North Carolina Railroads - Street Railways - Asheville

Click Here for an excellent write-up on the history of all known "Street Railways" in North Carolina provided by Walter R. Turner.

The following eleven (11) known "Street Railways" were operational in the city of Asheville from 1889 to 1934, when the last line ceased operations.

Asheville Street Railroad / Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1881

1889

1902

6.61 miles


Asheville Street Railroad - 1889

On February 1, 1889, the Asheville Street Railroad opened its first line from the Public Square to the Asheville & Spartanburg Railroad Depot, a distance of two miles and a very steep grade. E. D. Davidson of Long Island, New York, who had financed a horsecar system in Halifax in eastern Canada, came to Asheville in early 1888 to explore opportunities. The city of Asheville authorized a charter for an electric railway that would include lines from Pack Square to various sections of the city, including the depot that served the Western North Carolina Railroad (which ran east to Salisbury). Davidson agreed to build the system in collaboration with Frank Sprague, builder of the Richmond system. John Barnard helped supervise construction and became the company’s general manager. From the Public Square (now Pack Square), the line extended down South Main Street, present Biltmore Avenue, and Southside Avenue, and then was routed onto Depot Street, west of present-day McDowell Street, to the depot, which was located on flat land in the railroad yard, a half-mile west of Biltmore Village.

The Street Railway Journal of September 1892 reported: "Asheville, NC—The Asheville Street Railway Co. carried 23,000 passengers during the four days of the firemen's tournament. The Asheville Street Railway Co. and the Asheville Light & Power Co., two corporations intimately connected, have bought the Reems-Creek Falls and water-power, six miles north of the city, and will bring their power and light by cable from that point instead of running their dynamos by steam engines here. It is estimated the saving in coal alone will be nearly $12,000 yearly."

The Street Railway Journal of December 1892 reported: "Asheville, NC—The Asheville Street Railway went into the hands of a receiver last month. Louis Maddux, president of the Western Carolina Bank, is named as receiver by United States Judge Dickman."

In 1902, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that this company was a consolidation of the Asheville Street Railway Company and the Asheville Light & Power Company. It also reported that the company operated seven (7) miles of track, fourteen (14) motor cars, one (1) trail car, and the company officers were: J.E. Rankin - President and George E. Claflin as Superintendent.

Asheville & Craggy Mountain Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1889

1890

1906

4.75 miles

From 1890 to 1892, the line had 2.5 miles of track from Chestnut Street in Asheville to the city limits (at that time) and the Golf Club Station, and only operated during summer months. From 1897 to 1900, this line was abandoned, then acquired by a new private owner. The line was rebuilt and converted to electric locomotives. By 1902, it was extended to Locust Gap, and this 1-1/2 mile addition was served by steam locomotives. In April of 1906, Southern Railway acquired control of the Asheville & Craggy Mountain Railway through stock acquisition, and the short line remained operational until the 1970s.

In 1894, Johnston's Electrical & Street Railway Directory reported that the Asheville & Craggy Mountain Railway Company operated two (2) cars on 2.5 miles of track using a steam locomotive. Officer named: W.B. Gynn - President and General Manager. 

Click Here for more information and a few photos online about the Asheville & Craggy Mountain Railway. Link is current as of September 2018.

Asheville Loan, Construction & Improvement Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1889

1890

1895

1 mile

In 1894, Johnston's Electrical & Street Railway Directory reported that the Asheville Loan, Construction & Improvement Company operated one (1) mile of track and two (2) T.H. cars. G.S. Powell was named as company President & General Manager.

In 1902, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that this line was acquired by the Inter-Montane Railroad Company.

West Asheville & Sulphur Springs Electric Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1891

1891

1898

5.75

The West Asheville & Sulphur Springs Electric Railway began operation in 1891, crossing the river on Carrier’s Bridge along Amboy Road. Various trolleys ran along Haywood Road, which was built to accommodate them, the existing road being too steep a climb up from the river.

In 1894, Johnston's Electrical & Street Railway Directory reported that the West Asheville & Sulphur Springs Electric Railway Company operated 5.75 miles of track and four (4) streetcars. Company officers were: L. Maddux - President & General Manager and J.P. Arthur - Superintendent.

