Sheridan ‘Trolley Car, notice the horses sharing the road. Photo courtesy of Wyoming State Archives, Elsa Spear Byron Photo.
In August 1911, residents of Sheridan were treated to a whole new mode of transportation, the electric streetcar.
In 1900, eleven years earlier, there were only 4,192 passenger cars built in the United States, the only country to manufacture cars. Most of the farmers, ranchers and residents of Sheridan still traveled by buggy or on horseback.
Due to the fact that automobiles were a new and scarce commodity – along with their cost, around $ 850 – in 1910, there were few automobiles in Sheridan. However, more and more people started to jump on the automobile train.
In a Semi Weekly Enterprise article for March 13, 1908, advertisements for rail cars and auto repairs appeared virtually side by side.
If you are looking for a wagon, buggy, cart or runabout, a trip to our warehouse will convince you that our range of vehicles is up to date and that our products are good and that the prices are correct. D. & D. Co.
Scotts Repair Shop, 90 East Brundage St. Sheridan, Shafting, injections, lubricators. Bicycles and miscellaneous items, the automobile is a specialty.
With horse and buggy still the primary form of transportation for most people, there was a need for faster and more modern transportation in Sheridan. Albert Emanuel and William Sullivan of the Electric Street Railway in Dayton, Ohio, proposed an electric streetcar system for Sheridan in 1910.
The line would pass through Sheridan and serve as a direct line to nearby coal camps. The town of Sheridan quickly approved the proposal and by July 1910 the rails were laid. In just over a year, the City Line was completed and service began on August 11, 1911.
Two articles from the Sheridan Daily Enterprise describe the excitement.
August 8, 1911– Trams at Sheridan today will arrive at no. 46 around 6:30 a.m. this afternoon. skip the road tomorrow
The first streetcar ever used in northern Wyoming will leave Car Barn at 8:30 a.m. Sheridan trams will arrive at 5.30am this afternoon on freight train 45 westbound. or as soon as the plating leading to the ground can be fitted out. The cars will be placed on the tracks at the Sheridan Inn and taken to the tram barn with their own electricity.
And August 12, 1911
With businessmen celebrating today in appreciation of the advent of streetcars, a meeting of rejoicing takes place. Travel the route accompanied by a group, the three new street cars leave Algiers and the main street.
The Sheridan Business Men’s Club, which has more than 100 members, has proven to be a dynamic organization, working for the well-being of Sheridan Town and County.
They saw the commercial importance of a streetcar system for Sheridan and this afternoon they are celebrating the event with a “reunion of rejoicing”.
The three Sheridan trams were chartered for the occasion and at the time of going to press, they were gathering at the corner of the avenue d’Alger and the main street North to travel the route inside the city limits.
A group of sixteen pieces boarded the first car and were followed by club members and their guests, all “wearing souvenir badges proclaiming the opening of the Sheridan railroad system.”
Following the enormous success of the City Line, a second route, the Fort Line, was established. The Fort Line went from Main Street, up Lewis Hill to the fairgrounds, passed through Fort McKenzie, with a trestle crossing Deadman’s Draw. There was a hub at the fort, and passengers helped turn the streetcar on it back into town.
Once the town line was completed, the rails began to push north to the coal camps.
The Daily Company October 20, 1911
Intercity tram line pushing cars north towards Dietz on November 1– Then on to Monarch – Construction camps swarm with men One of the most powerful factors in elevating Sheridan to a seemingly metropolitan city is the railroad system, owned by local and outside capitalists.
The local streetcar company, a sign of its faith in the future prospects of Sheridan and Sheridan County, is now actively engaged in establishing an intercity line to Dietz, New Acme, Carneyville and to Monarch.
The steel rails for this line are actually laid within a mile of Dietz, or two-thirds of the way through the Wrench Ranch, estimated to be five miles away. In two to three weeks, this interurban line will be built to Dietz and will be open to public traffic.
Goose Creek will be bridged three times on the trunk line, all near Dietz.
The Tongue River will not be crossed by the intercity line all the way to the Monarch destination. Two large intercity cars from the St. Louis Car company, which manufactured the cars currently in service, will be received at Sheridan next week and will be ready for the initial ride to Dietz when that line opens. They are a little different in design than the Sheridan or Fort Mackenzie cars and have double the capacity.
Several hundred men and crews are employed in the construction of this rank.
Note that horse teams are still used to build the modern rail bed.
For those who might wonder how electric streetcars worked, the Sheridan Enterprise, September 29, 1914, had this detailed description: The tram. How the electric current moves it along the rails. its motors and mechanism. An explanation of how they work and the method by which the mysterious force is conducted from the overhead wire to the undercarriage. … .. In a vague way the vast majority of people who drive… (trams) know that it is driven by electrical energy which mysteriously arrives on the wires of the tram.
Let’s take the car apart, figuratively speaking, and see how it’s made. Under the regular streetcar you will find two to four powerful electric motors directly matched to the axles of the car. These engines are very powerful and are almost completely hidden under the car. The electrical energy to drive the streetcars is sent over the wires of the trolley. Electrical energy is generated in the power station,… The cable of the trolley is suspended above the street on poles and guy ropes. Electricity is maintained on the wires of the carriage by suitable insulators made of glass, porcelain or composition, over which current cannot flow. Electric current flows smoothly and smoothly along the cart cable, like water in a pipe, although it is not visible.
Each trolley is fitted with a trolley wheel at the end of the pole that runs along the underside of the trolley wire. The power supply for the cart cable passes through this wheel and down the cart pole to a heavily insulated cable concealed on top of the car. This cable carries electricity to the “controller” located at the front of the car. The controller is the iron box that sits in front of the motor … When the motor turns the controller handle a few notches, a certain amount of electricity is allowed to flow from the wire of the overhead cart along the pole, through the cable and the control box to the motors under the car.
The current starts the motors, which in turn spins the wheels of the car, the car starts and the driver turns the handle of the controller more, feeding the motors more current, and the car resumes its normal operating speed. Electric current flows through the car over the wire of the trolley. After passing through the car, through the cables, through the controller, resistor and motors, it exits the car through the iron wheels and returns to the power station along the steel rails, thus completing the circuit. . A Whistler Story
At one time, the rail system consisted of about 18 miles of track, including a branch line leading to Holly Sugar Factory on Coffeen. Over the years the system worked without further modifications and the operations were quite routine.
In a Sheridan company in January 1913, the rates for the Sheridan Railway were published as follows: Simple rates. Monarch 50 cents; Carneyville 30 cents; New Acme 25 cents; Dietz 15 cents. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the light rail company implemented excursion fares from the coal camps to Sheridan and carried large crowds of people. The rates that prevailed those two days were 55 cents from Monarch. 50 cents from Carneyville, 45 cents from Acme and 25 cents from Dietz, round trip fare.
The line operated for many years in Sheridan, but by 1923 as automobiles grew in popularity in the area – by 1923 there were 3.7 million cars produced in the United States – The city of Sheridan decided to repave downtown Main Street and abandoned the city streetcar system. The Fort Line, however, continued to operate until March 1924 when it was replaced by a bus. The coal mine line lasted longer, until 1926, when it was also abandoned.
About 50 years after the streetcars had made their last runs, the dilapidated body of car No.115 was discovered in a field outside Sheridan. As part of the bicentennial celebration in 1976, Fort Line No.115 was rescued and moved to Sheridan. Today, No. 115 is the only streetcar remaining in the state of Wyoming. It sits near the old sales barn on Higby Road, a reminder of Sheridan’s growth from a border town to a modern, bustling town.