South Carolina Railroads - Street Railways - Greenville

The following five (5) known "Street Railways" were operational in the city of Greenville from 1875 to 1956, when the last line ceased operations. Also shown below are two (2) railways that were chartered but never materialized.
In his book entitled "Palmetto Traction - Electric Railways of South Carolina" (1978), Mr. Thomas Fetters briefly mentions that the Gilreath Harris & Company was competitive to the Greenville Street Railway (Street Railway Company of the City of Greenville). It was primarily a passenger service which operated in the west and south sides of the city. A 4.5 mile line, it operated ten cars with a stable of twenty mules. This Author has not found any other evidence of this line.

Street Railway Company of the City of Greenville

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1875

1875

1897

2.5 miles

The Street Railway Company of the City of Greenville (commonly called the Greenville Street Railway) was chartered on March 9, 1875, led by Thomas C. Gower. It was planned to connect the stations of the Atlanta & Richmond Air Line Railway and the Greenville & Columbia Railroad with the central business district of the town of Greenville. The 2.25 mile line used seven (7) cars and a stable of thirty (30) mules. Four of the cars were flats used to haul freight to a warehouse that Mr. Gower built on the corner of Washington and Laurens streets.

The Street Railway Journal of November 1885 reported that the Greenville City Railway operated one (1) mile of track with the proprietors being Gilreath & Harris.

In 1890, the charter was amended to authorize the company to install power poles along the city streets. On December 24, 1892, the charter was renewed with new incorporators named in this renewal.

In 1891, the tracks on Main and Augusta streets were abandoned, leaving only the West Washington segment operational.

The Street Railway Journal of 1892 reported that the Street Railway of Greenville has 2-1/2 miles of track operational, six (6) cars, and three (3) mules. Officers included President T. C. Gower, Secretary G. G. Wells, and Superintendent A. G. Gower.

The Street Railway Journal of August 1892 reported that the Street Railway of Greenville has been granted a thirty-seven (37) year franchise to build an electric road. The franchise is void unless work is commenced on the line in six months, and unless four miles of it is completed and in operation in fifteen months. The company is exempted from taxation for ten years.

The Street Railway Journal of 1894 reported that the Street Railway of Greenville has 2-1/2 miles of track operational, six (6) cars, and three (3) mules. Same officers as reported above in 1892. However, Thomas C. Gower died in 1894 and the company was taken over by his son, Arthur Gower.

The Street Railway Review of 1896 reported: "A. G. Gower has bought all the rights, powers rolling stock, etc., used in the street railway and the drayage business from the estate of his father, the late T. C. Gower. Mr. Gower will make some needed improvements."

The American Street Railway Investments magazines of 1897 and 1898 reported that the Street Railway Company of the City of Greenville had 1.25 miles of track (horse), 17 horses, and 6 horse cars. Owner A.G. Gower. Capital Stock $10,000. Debt none. Offices at 104 Washington Street, Greenville, SC.

In 1897, Southern Railway built its own streetcar line into the city along the north bank of the Reedy River and built a freight station and warehouose on River Street near Main Street. Since Southern Railway was this company's main source of business, the Street Railway Company of the City of Greenville quickly ceased operations and its line was abandoned. The rails were removed in late 1897 and the warehouse was sold to a local merchant.

Greenville Traction Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1899

1900

1910 (line sold) / 1914 (name ended)

14.8 miles


Greenville, SC - 1899 - Main Street

The Greenville Traction Company was chartered by the South Carolina Legislature on September 7, 1899, with the following officers - President J. S. Keen of Philadelphia, PA; Vice-President G. M. Bunting of Chester, PA; and General Manager J. H. Dawes. The original line ran from the Southern Railway depot via Washington Street to Main Street, over Main to Easley Bridge Road, and then to the city limits. One branch left Main Street at Augusta Road and continued to the ciy limts at otis. The third route left Main and Washington and went north on Main to College Street, west on College to Buncombe, and ended at Poe Mill. The fourth route left Main Street at North, east on North to Maley, south to McBee and west to Main Street. in 1904, a new loop line was added and left the terminus on Easley Bridge Road and ran north near Brandon Mills and the Woodside Mill village before turning east and joining the Buncombe Street line at Poe Mill. This was soon known as the Belt Line.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1902 reported that the Greenville Traction Company had 7 miles of track (electric) and 9 cars. Officers include - President J. S. Keen, Vice-President George M. Bunting, Secretary H. Bayard Hodge, and Treasurer H. P. Keen. Offices at 112 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA. Date of information - March, 1902. 

