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As these technologies found their way to the United States the first examples appeared in the 1880's; in 1880 Thomas Edison tested an experimental electric locomotive, powered by a dynamo, which was operated on a stretch of track in Menlo Park, New Jersey. George Hilton and John Due's authoritative piece, "," points out the birth of the true American interurban began when Frank Sprague developed an electric motorcar in 1886 for the New York Elevated Railway whereby the motor(s) were situated between the axle, along with a trolley pole and multiple-unit control stand.This gave way to the typical streetcar which became such a common sight throughout America.Those like the Illinois Terminal, South Shore Line, and Piedmont & Northern maintained more than 100 miles each and boasted an expansive freight business.Alas, the classic streetcar proved susceptible even to the earliest of automobiles and began a quick decline after World War I.However, instead of serving a single municipality this new operation would link two or more.

There were three great periods of interurban development; the first occurred during the 1890's and then reached a great flurry of construction between 19 when more than 5,000 miles were laid down.There was also the added perk of providing some freight business.As interubans expanded they did indeed initially prove popular offering quick service, multiple schedules daily (the large Illinois Traction system, for instance, was dispatching 106 trains out of Springfield, Illinois everyday by 1906), and with fares only a few cents each way.By 1950 just 1,519 miles remained and the number dropped to 209 miles by 1959.As William Middleton notes in his book, " The interurban was conceived as a transit system, developed from the basic streetcars of the era.

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