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Streetcars in North Dakota


Fargo’s former streetcar system reaches back almost to the founding of the town itself. Horse-drawn routes began in 1879, but with no paved streets, the tracks sank into the mud and the line was abandoned. Another horse-drawn line started in 1882, but failed a few months later after a fire destroyed the car barn and all its equipment.

It wasn’t until Thanksgiving of 1904 that the first electric streetcar took its first passenger. The Fargo Street Railway took more than two years to develop. It was the brainchild of some Pennsylvania businessmen who took the idea to the Fargo City Council. But they ran into money troubles and sold the venture to some Fargo businessmen who saw it through. Moorhead was included in the system that took six months of construction at a cost of around $200,000.

The fare was five cents, and the streetcars ran from 6 a.m. to midnight every day except Sunday, when the hours were shorter. Overhead electrical wires provided power for the cars. The first tracks ran from the North Dakota Agricultural College south to the Fargo College, with about seven miles of lines, seven cars, and one snowplow. At its height, the system had about 16 miles of tracks, 29 motor cars, and 16 trailers.

Bismarck also had a system for a time. The state-owned trolley ran from downtown Bismarck to the Capitol grounds, often carrying lawmakers, justices and governors. This was when the Capitol was on the outskirts, and just months after the statehouse had burned in a fire. But in 1931 the North Dakota Legislature passed a bill to abolish Bismarck trolley. Its end came amid a lack of funding and litigation from property owners along its route. One of the cars was later restored and is used for the Fort Lincoln Trolley in Mandan.

The Fargo-Moorhead streetcar system lasted a few years longer, ending on this date in 1937. After 30 years in service, it was done in by automobiles and the Great Depression.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

The Bismarck Tribune. 1993, June 27. Page 15.
The Bismarck Tribune. 1931, March 5. Page 1.
The Bismarck Tribune. 1931, March 10. Page 2.
The Bismarck Tribune. 1931, March 12. Page 2.

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