Wyoming History: No. 115 In Sheridan Is State’s Last Original Streetcar

For a time in the early 1900s, Sheridan was a modern municipal wonder with electric trolleys and inter-urban cars ferrying people to mines, shopping and the old fort. Now car No. 115 is Wyoming’s last original streetcar.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

May 26, 20247 min read

The lone remaining original trolley from those that served Sheridan, Wyoming, more than a century ago sits on the private property on the north side of the city.
The lone remaining original trolley from those that served Sheridan, Wyoming, more than a century ago sits on the private property on the north side of the city. (Google Earth)

For a while in the second decade of the 20th century, it was downright electric the way Sheridan could move people here and there.

The town, located at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, for nearly 15 years boasted one of the most modern of public conveniences — electric trolleys. The town installed more than 10 miles of electric lines to power interurban cars that transported workers to nearby mines, moved people around the city and brought soldiers from the nearby fort to town and back.

Museum at the Bighorns Executive Director Danielle Stuckle said the tracked public transportation system was important for its time.

“There were electric streetcars that connected Sheridan to the coal mine communities,” she said. “So, Acme and Monarch, all of those little company towns for the coal mines between here and Ranchester, you were able to expand your workforce and your business districts. All those people in the coal mining towns had to do their shopping somewhere, and a lot of people in Sheridan worked in the coal mines, and you had people going back and forth in both directions.”

The Sheridan Street Railway Co. trolley system was created by a pair of Ohio businessmen.

An article in the Sheridan Post on Aug. 23, 1910, reported that construction of the lines was anticipated in September of that year.

“It is reported that Messers. William R. Sullivan and Albert Emanuel, to whom the city granted the street railway franchise, and who are at present in Dayton, Ohio, will come on to Sheridan about September 1st and commence operations immediately,” the newspaper reported. “According to city officials, the rails will be laid as the street paving progresses.”

Now only one of the Sheridan trolleys is left, No. 115, and it’s the last original electric streetcar left in Wyoming.

The City Line

The “City Line” began operations Aug. 11, 1911, and stretched down Main Street of the city from the railway depot. A few months later, a second route extended service to the county fairgrounds and out to Fort Mackenzie, which at the time had U.S. Army troops stationed there. The route required a bridge to be put over a featured known as Deadman’s Draw.

The railway company later added track to its City Line to serve the sugar factory on Coffeen Avenue.

Another line stretched the service 12 miles to Monarch, passing seven mines on the way to the end of the line.

“One of the most potent factors in elevating Sheridan to a city of metropolitan appearances is the street railway system owned by local and outside capitalists,” The Daily Enterprise in Sheridan reported Oct. 20, 1911. “The cars have been liberally patronized by the public since their installation … this year.”

An article in the Casper Star Tribune on March 31, 1974, featured an interview with a conductor who served on the Sheridan trolleys and interurban cars. The man, Joe Drier, said the route to the mines involved sending a car every hour from 6 a.m. to midnight. Two cars traveled around the city every 15 minutes in a loop, leaving the depot on Main Street through the southern part of town to Montana Avenue and back to Main Street.

Two cars also served Fort Mackenzie.

“There were 28 employees, including trackmen, motormen and conductors. We all got 25 cents an hour and worked a straight nine-hour shift,” Drier told the newspaper. “In 1915, I had what the newspaper called a ‘narrow escape from serious injury.’ The car was on Fourth Street and lighting struck the trolley wire, followed the wire down to the control box and blew it out. I remember feeling a numbness and seeing fire all around me, but I wasn’t injured.”

Drier told the newspaper that during sugar beet harvest, a special car would take employees to the Holly Sugar Co. on the southeast side of the city.

