November 2, 1890: Electric streetcars used in Duluth for first time

On this day in Duluth in 1890, the Zenith City’s first electrified streetcars made their first test runs. The cars left the Duluth Street Railway Company’s East End car barns and travelled down Bench Street (today’s Superior Street between 9th and 21st Avenues East) “at a rate of about eight miles an hour”—much faster than the mule- or horse-driven “dinkies” that had served Duluth since the company began service in 1883. Within three weeks electric streetcars had replaced equine power in the West End, and two years later the entire line was electrified. By 1901 those early electric cars were replaced by larger vehicles made by the Twin City Rapid Transit Company. The new cars were painted in a bright yellow, and soon riding the streetcar in Duluth came to be known as “taking the Yellow Horse.” Duluth would purchase more than 150 of these cars through 1925. Buses were introduced in the late 1920s, and after the Duluth Street Railway Company went bankrupt in 1930, it was the beginning of the end of the line. Throughout the 1930s, streetcar lines were ripped up or, in most cases, simply paved over. By 1939 all the streetcars had been replaced by buses accept for one: the Seventh Avenue West Incline. It lasted until Labor Day, 1939. Read a much more complete history of the Duluth Street Railway Company here.

One of Duluth’s first electrified streetcars. (Image: Lake Superior Railroad Museum)