North Carolina Railroads - Street Railways - Charlotte

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

Four (4) known "Street Railways" were operational in the city of Charlotte from 1887 to 1938, when the last line ceased operations.

In 1996, Charlotte Trolley, Inc. ran a single streetcar until 2010, as shown below.

In 2015, Charlotte re-introduced "streetcars," as shown in the last item below.

Charlotte Street Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1883

1887

1896

5 miles

On January 26, 1883, the North Carolina General Assembly chartered the Charlotte Street Railway Company. However, the original incorporators failed to bring the railway online. In 1886, the city aldermen signed a contract with F. W. Dickson and his associates from Georgia and Alabama, whose corporation already operated streetcar systems in several cities. The Dickson company opened Charlotte's street railway system on January 1, 1887 - consisting of three streetcars, each one pulled by two mules and holding twelve passengers, and tracks in three directions from the Square, the corner of Trade and Tryon streets, that connected with the city's two major railroad stations. By the end of 1887, horses replaced mules and a second line was extended from the Square eastward to Sugar Creek, near present-day Central Piedmont Community College.


Typical Horse-Drawn Streetcar of the 1880s (not Charlotte)

The Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company upgraded the existing horse-drawn system to an electric streetcar system, and extended the line to the newly-created suburban community of Dilworth. This upgrade was completed on May 18, 1891.

In 1894, Johnston's Electrical & Street Railway Directory reported that the Charlotte Street Railway Company operated five (5) miles of track and nine (9) cars. Company officers were: E.D. Latta - President, and L.O. Williams - Purchasing Agent & Superintendent.

In 1896, Edward D. Latta re-organized the Charlotte Street Railway Company as the Charlotte Electric Railway, Light & Power Company.

Charlotte Electric Railway, Light & Power Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1895

1896

1913

24.40 miles

Under Edward D. Latta, this street railway system grew from roughly four (4) miles in length to over 24 miles in length. For six (6) years, he allowed the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company to manage and operate this street railway - from 1903 through 1908. In 1913, Latta sold his street railway company, Charlotte Electric Railway Company, consisting of thirty-nine (39) trolley cars and a car barn, to Southern Public Utilities Company for $1,235,000.

In 1902, the American Street Railway Investments magazine reported that this company operates the property owned by the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company (opposite to the first paragraph above), which includes 5.5 miles of track and thirteen (13) motor cars. In January of 1896, the electric lighting interests of Charlotte were merged with the street railways interests. The magazine also reported that the company officers were: E.D. Latta - President, Treasurer & Purchasing Agent; E.B. Springs - Vice President; J.L. Chambers - Secretary; Charles W. Jones - Auditor; F.D. Sampson - General Manager & Superintendent; W.F. Holmes - Chief Engineer; and, J. Fischesser - Chief Electrician.


Charlotte Electric Railway, Light & Power Company Streetcar - 1910

In 1913, company officers were: Z.V. Taylor of Charlotte as President; N.A. Cocke of Charlotte as Secretary; E. Thomason of Charlotte as Treasurer; and, R.L. Wommack of Charlotte as Superintendent. The company operated 20.62 miles of track within the city limits and 3.52 miles of track outside of the city limits in 1913. The company owned forty-four (44) passenger cars, three (3) electric motors, had 185 employees, and recorded 4,991,620 passengers for the year of 1913.

Charlotte Rapid Transit Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1910

1911

1918

3.60 miles

In 1912, company officers were: Paul Chatham of Charlotte as President and Treasurer; W.A. Ebert of Charlotte as Secretary and Manager; and, T.F. McCorkle of Charlotte as Superintendent. The company operated one (1) mile of track within the city limits and 2.6 miles of track outside of the city limits in 1912. Two (2) passenger cars and one electric motor made up the company assets, with 10-12 employees serving 11,394 passengers in 1912.

The Electric Railway Journal of March 27, 1920 reported: "The Charlotte (NC) Rapid Transit Company, which went into the hands of a receiver in 1918, has recently had its last effects sold at auction. These consisted of 2 miles of track and trolley, with some additional poles, ballast material and other supplies. The property mentioned was bid in by Paul Chatham, former president of the company, at $10,000."

