Tacoma Street Railway inaugurates service on May 30, 1888.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/18/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5065

On May 30, 1888, the Tacoma Street Railway inaugurates service. This is the first transit system in Tacoma and consists of bright yellow, horse-drawn, 14-passenger streetcars with upholstered seats. The line runs from the Northern Pacific passenger terminal north on Pacific Avenue to McCarver Street in Old Town.

Businessman Allen C. Mason wanted to build a streetcar system in 1885, but the City Council denied his request for a 30-year franchise. Two years later, railroad contractor Nelson Bennett approached the council and was granted a 50-year franchise, but he was at first prohibited from using steam locomotives. After more lobbying, Bennett got permission to use locomotives.

Real estate promoters and other businessmen obtained franchises for lines that served newly platted housing developments, generally south and west of Tacoma. Bennett sold his company to Eastern interests that changed the name to Tacoma Railway & Motor Company and upgraded to electric power. The first electric streetcar rolled into service on February 10, 1890.

Tacoma Rail, a division of Tacoma Public Utilities, can trace its origins to the Tacoma Street Railway.


Dick Malloy and John S. Ott, The Tacoma Public Utilities Story -- The First 100 Years: 1893-1993 (Tacoma: Tacoma Public Utilities, 1993), 34-39.

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