Thursday, May 13, 2021

Corvallis Street Railway

 Did you know that at one time Corvallis had a streetcar?  In 1890, local investors formed the Corvallis Street Railway, with financing provided by the Job Bank.  The company hired J. E. McCoy of Salem to install iron rails along the route which originally ran along Second Street from the post office north to Monroe Avenue, west on Monroe to Seventh Street, north on Seventh to Harrison, west to Ninth Street and north to Polk (the entry into the new Job's Addition). The photograph below shows the rails running down the middle of Second Street.

Second Street South from Monroe Ave.,
Corvallis, Oregon, circa 1895

May 1890 marked the arrival of the J. H. Hammond street cars.  The cars were 10 feet long, could seat 16, and had “Corvallis Street Railway” painted on gold on the side. They were originally pulled by horses.  They ran hourly from 7 am. to 8 pm.  The fare was five cents.  

Horse-drawn Streetcar

At first, the company was a success, having carried 1260 passengers by mid-July, taking in about $125 per month and reportedly earning 16% over expenses. They extended the tracks south and west to reach the train depots.

Unfortunately for the company, the United States entered an economic depression in 1893.  Revenues declined to $10 per month in 1895 and the company was unable to pay what was due on the construction loan.  Eventually it was acquired by Mr. Schmidt, the operator of the Occidental hotel on Second Street. He received permission to tear up the old street car tracks except the part of the line between the hotel and the train depots.  He repaired and painted the cars and ran them as a free service to transport his customers from the depot to the hotel. 

Occidental Hotel and Hotel Bus, Corvallis, Oregon

The equipment gradually deteriorated and by 1900, the rest of the rails were torn up and sold to a company building a logging road. As the newspaper noted, “Thus ends the dilapidated reminder of boom times, the Corvallis, Street Railway.”

Although street car service was available for only a short time, local residents found other ways of getting around. You can see photos and read stories about how they did at the Benton County Historical Society's Philomath Museum's new exhibition, “Walk, Ride and Roll.” 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 


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