Seattle Streetcar Historic Timeline

  • Seattle’s First Streetcar

    Seattle’s First Streetcar
    Seattle’s first horse-drawn streetcar line is built along 2nd Avenue in Downtown Seattle by Frank Osgood as a solution to the dangerous road conditions. Trips only cost a nickel! Photo: Seattle's first horse-drawn streetcar began service in 1884 Courtesy MOHAI
  • Period: to

    Seattle Streetcar History

  • Cable Car Line

    Cable Car Line
    A line from Pioneer Square to Leschi Park via Yesler Way and Jackson Street is constructed by J.M. Thompson and Fred Sander. This car operates similarly to a ski lift with a pulley on the ground and under the car. The car would clamp to the pulley when moving forward and unclamp when stopping with the cable constantly revolving. This line spurred the regions first “intermodal” transportation system, linking Elliott Bay steamers with Lake Washington ferries. Photo: Courtesy The Seattle Times
  • Seattles First Electric Streetcar

    Seattles First Electric Streetcar
    Frank Osgood introduces the first electric streetcar! Seattle is the first West Coast city to offer electric streetcar service. Slowly, horse-drawn trolleys are becoming obsolete. Photo: Phinney's private streetcar and Woodland Park gate at Fremont N and 50th, Seattle, ca. 1890. Courtesy Woodland Park Zoological Society
  • Streetcar Expansion

    Streetcar Expansion
    Seattle now has 22 miles of cable railways and 48 miles of streetcar tracts. Photo: Third Avenue and Madison Street. A Streetcar Speeding past Cordray’s Theater circa 1892 Courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  • Interurban Railway Lines

    Seattle boasts over 22 separate streetcar lines! Interurban railway lines were also constructed between Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett of this year.
  • Seattle-Tacoma Interurban Railway Opens

    The Seattle-Tacoma Interurban Railway opens! The route includes stops at Kent, Renton and Rainer Beach.
  • First Municipal Streetcar Line

    First Municipal Streetcar Line
    The first municipal streetcar line is established, linking downtown to Ballard. Picture: Downtown Seattle, 2nd Avenue looking north from James Street, 1906.
  • Streetcar For Sale

    Streetcar For Sale
    With voter approval, Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson (1874-1940), bought the streetcar system for three times its assessed value, at $15 million. Photo: Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson operating first municipal car over University Bridge during its July 1, 1919 dedication. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives.
  • Financial Hardship

    Financial Hardship
    The Street Railway system faced deep financial hardship, including a $4 million deficit, despite the average daily fares of $11,000. 410 streetcars were operated on three cable railways and 26 electric routes. The Municipal Street Railway totaled 231 miles of track. Photo: Seattle Mayor Bertha Landes acts as motorman setting the trolley on a trolley connecting downtown businesses (1927) Courtesy The Seattle Times.
  • $10 million Loan

    $10 million Loan
    $10 million is loaned to Seattle by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to pay off its streetcar debt and to begin using alternative methods of public transportation, such as buses and rubber-tired electric trolleys (Beeler Plan). Service also ends in the Seattle-Everett interurban route. Seattle residents vote in favor of maintaining local streetcars. Photo: Second Ave and James Street 1938 Courtsey Wafreepress.com