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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.
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.
To make matters worse they contained extremely high operating ratios of 85-90% (some were even greater than 100%) while the average rate of return never exceeded 3%.
Most were gone by the immediate postwar years and only the strongest survived to see 1960.
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.However, instead of serving a single municipality this new operation would link two or more.In an era before automobiles, when steel rails handled nearly all interstate and intercity travel, the interurban concept seemed viable, in theory.It opened on February 2, 1888 and proved successful. Louis Car Company Birneys Electroliners Presidents’ Conference Committee Streetcars, PCCs Another important developer was Sidney Howe Short who invented a double-reduction, gearless motor and also learned that overhead catenary was the best means for electrical pickup." Walla Walla Valley Railway: Handling Agriculture Near Walla Walla, Washington Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern Railway Service Across East-Central Iowa Yakima Valley Transportation: Serving Central-Washington's Agriculture Industry Barney & Smith Car Company Cincinnati Car Company G. Short conceived another important development, the contact "shoe." By the time main line electrified systems were introduced in 1895, when the Baltimore & Ohio energized 4 miles of its Baltimore trackage (including the 1.4-mile Howard Street Tunnel), the technology was quite advanced (according to the railroad's "Official List No.