Interurban Electric Railway

105 North Waco St, Hillsboro, Texas (generating plant)

Interurban Railcar

For over three decades (1913 – 1948), the Interurban Texas Electric Railway played a significant role in the transportation needs of Hill County residents.

During that time, several electric railways radiated out from Dallas, to Cleburne, Corsicana, Denison, Denton, Terrell, and Waco.  They provided frequent passenger and package service to both the large and small communities on their routes.  Not only did they have scheduled stops at West, Abbott, Hillsboro, and Milford, but they would also stop for riders at rural crossroads and in front of their houses.

Hill County residents used them primarily to commute to work, visit, or shop in Dallas, Waco, or Waxahachie, but they also used them like streetcars to ride downtown in Hillsboro.

Grand Opening of the Interurban line from Waco to Dallas
Grand Opening of the Interurban line
from Waco to Dallas, September 1913

The Interurban cars were individually powered by an electric motor.  The cars were tied to the electric lines with an overhead trolley.  These cars were faster and more powerful than urban streetcars, and could accelerate very quickly.

Cars carried such names as "The Waco Bluebonnet" and were higher off the ground than streetcars.  Because of the higher center of gravity, a constant swaying motion was part of the ride, particularly when the cars were hit by crosswinds on open stretches of track. 

Interurban Tickets

Trains passed through Hill County every hour.  There was a siding [more] in Abbott so that northbound and southbound trains could pass, with call boxes to communicate with the central dispatcher. On a Saturday night in the early 1940’s, young men with 50 cents to spare would head to West for the evening or to Hillsboro if they had 75 cents in their pockets.

Texas Electric Railway Interurban shop and generating plant
Texas Electric Railway Interurban
shop and generating plant

From Abbott, the Interurban cars came into Hillsboro on Tarlton Street, turning north onto Waco Street. A station, waiting room with iron benches and a shoe-shine stand, and maintenance facility were located together at 105 North Waco Street across from Grimes Garage in Hillsboro.  The large machinery in the shop and generating plant were fascinating, and a little scary to children who visited their fathers working there.

Interurban Map

These electric railways thrived during the first quarter of the twentieth century.  With the onset of more automobiles in the twenties, ridership began to decline and faltered further during the Great Depression of the thirties.  WWII in the early forties created a boom since gasoline was rationed during the war.  But once the war was over, ridership plummeted and the Texas Electric Railway discontinued operations on New Year’s Eve, 1948.

Interurban in Hillsboro around 1947
Interurban in Hillsboro around 1947  

True Texas Tales of the People, Places, and Events of Hill County, Texas