Electric Interurbans and the American People

H. Roger Grant (Author)


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.

Product Details

$50.00  $46.00
Indiana University Press
Publish Date
October 31, 2016
7.0 X 1.1 X 10.0 inches | 1.45 pounds
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About the Author

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).



"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


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

"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."


"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."

--Sn3 Modeler