The Street and Electric Railways Census of December 1902 reported that the Greenville Traction Company owned and operated 7 miles of track and had $500,000 in capital stock.

The American Street Railway Investments magazines of 1903 and 1904 reported that the Greenville Traction Company had 7 miles of track (electric) and 11 cars. Officers and location of offices same as reported in 1902. Dates of information - March, 1903 and April, 1904.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1905 reported that the Greenville Traction Company had same miles of track and number of cars. Officers include - President J. S. Keen, Jr., Vice-President H. P. Keen, Secretary H. Bayard Hodge, and Treasurer George M. Bunting. Office location same as 1902. Information as of April 1905.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1906 reported that the Greenville Traction Company had 12 miles of track (electric) and 16 cars operational. Officers and office location sames as 1905. Information as of April 1906.

The Electric Railway Review of July 1906 reported:

"The Greenville (SC) Traction Company operates a line 12 miles long extending through a thickly settled suburban district with a population of about 30,000 people. Current for the operation of the line is purchased from the Greenville Gas & Electric Light & Power Company, which uses steam power at present but will change to water-power in the near future. The railway company has erected a new barn to accommodate some cars recently purchased. The rolling stock includes 19 cars, all of Brill manufacture. In addition to the new full-convertible cars for this road which have recently been received the company operates four cars of the semi-convertible type each seating 40 passengers.


Brill Convertible Car for Greenville Traction Company in 1906

"The new full-convertible cars are of the following dimensions: length over end panels, 30 feet 11 inches; length over crown pieces, 40 feet 4 inches; width over sills including panels. 8 feet 2-1/4 inches; width over posts at belt, 8 feet 6-1/4 inches; sweep of posts, 1-3/4 inches; centre to centre distance of posts, 2 feet 7 inches; size of side sills, 8x6x7/8 inches; size of end sills, 4-3/4x7-3/4 inches: thickness of corner posts, 3-5/8 inches; thickness of side posts, 3-5/8 inches."

The American Street Railway Investments magazines of 1907, 1908, and 1909 reported that the Greenville Traction Company had 12 miles of track (electric) and 18 cars operational. Officers include - President J. S. Keen, Jr., Vice-President James H. Dawes, Secretary & Assistant Treasurer H. Bayer Hodge, and Treasurer George M. Bunting. Offices at 112 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA. Information as of May 1907, May 1908, and April 1909.

The Street & Electric Railways Census of 1907 reported that the Greenville Traction Company had 12.23 miles of track and $500,000 in capital stock.

The Street Railway Journal of November 1907 reported that the Greenville Tracton Company had 12 miles of track and 23 cars.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1910 reported that the Greenville Traction Company had 14.8 miles of track (electric) and 20 cars, of which two (2) are work cars. Date of information January 1910.

The Electric Traction Weekly magazine of September 17, 1910 reported: "The Greenville, Anderson & Spartanburg Interurban Railway Company, controlled by the Duke interests, has purchased the Greenville Traction Company and the Greenville electric plant. At a recent meeting of the directors in New York it was decided to begin work on the Greenville-Belton branch immediately. The capital stock of the interurban company has been increased to $2,000,000. Contracts for the grading and equipment of the extension will be let at once, it is stated."

On September 15, 1910, the Greenville Traction Company was acquired by Southern Power Company, which owned the Greenville, Anderson & Spartanburg Interurban Railway Company, soon known as simply the Greenville, Anderson & Spartanburg Railway. The Greenville Traction Company retained its name until Southern Power Company set up its own street railway company in the South, known as the Southern Public Utilities Company, in 1913, but did not become operational in Greenville until 1914. See below.

The Electric Railway Journal of February 11, 1911 reported: "Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway, Anderson, SC — The Duke interests propose to incorporate the Piedmont & Northern Railway with a capital stock of $5,000,000 to take over the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway and other properties which they control but which are not yet specified. The company will be incorporated by J. B. Duke, Somerville, N. J.; B. N. Duke, New York City; Samuel McRoberts, New York City; W. S. Lee, Charlotte, NC; Ellison A. Smyth, Greenville, and Lewis W. Parker, Greenville."

The McGraw Electric Railway Manual of 1911 reported: "Greenville Traction Co. — Incorporated in South Carolina Sept. 7, 1899. Company also furnishes lighting service through Greenville Gas & Elec. Co., owned. The Southern Power Co. acquired control in Sept., 1910."

The Electric Railway Journal of November 4, 1911 reported: "Greenville (SC) Traction Company — This company will extend its North Street line 1 mile in Greenville."

