The Detroit Streetcars 1886 – 1956

Back in the late 1880’s. Detroit started building an electric streetcar system.  It must have been a thing of wonder.

We started on our feet.  Then came the wheel, the horse and the train.  Electrical rail travel must have seemed futuristic.  Eventually, the gasoline powered engine would seem to “reign supreme.”  This had both good and bad effects, even very bad effects.

I heard that if people had to wait 15 or 20 minutes for a car, they were scandalized!  In 1956, they finished dismantling it, and the buses took over.

By doing this, people might’ve thought they were doing Detroit some good.  Instead, they did us an injury.  It’s a blow which we still haven’t recovered from. Damn!

People are talking about rebuilding something similar to what was destroyed.  Now, it seems like it’s too expensive.  We need some sort of combination of buses and “light rail.”  Buses, which run without a rail “back-up” can lead to problems.  I ride the Detroit bus system regularly. It’s still pretty rough.

I was a small child when they took the last of the streetcars away.  I don’t really remember them.  I have seen them in movies.  Recently I saw a streetcar on Rick Prelinger’s collections of Detroit films.  I also remember seeing the streetcars in director Anthony Mann’s movie “T Men.”  That’s a very good 1947 film noir, which was partially shot in Detroit.

I recently ran across the old 1953 streetcar tickets, pictured above.  They’re quite small, maybe an inch and a quarter by half an inch.  This inspired me to write something here,  It’s another case of nostalgia for what I never had.  Yet I see a great need.  This need was once met.  Now it hangs over the city as if yet another sad, haunted, ghost.

This is good history of Detroit’s Streetcar System, in four parts.  More parts will be added to this later:

The Detroit Transit History home page:

Streetcars of Desire:

A Wikipedia article on General Motor’s antipathy toward streetcars:

The latter-day downtown Detroit Trolley.  It was shut down in 2003:

further information:

Griswold Street, including a view of an old Detroit Streetcar

Note the old streetcar pictured in this postcard.


3 Responses to “The Detroit Streetcars 1886 – 1956”

  1. Paul Lee Says:

    Very nicely done, Maurice. Of course, that’s no surprise.

  2. stanley sandler Says:

    Did you know that Edsel Ford (Henry’s tragic son) wanted to put a car on the streets that would put streetcars out of business?

  3. The Detroit Bus System 2013: Adventures become Nightmares | Adventures and Resources Says:

    […] […]

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