July 6, 1883: Duluth’s first streetcar line opens

On this day in Duluth in 1883, the Duluth Street Railway Company opened its first line along Superior Street from Eighth Avenue West to Third Avenue East. Work had begun the previous September, but Duluthians had been waiting for the streetcar line since October 1870, when authorization was first granted to create a streetcar company. By grant the railway had to consist of at least one-mile of track with rides on cars of “the best quality” costing no more than a ten-cent toll. The Duluth Street Railway Company, incorporated in 1881, first operated small trolley cars or “dinkies” pulled by mules. The ride cost a nickel. The mules sometimes pulled the cars off the tracks, and passengers had to help lift the cars back on track before the trolley could proceed. Those first small cars had open cabs, so early motormen dressed for all kinds of weather, even if it meant covering their woolen uniforms with buffalo coats and slickers in the winter. The cars were soon adapted with closures, but that didn’t make the job easier: a motorman was not allowed to sit, speak to patrons, nor smoke cigarettes while operating a dinky. The company stored its cars and mules in a barn built at Eleventh Avenue West. By 1889 horses had replaced mules as the streetcar engines. Read a history of the Duluth Street Railway Company here.

Conductors of the Duluth Street Railway Co. gathered for a group photo, ca. 1900. (Image: Duluth Public Library)treet