First Electric Streetcar Opened – On ‘This Date In Central Minnesota History’
ST. CLOUD - June 24th, 1892 – 1st electric streetcar line in St. Cloud opened
The electric car shuttled in people along with a new metropolitan experience in the city which reigned for 44 years.
The St. Cloud Streetcar Co. originally consisted of two cars and 10 horses. The line extended from 10th Street South, northward along Fifth Avenue, to St. Germain where it turned west and continued to Ninth Avenue. Due to the expense, St. Cloud Streetcar Company was sold and four years later the cars converted to electricity.
Albert G. Whitney, one of the founding owners of the original streetcar company, took over the new system. With a new name came new lines. Granite City Railway Company extended its line of transportation east into Sauk Rapids over the St. Germain Bridge, and west into Waite Park.
At its inception in 1892, three cars ran on the line in twenty minute cycles with a fourth car held in reserve. In the first cars operated, the motorman stood in front of a vestibule and the vehicle was halted with the help of hand brakes. The Company guaranteed service every 20 minutes and they delivered.
These 25 foot long cars shuttled people in and out of the city and also assisted hundreds of commuting railroad workers arrive on time at the Great Northern shops in Waite Park. The public responded positively to its good service and metropolitan feel.
At the enterprises height in 1914 there were nine miles of track, a large brick barn that acted as a workroom, and seventeen cars that were handsomely finished in hard wood, equipped with lights, stoves and cushioned seats.
However, the age of the streetcar was not to last. The 1930s witnessed the onrush of the automobile, which grew in sophistication while passenger service on the trolley waned. St. Cloud Streetcar service ended on April 29, 1936. The streetcar tracks and trolley lines were removed from the city streets and were replaced by a public bus transportation system.
15,000 people attended the trolley’s last run to Waite Park and back saying farewell to the trolleys which faithfully transported them in from the outer reaches for the best part of 44 years.
Thanks to Stearns History Museum intern Brittany for her help with our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History” on WJON.