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Interurbans, and their suburban counterparts (the streetcar), were once common throughout the country. The mania began during the late 19th century and spilled over into the early 1900's as thousands of miles were laid down from New England to California. In retrospect, the financial interests behind these traction railroads were largely misplaced.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.
In an era before automobiles, when steel rails handled nearly all interstate and intercity travel, the interurban concept seemed viable, in theory.
Much of the trackage was situated east of the Mississippi River as the interurban offered flexibility and affordability for the everyday commuter.