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.
29" issued January 1, 1948 the entire Belt Line ran from Milepost 90.7 at Bay View, Maryland to Milepost 97.9 at Hamburg Street, Baltimore).There were three great periods of interurban development; the first occurred during the 1890's and then reached a great flurry of construction between 19 when more than 5,000 miles were laid down.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.There was also the added perk of providing some freight business.
As interubans expanded they did indeed initially prove popular offering quick service, multiple schedules daily (the large Illinois Traction system, for instance, was dispatching 106 trains out of Springfield, Illinois everyday by 1906), and with fares only a few cents each way.
As these technologies found their way to the United States the first examples appeared in the 1880's; in 1880 Thomas Edison tested an experimental electric locomotive, powered by a dynamo, which was operated on a stretch of track in Menlo Park, New Jersey. George Hilton and John Due's authoritative piece, "," points out the birth of the true American interurban began when Frank Sprague developed an electric motorcar in 1886 for the New York Elevated Railway whereby the motor(s) were situated between the axle, along with a trolley pole and multiple-unit control stand.
This gave way to the typical streetcar which became such a common sight throughout America.
Ironically, the commuter services inteurbans provided are actually making a comeback as LRT (light rail transit) systems as cities look for alternatives to increasingly crowded highways.
What became the classic interurban all began in the 1870's with two key developments; in 1870 Zenobe Gramme unveiled a generator for commercial use while Werner von Siemens showcased the world's first electric locomotive at an exhibition in Berlin, Germany during 1879.
For power, most interurbans used overhead catenary (energized electric lines attached to line-side poles), usually rated at around 600 volts.