In 1902, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that this line was acquired by the Asheville & Biltmore Electric Street Railway Company, date not provided.

Inter-Montane Railroad Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1895

1898

1900

3.50 miles

The Inter-Montane Railroad Company was organized on February 15, 1895, with J.S. Adams of Asheville as the President, J.L. McKittrick of Chicago as Secretary & Treasurer, and J. Sneed Adams of Asheville as Assistant Secretary. The line was 2.5 miles long and ran from Asheville, NC to Pearson's Bridge in Montford. For the year of 1900, it recorded 173,128 passengers on two (2) box passenger cars and two (2) open passenger cars.

In 1902, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that this line was consolidated into the Asheville Electric Company in September of 1900.

Asheville & Biltmore Electric Street Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1897

1898

1900

3.62 miles

In 1900, the officers were: W.F. Weaver of Asheville as President; W.B. Williamson of Asheville as Secretary/Treasurer; and C.E. Wadden of Asheville as Superintendent. The company operated 3.62 miles through Asheville, Victoria, and Kenilworth. In 1900, there were 335,811 passengers recorded.

In 1902, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that this line was acquired by the Asheville Electric Company in September of 1900.

Asheville Electric Company

Year Chartered 

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

 1900

1900

1911

18.50 miles

In 1900, most of the city’s railways were consolidated into the Asheville Electric Company, the utility furnishing electricity to the city. Although the majority of directors and officers were from Asheville, James H. Cutler of Boston, an agent for General Electric Company, was a major investor in the company.

In 1902, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that officers were: James H. Cutler - President; H.W. Plummer - Secretary; and, G.E. Claflin - General Superintendent.

In 1909, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that the Asheville Electric Company operated thirty-three (33) cars on 14.16 miles of track.

In 1911, the officers were: J.E. Rankin of Asheville as President; H.W. Plummer of Asheville as Secretary & Manager; H.M. Francis of New York as Treasurer; and J.C. Donald of Asheville as Superintendent. The company operated 18.5 miles of track all in the city of Asheville. In 1911, there were 3,967,154 passengers recorded.

Asheville & Weaverville Electric Railway & Power Company

Year Chartered 

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

 1900

1901

1909

7.75 miles

The Asheville & Weaverville Eletric Railway & Power Company had 7.75 miles of standard gauge track and offered connecting service at Grace with the Asheville Electric Company to carry passengers from Weaverville to Asheville’s Pack Square. The rail property was sold to Richard S. Howland (one of the principals behind the Asheville and Craggy Mountain Railway) in 1909 to become the Asheville & East Tennessee Railroad.

In 1902, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that this line was acquired by the Asheville Electric Company in September of 1900 - this conflicts with the above information. Company officers were: D.J. Barnes - President; O.D. Revell - Secretary & Treasurer; and, George E. Claflin - General Manager.

Asheville Rapid Transit Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1906

1907

1908

5.5 miles

In 1908, the officers were: J.K. Voshell of Baltimore, MD as President; J.P. Arthur of Asheville as Secretary and Superintendent; and, R.S. Howland of Asheville as Treasurer. The company operated 1/2 mile of track in the city of Asheville and five (5) miles outside the city limits. In 1908, there were 197,734 passengers recorded.

In 1909, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that the Asheville Rapid Transit Company will be taken over by the Weaverville Electric Company and the Sunset Park Company. The company operated twenty-five (25) cars, of which three (3) are motor passenger, six (6) trail cars, one (1) electric freight, and fifteen (15) work cars on 5.5 miles of track. On December 8, 1908, this company's property was sold to R.S. Howland, representing certain bondholders, for $25,000. The company was incorporated on December 18, 1906.

Asheville Power & Light Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1912

1912

1925

19.20 miles

In April of 1912, the Asheville Electric Company became the Asheville Power & Light Company, with the majority of the directors at that time coming from New York. Statistics show that Asheville had 5,900,000 passengers on its street railways in 1920, second only to Charlotte in North Carolina.

Electricity is furnished for lighting purposes in Asheville, Biltmore, Kenilworth, Haw Creek, Woolsey, Norwood Park, Chunn's Cove, Grace, Beaver Dam, Emma, Candler, Arden and Fletcher. Gas Properties are operated in Asheville and Street Railway properties are operated in Asheville and Biltmore.The company recorded 6,559, 492 passengers and a total of 18.03 miles of track in 1925.

