Electric Interurbans and the American People

9780253022721: Hardback
Release Date: 31st October 2016

Dimensions: 178 x 254

Number of Pages: 192

Series Railroads Past and Present

Indiana University Press

Electric Interurbans and the American People

Written by
H. Roger Grant
Foreword by
Norman Carlson
Hardback / £43.00

One of the most intriguing yet neglected pieces of American transportation history, electric interurban railroads were designed to assist shoppers, salesmen, farmers, commuters, and pleasure-seekers alike with short distance travel. At a time when most roads were unpaved and horse and buggy travel were costly and difficult, these streetcar-like electric cars were essential to economic growth. But why did interurban fever strike so suddenly and extensively in the Midwest and other areas? Why did thousands of people withdraw their savings to get onto what they believed to be a "gravy train?" How did officials of competing steam railroads respond to these challenges to their operations? H. Roger Grant explores the rise and fall of this fleeting form of transportation that started in the early 1900s and was defunct just 30 years later. Perfect for railfans, Electric Interurbans and the American People is a comprehensive contribution for those who love the flanged wheel.

Foreword by Norman Carlson
1. Enthusiasm
2. Interurbans in Daily Life
3. Saying Goodbye

H. Roger Grant is Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon Professor of History at Clemson University. He is author of more than 30 books, including Railroaders without Borders: A History of the Railroad Development Corporation (IUP, 2015), The Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road: Dreams of Linking North and South (IUP, 2014), and Railroads and the American People (IUP, 2012).

H. Roger Grant has produced a fine social history of America’s electric interurbans, exploring the relationship between people and those railway enterprises. The book fills a void, is eminently readable, and richly illustrated.

Don L. Hofsommer
author of The Iowa Route: A History of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway

A lucid synthesis of an industry's rise, demise, and impacts on its myriad stakeholders.

John Spychalski
Pennsylvania State University

"Grant carefully provides specific examples from his broad knowledge of transportation history to support any assertions made in his text material. Even the most knowledgeable rail historian is likely to discover something new about electric interurbans that he or she had never considered before."

The Michigan Railfan

A well-written social history of the shortest-lived major US transportation mode . . . This book will appeal to railroad enthusiasts and social historians with its extensive stories and case studies of the benefits in that era. . . . Highly recommended.


An enjoyable and informative read.

Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society

With this book, the subject no longer has footnote status. In fact, Grant’s work deserves a place alongside some of the other landmark surveys of the subject . . . Here, Grant moves beyond the receiverships, the rickety track, and all that fascinating rolling stock. He shows us why the whole darned thing mattered.

Railroad History

This compact, highly readable volume should be considered essential to understanding the interurban phenomenon, especially because it avoids getting caught up in technology and rolling stock. Instead, it focuses on what life was really life for people who rode the electric cars. . . . Rarely seen photographs of traction at high tide help to tell the story.

Classic Trains

Chronicles one of the most intriguing yet neglected pieces of American transportation history, electric interurban railroads.

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