"The Charlotte Rapid Transit Company was organized ten years ago with a capital of $75,000. It began operation in 1911 of a storage battery car from the end of a line of the Southern Public Utilities Company, which operates the railway in Charlotte, to the country club. The storage battery service was not a success and in May, 1913, the Southem Public Utilities Company began the operation of cars over the Rapid Transit line under a contract with the latter company. This service was discontinued on May 19, 1918, because the owners of the suburban line were not able to meet the deficit incurred through the operation of cars over the line."

"For the past two years a considerable residence addition at Chatham Estates and Chantilly has been without railway service. It is reported that residents of that section will endeavor shortly to take over the effects of the defunct company from Mr. Chatham and enter into a new contract with the Southern Public Utilities Company for the operation of cars over the line. The latter company is now using one-man safety cars on some of its lines in Charlotte, and it is believed that
through the operation of such cars and with increased patronage there will be little if any deficit on the line now abandoned."

Southern Public Utilities Company / Duke Power Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1913

1913

1938

48.90 miles

Southern Public Utilities Company was organized in 1913 as the retailing and streetcar arm of Southern Power. On November 18, 1924 its name was changed to Duke Power Company, which on June 18, 1997 merged with PanEnergy Corporation to create Duke Energy Corporation.


Southern Public Utilities Company Streetcar - 1915

In 1914, company officers were: Z.V. Taylor of Charlotte as President; W.C. Parker of Charlotte as Secretary; E.C. Marshall of Charlotte as Treasurer; E.F. Taylor of Charlotte as Manager; and, R.L. Wommack of Charlotte as Superintendent. The company operated 34.4 miles of track, including sidings and switches, in 1914. Assets included fifty-one (51) passenger cars, 128 electric motors, and 160 employees serving 5,189,849 passengers in 1914.

The Electric Railway Journal of February 27, 1915 reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, has ordered from the Southern Car Company six 40-ft. semi-steel closed passenger cars, to be delivered in 90 days. These cars will be mounted on 39-E Brill trucks with rolled steel wheels and equipped with two GE-80 motors and Westinghouse air brakes."

The Electric Railway Journal of November 18, 1916 reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC.—This company is now building 2 miles of additional track in Charlotte, NC, extending from the Morehead-South Boulevard connection with the Dilworth division toward Myers Park. The track is built on a solid concrete foundation 6 in. thick, with ties spaced 36 in. on center. Seventy-pound T rail is being used, and after the ties and rails are lined up the whole is concreted up to the surface of the rail. The surface of the concrete is floated with a wooden float to provide a wearing surface. As the concreting is being done the space between the rails and 14 in. on the outside is being paved. The remainder of the street is being paved by the property owners."

In the same edition, they reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, has ordered six double-truck cars from the Southern Car Company of High Point, NC, for use on the Charlotte system. These cars are to be similar in every respect to the six purchased from the same company in the spring of 1915, and will become a part of what is known as the "70 series." They are to be 38 ft. 2 in. long, 8 ft. and 7-1/2 in. wide. They will be equipped with two 750-volt motors, maximum traction trucks, air brakes, 750-volt air compressor, electric heaters and ventilators, Ohmer fare registers, inclosed vestibules with folding doors and step, and projecting type fenders."

The Electric Railway Journal of February 16, 1918 reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, it is reported, has purchased two second-hand cars from the Waycross Street & Suburban Railway, Waycross, Ga., which will be converted into the one-man type. The work is being done in the company's shops at North Anderson, SC."


Southern Public Utilities Company Streetcar - 1918

The Electric Railway Journal of June 4, 1921 reported: "The Southern Public Utilities Company will superintend the laying of car track in connection with the plans of the Charlotte Construction Company to include a loop of about one mile over an area that is expected to be built up shortly with modern residences. This plan for extending the car line that now ends on East Boulevard, Dilworth, to include the above-mentioned loop and acquisition of about eighty more lots in Dilworth by the Dilworth Building Company was announced recently by E. D. Latta, of the Charlotte Construction Company, and T. T. Cole, of the Dilworth Building Company."

