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The Interurban


    Before the Denison & Sherman Railway and its sucessor the Texas Electric Railway -1890's mule car trolleys were the local transportation. This photo is from the Herald Democrat ; Sherman Sesquicentennial Edition.
    Read a Newspaper Article about early transportation plans for East Sherman

    By Rea A. Nunnallee

    The fore runner of the old Interurban was the old horse drawn street car in Denison.  In 1885 the line was electrified and the first trolley car in Denison replaced the old horse or mule drawn car.  The city of Denison also had a steam powered street car that circled through South Denison and the Cotton Mill area.  The fair on the early line was five cents round trip.

    The first Interurban Railway built in Texas was put into operation in May 1901.  The first company was organized by J. P. Craiger, John Craiger and J. W. O'Grady.  The trip from Denison to Sherman was made in 30 minutes, a distance of 10 1/2 miles.  The fair was twenty-five cents. The second line was built in 1902 and extended from Dallas to Fort Worth and known as the North Texas Traction line.  This company also owned the line from Fort Worth to Cleburne that was built in 1912.  In 1905 J. F. Strickland became associated with the railway and began making plans for extending the line.  Mr. Strickland formed an association of some prominent North Texas citizens for the purpose of obtaining right-of-way and franchises between Sherman and Dallas.  The association was called the Texas Traction Company and the company was incorporated Sept. 25, 1906.  By then the preliminary engineering and negotiations had been completed, and work was started on the construction of the electric line.  Some two years later this was completed and on July 1, 1908 the first Interurban was run from Sherman to McKinney and another was run from Dallas to McKinney where a large meeting was held, in dedication of the line.

    1909 booklet : Map of Texas Traction Company, Denison and Sherman Ry. Co. - and connections -

    In 1911 the 50 miles between Galveston and Houston was built and electrified.  This road ran for several years and was a very popular route for people in Houston to use when visiting Galveston.

    On April 15, 1911 the Texas Traction Co. purchased the Sherman Denison Railway Co. and put the complete lines under one operation under the name of Texas Traction Company.

    About this time Mr. Strickland began the organization of another company to operate from Dallas to Waxahachie and Dallas to Corsicana.  This new company was known as the Southern Traction Company, and the main office was in Dallas.  The company was chartered March 27, 1912.  On October 12, 1913 the company completed its Dallas to Waco division and began carrying passengers on that date.  The Corsicana route began carrying passengers on October 20, 1913.  By 1916 thought of consolidating the two lines, The Texas Traction Company and the Southern Traction Company under one company was being considered, and on July 5, 1916 a charter was asked for, and the new company took over January 1, 1917.

    The Texas Electric Railway replaced an already operating Denison & Sherman Railway that ran between Sherman and Denison.
  • Conductor Malcolm Paul Jay and his car in Sherman abt 1916
Interurban Railway Museum in Plano

"Texas Electric Railway was a system of some 250 miles in length, ranking it with some of the premier lines of Ohio and Indiana, and exceeding any of the major systems radiating from Chicago. The Texas Electric operated some of the handsomest cars in the land and made Dallas into one of the busiest interurban centers in the nation; It's seven track downtown Interurban Terminal bustled day and night with the arrivals and departures of the cream and crimson interurbans to Waco, to Denison, to Corsicana and other north Texas center of urban import." The first trip of this interurban was June 28, 1908.
Information about Fares and train schedules
Genealogy: Van Alstyne Museum calendar- Local History
Van Alstyne Public Library, Van Alstyne, Texas

Photographs of the Texas Electric Railway in Grayson Co.

By Rea A. Nunnallee

For a while luxurious parlor cars were needed.  This was a trailer car that was carried behind the regular car.  These cars had carpet on the floor.  There were large revolving seats and each seat held only one person.  Each parlor car would seat only a half as many passengers as the regular car.  There was an extra charge for riding the parlor car.  Also U.S. mail was carried on certain cars.  These cars were the same as regular passenger cars, except they were re-modeled and a part of the car arranged so it would house a small railway post office, and a postal clerk worked in this section and would assort the mail he had picked up at the last station, the tie out the mail for the next station.  They were kept rather busy.

And recently when writing about the early Express car, we forgot to mention, that this car also hauled the major part of mail that was brought into Van Alstyne.  This mail originated or was assembled at a Dallas post office and brought into Van Alstyne in sealed pouches.  The mail was unloaded along with the freight at the local depot, and then about 7 a.m. Bill Powell would load the mail on a two wheel cart and carry it to the local post office, sometimes making several trips.

The local Interurban station was a part of the present Texas Power and Light company office.  The back part of the building was used as a reducing station, in which the high voltage alternating electricity was run through a motor that pulled a generator which produced direct current for 600 volts.  This was carried out through large wires.  Direct current does not carry well and does not carry far.  The front part of the building was of wood and housed the ticket office and waiting room.  Then on the northeast corner was an additional wooden building that house the freight room and freight office.  The wooden part of the building was destroyed by fire, at 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning December 25, 1921.  Fire is said to have stated with high voltage getting in out (illegible) phone line.  The temperature was well below freezing.  The fire was in the wooden part, and that part was a total loss. There was some damage to the generating room. (Illegible) also lost a popcorn machine which was stored in the building. Work began on clearing the mound for a new building Monday January 9, 1922.  Tuesday, April 22, 1922 the new interurban station was (illegible) and an opening held.  James P. Griffin who was general passenger agent was present at the opening.  The new building (illegible) older wood structure.  The foundation was of concrete and extended down to white rock.  This was built with the intention of later building an upper story to house the dispatchers? office for the Dallas-Denison line.  The dispatchers office was then in Sherman, and Van Alstyne would be nearer the center of the line.

