Around the country, but particularly in the Midwest, interurban traction systems gained popularity at the beginning of the 20th Century. As their name implies, these systems connected larger communities over longer distances. In rural areas, these were typically well-built lines on their own right-of-way, which allowed interurbans to operate at high speeds. Some operations ran as single cars, while others operated in short trains of four-to-eight cars each. The museum’s collection includes several different examples of interurban equipment from places near and far around North America.
Commuter traffic was so intense in several US cities that dedicated rapid transit systems were built. These operated on a separate right-of-way, such as a subway tunnel, elevated structure, in a cut or on an embankment. Trolley cars, running in the street, served as feeder routes for the rapid transit lines. The electric rapid transit cars were larger and heavier than trolley cars, took power from a third rail, and ran in trains of up to a dozen or so cars. Of the four cities (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago) which had rapid transit systems during the trolley era, all are still in operation today.
The Museum has a small representative collection of rapid transit cars, mainly from the New York City systems. Some of these cars are operated at the museum in passenger service during Rapid Transit weekends. (Third weekend of each month, May-September.)