks but the B&O Railroad which paralled the PRR.At Iron Bridge Pa the West Penn had to cross The PRR<B&O>and Western Maryland all within one mile.Yes there was Rivialry but Topography determined where the interurbans ran in Southwest Allegeny.Westmoreland and Fayette Counties in Pa
  by dinwitty
 
rail10 wrote:were interurban trolley linesfollow the same path as the sururban commuter trains?
simple answer, yes they did. But however the vast interurban network in the midwest covered more passenger territory than the freight lines, an interurban line paralleling a suburban line may have more stops. What killed the interurbans was really the automobile.

For some stretch the Northern Indiana paralleled the South Shore and NYC all together.
  by 3rdrail
 
It probably should also be noted that there was considerable competition and downright animosity at times between interurban and railroad companies. In 1905, the hostility between workers of the California Northwestern Railroad (Steam) and the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad (Interurban) reached a point where they had what only can be described as a gang fight. The dispute arose over a crossing that the merchants in Santa Rosa, California wanted the P&SR to install accross the CNW tracks. Word reached CNW what P&SR was about to do and a showdown was announced. In the middle of one night, the traction guys strung overhead accross the steam line and brought a ready-made crossover to the site, ready to install after CNW's rails were cut. (A CNW foreman got a good jolt when he ran his steel tape measure over the live overhead that morning !) A huge fight ensued, with thousands of bystanders coming from near and far to witness the fun, with the traction company guys having to make a temporary retreat when the steam company equipped two of their locomotives with steam-spraying nozzles, which they brought to the fracas and used against the traction company crew !
So, you see - it wasn't always easy !!! This is a true story !!!
All that this little caper needed was the Three Stooges ! (You know that Curly would have gotten steamed !)
  by Gerry6309
 
For what its worth, The Bay State (Eastern Mass.) Street Railway paralleled almost every commuter line of the New Haven and Boston & Maine near Boston. Two of their trunk lines (Lynn and Quincy) had considerable ridership and double track. Others were meandering, slow country lines such as those to Lawrence and Lowell.

The Eastern Mass had 200 cars designed for speedy operation over these longer routes, but also owned 125 large city cars, nearly double that number of Birneys and a collection of older equipment of various types. Available cars were used on the trunk lines, so a forty mile ride in a Birney was not out of the question. The bulk of the trunk line to Lynn was sold to the Boston Elevated in 1936 and operated by them and the MTA until 1952. The inner end of the Lowell and Lawrence lines, which used a private right of way through the Middlesex Fells was operated as far as Stoneham until 1946 with the speedy 4300s. When a head on collision badly damaged two cars, the Elevated provided two of the cars they bought in 1936 to keep the line running until buses were available. The Quincy trunk survived until 1948, using large city cars mixed with cars from the Elevated's Neponset Line. Service ended when the MTA decided to convert the latter line to trackless trolleys.

The Eastern Mass. was the Jeckyll and Hyde of the interurban world. It was a cheap alternative to the railroad (Ride all day for $1) if you didn't mind a long plodding ride.

Re:

  by walt
 
Lucius Kwok wrote:The steam railroads with their suburban commuter lines and the electric interurban lines often competed for the same passengers, but they rarely exactly paralleled each other. Here are a few I can think of:

- West Chester Trolley vs. PRR Newtown Square Line & PRR West Chester Line

- Liberty Bell Limited vs. Reading lines from Lansdale to Quakertown, Bethlehem, and Allentown

There's also many short trolley lines that were in competition, but they probably wouldn't be considered interurbans.
Actually, the West Chester Trolley ( 69th Street-Upper Darby- West Chester) didn't really parallel the PRR Media-West Chester suburban Line. The PRR line "began" in Center City Phila., and ran over a route that came closer to paralleling the Baltimore Pike through Media,--- and the Southern Pennsylvania Traction Company's Angora -Media Line---- than it did the West Chester Pike & the West Chester Trolley. The West Chester Trolley was actually closely connected to its West Chester Pike route, as the Philadelphia & West Chester Traction Company ( Red Arrow Lines predecessor) began its life as a subsidiary of the West Chester Turnpike Co. which built and owned the West Chester Pike. The closest the two lines came to each other was in West Chester, at the Market Street terminus of the railroad. The trolley entered West Chester on Gay Street which was one block north of Market, and the West Chester PRR Station was in the middle of the block on Market, east of Matlack, so the two lines were about a block and a half apart at that point. The eastbound run of the Red Arrow''s replacement Route W Bus actually passed the railroad terminus on its run over Market Street leaving West Chester, but the trolley never ran on Market.

The trolley crossed the PRR Newtown Square Line, but never ran parallel to it.
  by aline1969
 
The one I like to give as an example is the competition between Boston and Worcester.

The Boston & Albany (now T next to Mass turnpike)

Boston & Worcester Air Line trolley on what is now rt. 9

Middlesex & Boston St Ry on local streets such as Washington Street Newton right next to the B&A RR tracks & same in Wellesley the M&B was right next to the RR tracks.
  by Leo Sullivan
 
One of the problems with answering this question in terms of Massachusetts is that there were so many railroads.
With well over 2000 miles of railroad it was hard to build a trolley line very far from at least one. Then, they built more trolley mileage than there was railroad mileage, the only state where that was true. Even at that, they often did open new territory.
The B&W was in sight of the B&A main line only at the termini and at Wellesley Hills, The main Bay State line to Salem and Beverly was on Western Ave., as far from the B&M as you could be and still be in the same towns. The B&W was good enough to
compete for through traffic, that was exceptional. The M&B to Framingham via the present rte 16 paralleled the B&A closely but
was local in nature. calling the M&B an interurban is stretching the term. Mattapan-Brockton didn't compete with the RR except at the ends but, Quincy Brockton did. I dont think you could get from Taunton to Fall River without being next to the RR.
Taunton Providence (US rte. 44) was off by itself. Every case was different. The New Haven hated the Bay State which wouldn't sell so, they must have been effective competition. What the trolleys did get was the local business, for instance Lynn-Marblehead, Lynn (Central Sq.) -Salem and many similar sections. The same on the South Shore where the
Dartmouth & Westport killed the Watuppa branch in a few years. The New Haven electrified the line from Providence to
Fall River to avoid the same fate there, at the hands of the Providence and Fall River. It worked very well and provided the best local service outside of Boston until the Slades Ferry Bridge burned ending service. Of course Providence-Fall River on the NH
(PW&B) was actually a super interurban so, the problem was used as a cure.
LS