The Electric Railway Journal of September 1, 1923 reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, N. C, has just rebuilt its Pegram Street line at Belmont Park."

The Electric Railway Journal of September 8, 1923 reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, will construct an extension of the West Highlands line to the new city high school. The work will be pushed to completion so that the greater facilities thus presented may be supplied to the pupils in the coming session."

The Electric Railway Journal of July 19, 1924 reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, is equipping a new repair shop to be located at the Salem Creek station. The new shop will include modern machinery for the upkeep of the cars. The equipment for the shop is expected to cost approximately $5,000."

The Electric Railway Journal of March 5, 1927 reported: "Mechanics of the Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, recently turned out from the company's Charlotte car shops a new 18-ton, 40-passenger car which, with the exception of trucks and air brake equipment, was built from stem to stern by the Company's force. The work was under the direction of W. B. Osborne, master mechanic, and the new car cost approximately $10,000."


1927 Steetcar Built by Southern Public Utilities Company - Charlotte, NC
From National Brake Company, Inc. Advertisement in Electric Railway Journal of September 3, 1927

The Electric Railway Journal of September 24, 1927 reported: "I'he last of seven cars built in the company owned plant of the Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, has been completed. Seven cars were included in the construction program, estimated at $100,000, and all of the units have been placed in operation. Others, it is announced, will be built as needed. In the meantime the car building shop at the company's carhouse on East Boulevard will engage in construction of bodies for cars to be used in Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Each of the new cars recently turned out cost approximately $15,000. They are of the double-truck type, and are for one-man or two-man operation. The frames are of steel and the bodies are constructed of steel and wood. Each unit has a seating capacity of 40 passengers. Over-all length of each car is 38 ft. 3 in. and the width over-all is 8 ft. 4 in. The height, from rail to top of car, is 11 ft. 6 in. All units are equipped with air brakes and numerous safety devices. Each car is provided with comfortably upholstered seats. W. B. Osborne, master mechanic, had charge of the building details."

Plaza Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1921

1921

1931

2 miles

The Electric Railway Journal of November 19, 1921 reported: "Plaza Railway, Charlotte, NC, has been incorporated with a capital stock of $50,000. The incorporators are H. B. Heath. D. H. Johnston and C. E. Barnhardt. The new company will resume the service on Central Avenue and along the Plaza which was abandoned some years ago."

The Electric Railway Journal of November 26, 1921 reported: "Plaza Railway, Charlotte, NC, will begin a program of improvement of its way which will include repairing and ballasting. It is expected the line will begin operating within a month. The company was recently incorporated.

The Electric Railway Journal of August 1931 reported: "Charlotte, NC — Purchase of the Plaza Railway Company's short line here for $8,000 by the Southern Public Utilities Company has been announced. The Plaza company operates the street car service over about 2 miles of track through the populous Plaza section of Charlotte. The transaction terminated negotiations which have been in progress several weeks. It ends the receivership ordered a few days after the death of H. B. Heath, wealthy Charlotte businessman and executive head of the Plaza company."

Charlotte Trolley, Inc.

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1996

1996

2010

2.1 miles
In 1996, Charlotte Trilley, Inc. began using the Charlotte-assembled 1927-vintage Car #85 towing a generator trailer on a two-mile line. This car was built by the Perley A. Thomas Co. of High Point, builder of the famous New Orleans trolleys on the Desire and St. Charles lines. Charlotte Trolley, Inc. had a number of other trolleys but none were used in regular operations. Click Here for more information and tons of photos. Link is current as of September of 2018.

Charlotte Area Transit System - Lynx Gold Line

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1999

2015

Still Operational

1.5 miles
Charlotte's new rail service opened July 14, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. Providing a direct link to the heart of uptown Charlotte, the Gold Line connects riders to bus and light rail services, healthcare facilities, entertainment, education and small businesses. The CityLYNX Gold Line runs from the Time Warner Cable Arena to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center with six stations along the way, complete with a lighted, covered seating area.


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