Early 1900s: Trolleys take the line


A few years after World War I, most large cities possessed a well-developed system of electric-operated trolleys that replaced the horse-drawn cars.

These systems of transportation were operating sufficiently on nickel fares.

Similar to mills and crossroads, the trolley was an axis around which many other businesses gathered. The trolley aided in simplifying travel by providing low cost and convenience.

Twin Cities. The electric car system in St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Twin Cities of Minnesota, was rated No. 2 in best efficiency and service. Los Angeles was No. 1.

Twin City Lines was quite large in its day. It had more than 500 miles of track with 700 cars used daily. Five car stations or barns served the line – three in Minneapolis and two in St. Paul.

A complete network of lines covered the cities with interurban lines connecting Minnetonka, Minn., and surrounding areas.

Clientele drop. This successful and efficient trolley service served faithfully until the motor car caused a drop in revenues.

By 1950, all the tracks had been removed and the cars scrapped.

Fares. Actually the loss of clientele began about 1921 when fares were raised from a nickel to 6 cents. That was a bargain fare – a passenger could ride from one city and through others for 12 cents.

The last model trolley used by Twin City Lines seated 50 people, however, if standing room was also included, more than 100 people were able to ride. Some even stood on the back platform.

Wages. These late-model cars weighed 23 tons, had air brakes and were powered by four, 60-horsepower electric motors.

The motor man was paid 20 cents an hour for his first 100 hours of operation, after which the wages were often raised to 48 cents an hour.

A year later, a 2-cent raise was awarded, and the next year there was another penny raise. There it stood at 51 cents.

No new raises were in the future until around World War II when wages topped $1.10.

Winter wires. The copper wires often broke in the winter due to low temperatures.

When the trolleys’ crews found the break they would crawl to the top of the car with insulated pliers, wind the wire together and continue on the trip.

When notified, a repair car was usually sent out to properly repair the break.

A break did not halt power in the lines due to feeder cables mounted on the poles alongside the track that supplied the currents alternately through the cross wires, which supported the main wire.

Double-decker car. Earlier in the history of street car service in Minneapolis, a novel double-deck car was in use. It was an open, summer trolley.

It was actually one body fastened on top of another. The upper deck was reached by spiral stairs that were at each end of the closed car.

In the winter the upper, or open car, was removed and the standard closed car remained in service.

This car seated 40 passengers on the upper deck and an additional 116 people fit in the lower car.

This was remarkable for a 45-foot combination car.

The entire loaded car weighed 26 tons.

Dining and riding. In Dayton, Ohio, the first dining car service on trolley roads was introduced around 1905. The service ran from Dayton to Indianapolis.

The service was known as Interstate Limited.

The kitchen was equipped with all available electric cooking utensils, and when the cook lit the fire in the stove, he turned a button instead of kindling a fire with wood.

The time table was arranged so folks could take advantage of the buffet service and still make close connections with limited cars of other roads.

Trolley stops. The stops were only in large towns and passengers were required to purchase a seat check before boarding the cars. Seating never exceeded the state capacity.

The rail service had a more direct route than steam trains and was equal in time.

The menu on board equaled any steam train services.


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