The Electric Railway Journal of November 25, 1911 reported: "Greenville (SC) Traction Company — This company has completed the double-tracking of its line from the Ottaray Hotel in Greenville through North and South Main Streets and up Pendleton Street to Greene Avenue."

The McGraw Electric Railway Manuals of 1912 and 1913 reported that the Greenville Traction Company operated 14.8 miles of track (electric) and 20 cars, of which 2 are work cars. Southern Power Company acquired control in September 1910. Capital stock $500,000. Officers include - President Z. V. Taylor, Charlotte, NC; Secretary N. A. Cocke; Treasurer E. Thomasson, Charlotte, NC; and General Manager Edward F. Taylor, Charlotte, NC.

The Electric Railway Journal of July 20, 1912 reported: "Greenville (SC) Traction Company — Rails are being laid by this company on its 2-mile extension to Westervelt and Duncan Mills."

The Electric Railway Journal of October 19, 1912 reported: "Greenville (SC) Traction Company — This company has completed and will soon place in operation its new double-track line on Pendleton Street in Greenville."

The Electric Railway Journal of July 26, 1913 reported: "Anderson, SC — The franchise has been accepted for the proposed electric railway extension from Greenville and North Main Streets in Anderson to the property of the North Anderson Development Company, by M. M. Mattison, J. H. Anderson, J. D. Brown, John W. Linley and G. N. C. Boleman. It will be over 1 mile long and will be constructed and operated by the Greenville Traction Company." [was not operated by Greenville Traction Company - a new company was set up]

The McGraw Electric Manual of 1914 reported that the Greenville Traction Company operated 14.8 miles of track (electric), 20 cars, of which 2 are work cars. Capital stock $200,000. Officers include - President Z. V. Taylor, Secretary N. A. Cocke, Treasurer E. Thomasson, and General Manager Edward F. Taylor.

Greenville Electric Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1900

Never

Never

0 miles

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1901 reported: "Greenville Electric Railway Co. — This company was organized in 1900, to construct an electric railway at Greenville. Construction work was commenced in Oct. 1900, and it was expected to place the road in operation early in 1901. Date of information, Dec., 1900."

There is no evidence that this street railway was completed and operational.

Southern Power Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1905

1910

1914

14.8 miles

Benjamin N. and James B. Duke (sons of Washington Duke, the tobacco magnate and prominent philanthropist), along with partners Walker Gill Wylie and William States Lee, incorporated the Southern Power Company in New Jersey on June 22, 1905.

The McGraw Electric Railway Manual of 1911 reported: "Greenville Traction Co. — Incorporated in South Carolina Sept. 7, 1899. Company also furnishes lighting service through Greenville Gas & Elec. Co., owned. The Southern Power Co. acquired control in Sept., 1910." The company operates 14.8 miles of track (electric) and 20 cars, of which 2 are work cars.

As described above under the Greenville Traction Company, Southern Power Company gained control of Greenville Traction Company in 1910. In 1913, Southern Power Company created its own street railway company in the South, known as Southern Public Utilities Company, but it did not become operational in Greenville until 1914.

Southern Power Company expanded the street railway system in Greenville during 1911 and 1912 by extending lines into neighborhoods previously without service.

Greenville & Spartanburg Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1910

Never

Never

0 miles

On February 8, 1910, the Greenville & Spartanburg Railway Company was chartered by the South Carolina Secretary of State.

The Electric Traction Weekly magazine of February 26, 1910 reported: "The Spartanburg & Greenville Railway Company has received a charter from the secretary of state to operate an electric railway between the cities of Greenville and Spartanburg, 31 miles. The road will haul freight, passengers and mail. Capital $100,000. Chas. W. Ellis is president; H. H. Price, vice-president, and C. H.Yates, secretary and treasurer."

The Electric Traction Weekly magazine of April 23, 1910 reported: "The Greenville & Spartanburg Electric Railway Company has awarded the contract to construct an electric line between Greenville and Spartanburg to W. J. Oliver & Company, of Knoxville, Tenn., the contract price being $750,000."

There is no evidence that this railway was completed and operational.

Southern Public Utilities Company / Duke Power Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1913

1914

1956

14.8 miles

Benjamin N. and James B. Duke (sons of Washington Duke, the tobacco magnate and prominent philanthropist), along with partners Walker Gill Wylie and William States Lee, incorporated the Southern Power Company in New Jersey on June 22, 1905. Southern Public Utilities Company was organized in 1913 as the retailing and streetcar arm of Southern Power Company. The local company continued to be known as Greenville Traction Company, but was renamed to Greenville City Lines in August of 1914 and continued to provide service under that name for the next twenty (20) years.

