If you were living in Waco in 1913, you could have read an article in the Waco Morning News on October 29, 1913 announcing a new rail line, the Interurban. It was the final extension in one large system, part of the Texas Electric Railway.
In its heyday, it operated from Dallas to Denison, Corsicana, and Waco. Through the merger of several companies, it became the largest interurban railway operator in the South before its demise in 1948. In full flower, it was 250 miles in length, making it as large and important as almost any such line in the United States.
The concept originated out of the need for transportation, mail and freight service between smaller towns typically not served by the larger steam engine railway systems in a niche not served by the larger systems. Passengers were able to use reliable, frequent service between towns and villages on the route, much in the same way they accepted and used intercity streetcar systems in the more developed urban areas. Service was fast and reliable, had regular and frequent stops and was affordable to almost all users.
The first service in north and central Texas began in 1901 with the opening of the Denison and Sherman Railway. It connected the two towns over ten miles of track and was incorporated as the Denison & Sherman Railway Company. Col. J. F. Strickland had purchased much of the stock of this company as he was simultaneously developing a 67 mile link between Sherman and Dallas under the Texas Traction Company which began operation in 1908. Stickland and his investors purchased the northern line in 1911 with the Texas Traction Company and combined the two lines. This gave it 77 miles of continuous track linked with the local streetcar companies in Dennison, Sherman and McKinney. Repair shops were in Denison. The first runs between Denison and Dallas on this line occurred in 1911.
With the success of the earlier northern route, in 1912 the owners of the Texas Traction Company acquired a 28 mile line that extended from Dallas to Waxahachie. Built by the Dallas Southern Traction Company, the company became known as the Southern Traction Company and the rail line extended to Waco with the completion of a 97 mile line which opened October 12, 1913. The 56 mile line from Dallas to Corsicana was completed about the same time. In 1917 the Texas Traction Company and the Southern Traction Company merged to form the Texas Electric Railway Company and became the largest interurban railway in the South with more than 200 miles of track. The main repair facility was built in 1914 four miles south of downtown Dallas (the Monroe Shops) where the lines to Waco and Corsicana split. The Monroe Shops also housed the administrative offices of the Company until the $1,500,000 Dallas Interurban Building was completed two years later,
Service was vigorous and successful for several decades until the automobile became more affordable and accepted as a primary mode of transportation. With the increased affordability of the automobile, the Company’s revenues gradually declined and the last car ran on December 31, 1948.
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