Click Here to view a good map of Asheville Power & Light Company's Street Railways as of 1912.

Carolina Power & Light Company (CP&L) gained control of the Asheville Power & Light Company in 1912. However, it retained its name until CP& L completed its acquisition and ownership in 1926. Several contemporary sources, such as the Electric Railway Journal reported that CP&L owned and operated this line much earlier than reality indicates. The North Carolina Corporation Commission reported accurately that Asheville Power & Light Company was the correct owner.

The 14th Annual Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission, dated December 31, 1912, reported that the Asheville Power & Light Company operated 18 miles of track and carried 4,263,754 passengers during the year ending June 30, 1912. Company officers named were: Charles E. Johnson of Raleigh as President; E.P. Summerson of New York as Secretary-Treasurer; and, H.W. Plummer of Asheville as Manager.

The Electric Railway Journal of May 25, 1918 reported: The number of passengers carried in Asheville increased from 5,165,627 in 1916 to 5,566,567 in 1917.

The Electric Railway Journal of August 27, 1921 reported: "Asheville (NC) Power & Light Company has been given the sum of $10,000 by J. T. Harney to help defray improvement expenses. It was with the hope that the West Asheville car line could be extended to Harney Heights in order to give service to the people of that section that the offer was made. The Harney brothers have sold large tracts of land in this vicinity recently."

The Electric Railway Journal of October 13, 1923 reported: "Asheville Power & Light Company, Asheville, NC, is arranging for improvements to relieve congestion in the Pack Square district. A loop system of tracks will be laid and new equipment added. The improvements will cost about $200,000, C. S. Walters, vice-president and general manager, announces."


Brill Streetcar of 1924 (not Asheville)

The Electric Railway Journal of January 24, 1925 reported: "Asheville Power & Light Company, Asheville, NC, has received five of the 22 new cars ordered some time ago. The remainder will be shipped as soon as possible. All the cars are of the latest one-man type, with up-to-date devices. They are being made by the Brill Company, Philadelphia. Two new buses are also expected by the company for the West Asheville line."

The Electric Railway Journal of January 24, 1925 also reported: "Asheville Power & Light Company, Asheville, NC, will build a line from Biltmore Avenue out the Black Mountain highway, a distance of 6 miles. The golf course will lie on one side of the new line and the recreation park on the other. The extension of the railway on the Black Mountain highway, together with the purchase of real estate, will represent an investment of many thousands of dollars."


1926 Fageol 29-Passenger Bus (not Asheville)

The Electric Railway Journal of April 17, 1926 reported: "Asheville Power & Light Company, Asheville, NC, has received seven 29-passenger gas-electric buses from the Fageol Company, Kent, Ohio. Two new street cars were also delivered recently by the J. G. Brill Company, Philadelphia, Pa. The new cars will be placed in service on the Grace-Biltmore line, while the buses will supplant the old equipment which has been in service between the city and West Asheville. The new buses are equipped with Westinghouse air brakes."

Carolina Power & Light Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1926

1926

1934

20.79 miles

In 1926, the Asheville Power & Light Company was sold to Raleigh-based Carolina Power & Light Company, now Progress Energy. All Asheville streetcar services were closed down in 1934. The company operated 18.83 miles of track and recorded 4,249,579 passengers in 1931.

The Electric Railway Journal of June 25, 1927 reported: "Carolina Light & Power Company, Raleigh, NC, will erect a new $175,000 carhouse at Asheville, NC. The structure will house 50 electric cars and 50 buses on a site at Mud Cut just off French Broad Avenue."

The Electric Railway Journal of November 19, 1927 reported: "Carolina Power & Light Company, Asheville, NC, started work a short time ago on the new street railway link from Broadway and College Street, westward on College to Haywood Street. Work was commenced at both ends of the proposed line and service on it will be instituted, it was expected at that time, within the next three months, as all materials to be used on the job had arrived. According to officials of the company work will be pushed to completion as rapidly as possible. The new track, it is understood, is planned for use as a cut-off link and it is expected will relieve congestion at Pack Square and permit faster schedule on all lines."



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