Archive for Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lansing’s early transportation

February 17, 2005

The Electric Interurban Streetcar that came through Lansing in my youth traveled along Main Street, turned east on Kansas Avenue then headed southeast diagonally through the block between Second and Third streets, went on through the rolling hills between Lansing and Wolcott, then on to Kansas City. The powerhouse, the car barn and the repair shop for the streetcar were in Wolcott.

The Interurban Line from Kansas City to Leavenworth officially opened Jan. 16, 1900. The passenger cars were 41 feet long, weighed 21 tons and were painted a fern green. The length of the line was 26.5 miles and made the trip in 60 minutes. A freight trolley was added after reorganization in 1905 when the line became Kansas City Western Railroad Company. There were about 40 station stops. One was at what is now the northeast corner of Kansas and Second Street, which was the entrance to the Lansing State Prison at that time, in a little red brick building called the Chouteau Store. Another was called the Carr Mine Stop in Richardson, which is now part of North Lansing and along the East Side of U.S. Highway 73. Round-trip tickets from Kansas City, Mo., to Leavenworth were $1.32.

The power to the streetcar was an overhead electric line. There were times when the feeder cable would jump off while coming around the curve across the street from my house at Main and Kansas. The operator would get out and go to the back of the car and reconnect the feeder line to the overhead power with a rope just for that purpose. We loved to put little things on the track to get flattened.

The last interurban trip was March 31, 1938, because the trolley line was condemned when Wyandotte Lake was completed. The lake caused the line to be under water. At this time, a new bus line was formed. It was known as the Kansas City-Leavenworth Transportation Company and closely followed the trolley route using Kansas Highway 5. I rode the bus to work in Kansas City in 1944. A one-way ticket for me was 47 cents. The bus line operated until 1951.

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