The Poor's Manual of Public Utilities and Street Railways of 1915 reported: "Southern Public Utilities Co. — Incorporated in March, 1913, in Maine for the purpose of acquiring public service properties in North and South Carolina. The company now owns the following properties: 1) Charlotte, NC — The electric light, gas and street railway properties; (2) Greenville, SC — The electric light, gas and street railway properties; (3) Winston-Salem, NC — The electric light and street railway properties; (4) Anderson, SC — The electric light, water and street railway properties; and (5): The electric light properties in the towns of Thomasville, Belmont, Mount Holly, China Grove, Bessemer City and Hickory, NC, and Chester, Greer and Fort Lawn, SC. "

"The above properties were formerly owned by the following companies all of which have ceased to operate: Charlotte Power Co., Charlotte Gas and Electric Co, Charlotte Electric Ry. Co., all of Charlotte, NC; Greenville Gas and Electric Light and Power Co., Greenville Traction Co., Greenville, SC; Fries Manufacturing and Power Co., Winston-Salem Power Co., Winston-Salem, NC, Anderson Water, Light and Power Co., Anderson, SC, Chester Power Co., Chester, SC; Thornton Light and Power Co., Hickory, NC, and the Southern Power Co."

"Officers: Z. V. Taylor, Pres.; A. V. Harrill, Vice-Pres.; E. C. Marshall, Treas.; J. R. Cherry, Asst. Sec., Charlotte, NC; W. C. Parker, Sec., New York, N. Y. General Office, Charlotte, NC."

The Electric Railway Journal of May 25, 1918 reported: "Southern Road Increases Wages — Increases in pay of from 2 to 5 cents an hour for motormen and conductors of the Southern Public Utilities Company, which operates in Greenville, Anderson, Winston-Salem and numerous other cities in the Carolinas, was announced on May 8. The increase, effective from May 1, will depend on length of service."

The Electric Railway Journal of February 22, 1919 reported: "E. F. Taylor, vice-president of the Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, has announced that two one-man cars will be placed in operation on the lines of the company in Greenville, SC, as an experiment."

The Electric Railway Journal of January 3, 1920 reported that Southern Public Utilities Company rebuilt 3.0 miles of track in the city of Greenville, SC during 1919.

Click Here to view / download a three-page article in the Electric Railway Journal of March 20, 1920 concerning Southern Public Utilities Company's standardization of a unique way to construct streetcar tracks in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Anderson, and Greenville.

The Electric Railway Journal of March 26, 1921 reported: "The Southern Public Utilities Company operating in Greenville, SC, has been granted permission to build a double track line on Pendleton Street, Greenville, which will afford better facilities from the western and southern suburbs to the city. All work incident to street widening will be undertaken by the railway."

The McGraw Electric Railway Directory of 1924 reported that the Southern Public Utilities Company operated 14.23 miles of track, twenty-three (23) motor passenger cars, and one (1) other motor car. Officers include - President E. C. Marshall and Vice-President A. V. Harrill.

The Electric Railway Journal of August 23, 1924 reported: "Instead of extending its railway lines, the Southern Public Utilities Company, Greenville, SC, is seeking the cooperation of that city in a move to start bus lines."

The Electric Railway Journal of October 24, 1924 reported: "The Southern Public Utilities Company recently began operating a bus line in Greenville, SC, following authorization by the City Council. The line will serve the northern section of the city not heretofore supplied with transportation service. The fare on the bus is 10 cents and free transfers will be given to all lines of the railway system. A charge of 3 cents will be made for transfers from the trolleys to the bus."

Southern Power Company was renamed to Duke Power Company on November 18, 1924, however, in many cases the Southern Public Utilities Company name was continued to be used for the street railway operations for several more years.

The Electric Railway Journal of April 11, 1925 reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, has ordered six double-truck one-man cars for use in Greenville, SC. The new equipment wil be larger than the present one-man cars." The same issue also reported: "Southern Public Utilities Company, Charlotte, NC, will re-lay the curve of the track from North Main Street into College Street in Greenville, SC."

According to Mr. Thomas Fetters in his book entitled "Palmetto Traction - Electric Railways of South Carolina" (1978), final abandonment of the streetcars in the city of Greenville happened in October of 1937, except for the trackless system that was installed in 1934 on the Belt Line. Trackless service was abandoned on February 20, 1956.



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