Each year during Dallas Fair time, the Interurban would run excursions to the Fair.  In the early days the round trip fare was as low as one dollar.  Later on the prices went up.  Two or three trailer cars would be tied on behind the first car, and the early and late cars were all loaded, and one was lucky to get a seat.  Sometimes two sections would be run.

Interurbans passed through Van Alstyne both north and south about six o'clock in the morning and continued each hour during the day and continued until about midnight.  But as time went on cars were discontinued until about the time the Interurban quit there was only about two hour service, and some of the earlier and later cars were among those discontinued.

There was also a train called the work train.  This was operated for the benefit of the company.  The engine was about the size of a regular car, only was like a flat car, and in the center was a small room used for the operator of the car and the train crew.  This engine was used to haul car loads of gravel or other equipment up and down the line.  Stopping where ever needed.  It had no regular schedule and only went where the dispatcher directed.

"Did You Know....."
by Rae Nunnallee

When first place in operation each interurban car had two men on each car. One a motorman that sat in the front left corner of the car and watched the track, and controlled the movement of the car.  On the right front side was a large sliding door which opened into a small compartment where baggage could be stored.  If there was a tunk going it was loaded on a truck that was a high as the floor of the car, and it was rolled over close to where the car would stop.  When the car stopped, the truck was rolled along side the car, the sliding door would be opened and the truck would be slid into the car, and it went right along with the passenger.
Passengers were loaded from the back and the concudtor would assist passengers in getting off or on, would pick up the tickets, accept cash fares and give the signal when he wanted the car to move forward, backwards, or stop at the next crossing.  There was a cord that extended the full length of the car, and a bell was in the motorman's booth.  One pull of the cord rang the bell one time and that meant for the car to stop at the next crossing or station.  Two bells meant go forward, and three bells meant back up.  The cars were divided into two parts; the front being the smoker, and the back part was no smoking.  Most of the ladies sat in the back, but later on, when the ladies began to smoke, it didn't make much difference.  Later on the cars were re-designed and the right front sliding door was disposed of and steps were placed in the right front corner, just in front of the wheels of the car.  A folding door was installed, and any trunks were carried on the regular baggage or express car, and came along at a later time.  The conductor was disposed of.  The motoman did the whole job; ran the car, took up tickets, helped passengers on and off, replaced the trolley pole when it jumped off, and kept up with who was going where.
The Interurban was used by some passengers for commuting.  Several people from Van Alstyne worked in Dallas, McKinney, Sherman or Denison, and would ride the Interurban to work.  Commuter books could be purchased.  There were two sizes of the books.  The larger books were good for about a month and had so many one way trips.  The tickets could be used either way.  The books were sold at a lower rate and the round trip cost the customer little more than the one way fare.  Early, there were mileage books sold.  One paid about $8.00 for $10.00 worth of ride.  Each ticket was good for 5 cents.  If the one way fare was 45 cents the conductore tore out nine tickets or 45 cents worth of coupons. 

The Interurban rails are still visible in the streets of Van Alstyne

Freight cars on the Interurban
Van Alstyne is Planning an Interurban Park & has obtained two Interurban freight cars.

Van Alstyne Leader 
22 April 1966
Rea A. Nunnallee

There were four freight or express cars, two each way each day, when the Interurban first started.  There was the north bound car, known as the Dallas News car that passed through Van Alstyne about four a.m. and carried the Dallas Morning News from Dallas to Denison.  This car also carried the majority of the local freight.  This returned to Dallas passing through Van Alstyne around noon.  Then another car went north going through about 2:30 p.m. and returning in the evening.  After the line had been running some time trailers were used for additional service.  A trailer would be pulled to Sherman and switched into the freight depot on East Houston and the local station crew would unload then load for the return trip to Dallas that evening.  The freight charge at first was twenty-five cents per on hundred pounds or part thereof, from Dallas to Van Alstyne.  Later it was raised several times.  When the rate was twenty-five cents there were very few claims paid for breakage.  At first only passenger and local freight was carried.  In May 1928 the line was given a franchise to handle railway box cars, and freight was handled on a car load basis.  A special electric engine was made which would pull around 12 loaded box cars.  This engine had much more power than the regular express or baggage cars.  Sidings were placed in each town where car loads of merchandise could be loaded and unloaded.  In Van Alstyne the car load siding was along the east side of the old cotton yard, or across the street west from the city pup station.  Cars could be loaded or unloaded from the east side, from a truck of on the west side from the cotton platform.  This heavy freight franchise continued as long as the Interurban operated.

The Interurban was always very accommodating and would stretch a rule when necessary.  I remember about 1926 or 27, we bought a music booth from a Mr. Jackson in Sherman.  We took the booth apart and there were four sections about 8 by 12 feet.  The evening freight car was backed up Travis Street, the four sections loaded on the trailer car, and it was hauled into Van Alstyne, and unloaded in front of the store.  This was shipped owners risk.  That is if anything was broken that was our hard luck.  I rode in the freight car trailer, and kept the sections from failing over.  It was a rough ride.  Another time I was in Dallas, and driving a Model T Ford two=door sedan.  This was along about 1927 to 1930.  I bought a very large R.C.A. Radio cabinet.  I bought it at a very low price because it was a sample, and I would take it without having it crated for shipping.  I tied it on the side of the Model T, carried it down to the Interurban freight station, and shipped it owners risk into Van Alstyne.  I came up on the afternoon freight car, and arrived without a scratch. 

Interurban photo taken in Van Alstyne

History of
Texas Electric Railway Company

Elaine Nall Bay