Did You Know? 1910.

Riding The Five Rails Of Iowa City – Iowa City Electric Railway.
Did You Know – the audio version

Did you know that over a period of 120 years of Iowa City history – from 1850 to 1970 – there have been five railway systems that have attempted to bring passenger rail service into our community. Today, I’d like to tell you briefly about the fifth and final one of those railway systems.

Like the CRANDIC Interurban, the street cars of the Iowa City Electric Railway were powered by overhead electricity, but unlike the CRANDIC, these trolleys traveled throughout our fair city for only a short period of 20 years (1910-1930) before being replaced by motorized buses.

The vision for the street car began with James H. Maggard – a successful businessman in Iowa City who, at the turn of the 20th century, owned a farming implement manufacturing company just outside the city limits of Iowa City. Maggard has been called “the Mark Twain of writers on engineering” and is remembered for his innovative farming inventions. In 1908, Maggard proposed a new city addition called Rundell – located between, what was then, Iowa City and East Iowa City. Here, Maggard and his investors sold 274 lots to new home owners, with the promise that the city would help him develop a street car franchise that would service the new neighborhood.

Two years later, Maggard’s dream became a reality, and on November 17, 1910, the first Iowa City street car was rolling from the Rundell neighborhood into downtown Iowa City. Over the next five years, street car routes increased dramatically in order to better serve a larger segment of the Iowa City population.

In 1909, one year before the street cars of Iowa City began running, the Park Road Bridge was built, linking the city on the eastern side of the Iowa River to City Park on the west. This new bridge provided easy access to the newly-opened Manville Heights area, and soon, street cars were running Iowa City park-goers to the west side of the river.

In 1914, the Iowa City Electric Company was bought out by the newly-formed Mississippi Valley Electric Company, and under that ownership, the street car system provided Iowa City with reliable service until around 1930 – when the Iowa City Coach Company replaced all street cars with motorized buses.


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