Western Railway Museum Trains pt 2
The second train ride we had was an example of the interurban rail system. Again this was also electric. I always thought that the telephone poles you see next to the train tracks were the remnants of the telegraph lines, but it turns out that some of them were electric lines to power the trains.
The interurban train got it start when the US had a boom in agriculture. The problem was that transportation in rural areas was pretty bad. The normal steam engines made few stops in towns. Horse and buggy was slow and steamboats were limited to rivers. By expanding the city rail system, it allowed farmers in the country to reach new markets. The very first interurban train was the Newark and Granville Street Railway located in Ohio and opened in 1889. The automobile was still new and to many investors, interurbans appeared to be future of transportation.
Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Utah and California had the largest networks of interurban lines. In 1900, there was 2107 miles of track and in 1916 it had grown to 15,580 miles. At its peak,interurban trains were the fifth largest industry in the United States. They started to decline by the end of World War I. Many of them had poor cash flow and had a hard time raising capital. Others were at the mercy of Mother Nature, particularly in the midwest where flooding was normal. Interurban trains were heavier than the streetcar and they cause damage to the streets in the cities they served. This damage led to never-ending disputes over who was responsible for the repair. However, it was the growth of the automobile and trucks on the newly constructed paved roads that finally led to the demise of most of the interurban lines. The Great Depression saw the stragglers trying to combine forces and create larger lines. The Sacramento Northern Railway had some success but stopped carrying passengers in 1940. They continued to haul freight into the 1960s.
We had a lot of fun on the ride. It was an hour long
and took us through farmland that has remained the same since the 1900’s. We were shown a church that was constructed so that the farmers and ranchers did not have to take the 2 to 3 hour buggy ride to town for church. It had burned down and then wa rebuilt. Back in the day the preacher was paid $600 dollars and a cemetery plot cost $20. We also went by the area where they have the pumpkin train. The train takes you there and you can get a pumpkin, go through a maze and do all the other things one does at a pumpkin patch these days. We also stopped at the halfway point and was able to get out. There we could see Mount Diablo. It was strange , I have spent most of my life seeing the other side of the mountain. It looks bigger from this angle. My granddaughter enjoyed the cows and sheep we passed. It was rather cute to watch her. It turns out that she gets sleepy on trains, just like her grandmother.