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These numbers slowly receded into the 1920's as abandonment hastened through the 1930's.
By 1950 just 1,519 miles remained and the number dropped to 209 miles by 1959.
It is rather amazing so much capital was expended on these operations, which struggled to make a profit right from the start.
A few, such as the Illinois Terminal and Piedmont & Northern, bucked this trend and blossomed into successful freight carriers while the Pacific Electric Railway is regarded as the greatest of all interurbans.
As William Middleton notes in his book, " The interurban was conceived as a transit system, developed from the basic streetcars of the era.
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.
In an era before automobiles, when steel rails handled nearly all interstate and intercity travel, the interurban concept seemed viable, in theory.
There was also the added perk of providing some freight business.
In retrospect, the financial interests behind these traction railroads were largely misplaced.
Much of the trackage was situated east of the Mississippi River as the interurban offered flexibility and affordability for the everyday commuter.