  • This image of an old postcard shows the Sheridan, Wyoming, trolley running in 1912.
    This image of an old postcard shows the Sheridan, Wyoming, trolley running in 1912. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • An electric trolley car in downtown Sheridan in the early 1910s.
    An electric trolley car in downtown Sheridan in the early 1910s. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • The trolley company’s superintendent was at the controls for a head-on crash in 1912, as shown in this newspaper headline from the time, left. At right, coal mining communities demanded lower fares or else in November 2012.
    The trolley company’s superintendent was at the controls for a head-on crash in 1912, as shown in this newspaper headline from the time, left. At right, coal mining communities demanded lower fares or else in November 2012. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Interurbans

The interurban cars, which served the mining communities, had double the capacity of the trolleys used in Sheridan on the City Line and the line to Fort Mackenzie.

Drier told the newspaper that during their heyday, on paydays, the interurbans would run three cars to the mines because people wanted to get to town.

“Why, on one car, I collected 165 fares, and that didn’t count those riding on top,” he told the newspaper. “There was no charge for riding on top of the car.”

An article in the Sheridan Enterprise on Oct. 24, 1912, chronicled a head-on collision between the interurban cars — one being driven by the superintendent of the line. D.W. Jones was running a load of shale into the city from north of Sheridan on the interurban car and the regular interurban service was headed north.

“Jones was trying to reach the city limits before the regular car could get off the city line,” the newspaper reported. “The two met on a curve near the Wrench ranch. Both cars were damaged, but no one was injured.”

And in November of that year, the residents living in coal mine camps were demanding cheaper fares from the interurban service or they threatened to take special trains to Billings to do their Christmas shopping.

“If the merchants of Sheridan will support us in a fight for a reasonable fare, we will gladly spend our money there, but if they will not help us, we will spend our money in Billings,” the residents of Monarch wrote The Sheridan Enterprise on Nov. 29, 1912. “We believe it is for the best interests of Sheridan to have a reasonable rate from the mining camps and believe they should support us in this.”

Jones, the superintendent of the line, was not intimidated. Fares for roundtrips on the interurban to Sheridan from Monarch was 70 cents — equivalent to $22.63 in 2024.

“There is no boycott against the interurban and no difference has been noted in the receipts from fares on that line,” he told the newspaper.

  • One of the original Sheridan, Wyoming, trolley cars used to sit outside the Sheridan County Museum. It has since been moved.
    One of the original Sheridan, Wyoming, trolley cars used to sit outside the Sheridan County Museum. It has since been moved. (Sheridan County Museum)
  • A throwback to the days when electric trolley cars moved up and down the main street of Sheridan, Wyoming, a motorized coach gives rides through the city.
    A throwback to the days when electric trolley cars moved up and down the main street of Sheridan, Wyoming, a motorized coach gives rides through the city. (sheridanwyoming.org)
  • A throwback to the days when electric trolley cars moved up and down the main street of Sheridan, Wyoming, a motorized coach gives rides through the city.
    A throwback to the days when electric trolley cars moved up and down the main street of Sheridan, Wyoming, a motorized coach gives rides through the city. (sheridanwyoming.org)

Busy Times

By 1919, the coal mines were expanding and hiring. Housing within the camps was full and new miners were forced to seek homes in Sheridan. So, the interurban service added an extra car.

“The management of the car service is further contemplating increased service starting sometime next week with the schedule probably calling for an hour service from Sheridan, starting at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and continuing until midnight,” The Sheridan Post reported in 1919.

By 1923, the age of the automobile was encroaching on ridership of the trolleys. When the city decided to repave roads it took out the tracks on Main Street and discontinued the City Line in September of that year. In 1924, the route to Fort Mackenzie was discontinued.

In 1926, the last interurban car made its run to the mines.

“When the interurban car of the Sheridan Railway Company returns from the mines on Friday afternoon, it will mark the passing of the last electric transportation line in the entire state of Wyoming,” the Sheridan Post-Enterprise reported on April 29, 1926. “In place of the familiar interurban cars which have made daily trips to the mining camps for 16 years there will be a new 26-passenger Mack bus, recently purchased by the Sheridan Motor Bus line, which has been granted a permit to operate buses between Sheridan and the mines.”

A single trolley from the system was restored for the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. At one time it was owned by the museum, but sold years ago, Stuckle said.

The trolley, No. 115, is now the only original streetcar left in Wyoming. It sits on property adjacent to Higby Road in Sheridan.

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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