Electric trolley line in Seattle begins regular service on March 31, 1889.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 10/03/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 1970
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On March 31, 1889, the first regularly scheduled electric car runs over a Seattle trolley line formerly powered by a pair of horses. For about a year, this line remains the only electric streetcar line on the Pacific Coast.

On September 23, 1884, the Seattle Railway Company, owned by Frank Osgood (1852-1934), Thomas Burke (1849-1925), David Denny (1832-1903), and George Kinnear started running horse-drawn street cars along 2nd Avenue from Yesler Way to Pike Street. In about 16 months the company built two branches, one that extended the line to the foot of Queen Anne Hill along Front Street and another east along Pike Street and north to Lake Union.

During the autumn of 1888, a group of business men and real estate developers organized the Seattle Electric Railway and Power Company to convert the horse-drawn line to an electric line. The company directors were L. H. Griffith, Franz Theodore Blunck (1841-1918), Victor Hugo Smith, Edward C. Kilbourne (1856-1958), Morgan Carkeek (1847-1931), L. Morris Haller, and Thomas Burke (1849-1925). Frank Osgood was President and General Manager. The company built an electric power plant at the foot of Pike Street and purchased five electric trolley cars. On March 30, 1889, to test the line, the first electric car ran over the line. On the following day, March 31, 1889, about 4,000 persons paid 5 cents to take a ride on the trolley line.

Horse-drawn trolley cars continued to be used over a portion of the line until April 5 when they were retired. After that, electric trolley cars operated along the entire line.

Within a short time L. H. Griffith bought out the other investors and became sole owner.


Leslie Blanchard, The Street Railway Era in Seattle: A Chronicle of Six Decades (Forty Fort, PA: Harold E. Cox, Publisher, 1968), 3, 10, 11, 12.

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