As indicated, these are only highlights in the history of the modes of mass transit that affected residents of St. Louis Park. Please contact us with additions and corrections. Information in this document relies heavily on the books Transit in the Twins by Stephen A. Kieffer, published by the Twin City Rapid Transit Company in 1958 and Twin Cities by Trolley by John W. Diers and Aaron Isaacs, U of M Press, 2007. Click here for photos and highlights of Minneapolis transit history.
The first Horsecar trod the mud streets of St. Paul on July 15. The first route was two miles long. Capacity was 14 passengers. The St. Paul City Railway Company had six cars (dubbed “cracker boxes on wheels) and 30 horses, operated by 14 men.
Streetcar service opened in Minneapolis on September 2, 1875. The Minneapolis Street Railway, under the leadership of Thomas Lowry (an emigrant lawyer who came to Minnesota from Illinois) built 4.37 miles of track that started at Hennepin and Washington Aves. The ten cars, which were sometimes referred to as “Tom Lowrys,” were drawn by horses.
On July 1, the Minneapolis, Lyndale, and Lake Calhoun
Railroad was incorporated by several Minneapolis and
Columbus, Ohio businessmen, including Colonel William C.
McCrory, whose farm was called Lyndale. The Lyndale Railway
Co. started to construct a single, three foot gauge line,
starting at Nicollet Ave. and First Street (Bridge Square)
to 34th Street at Lake Calhoun.
Thomas Edison exhibited the first electric locomotive in the world.
The first electric railway line, the Chicago El, had begun operation in 1883.
Thomas Lowry and his partners took over the St. Paul City Railway Company.
McCrory's Motor Line suffered financial losses due to overly ambitious extensions, and fell into the hands of Charles A. Pillsbury and James J. Hill.
The Minneapolis Street Railway Company (MSR) and the St.
Paul City Railway Company (SPCR) began to operate under a
single group of owners when Minneapolis businessman Thomas
Lowry and his associates gained control of both.
McCrory’s Motor Line was sold to the Minneapolis
Street Railway Company on April 1. The tracks from Lake
Harriet to Lake Minnetonka were abandoned. The demise was
said to be due to lack of business.
Over 15 months, Minneapolis converted from steam to the
electric streetcar, running first on December 24. Frank
Sprague had figured out to electrify the cars in 1887.
The Interurban electric streetcar line was completed between the
loops of Minneapolis and St. Paul, running down University
Ave. through the Midway.
On May 8, 1891, The Minneapolis Land and Investment Company (T.B. Walker, President) received permission from the St. Louis Park Village Council to build the Lake Street Streetcar. Click here for the text of the ordinance and the acceptance by the Minneapolis Land and Investment Co.
Streetcars had a great deal to do with population trends in the young Village. In the days before automobiles, those who worked in town depended on the trains and streetcars to get to work. Walker's streetcar made it possible for businesses to carry on along its tracks and fostered construction of homes in the area. In an interview in 1913, Walker said that another purpose of the streetcar was to encourage truck farmers in the Park to bring their produce to Minneapolis, thereby increasing the supply and lowering the cost of living for city dwellers. (Walker was first and foremost a Minneapolis booster.) Even after the advent of private cars, the streetcar was well used until it ended its run on August 28, 1938, to be replaced by buses.
Bicycles (velocipedes) became an overnight sensation and put up stiff competition for the roadways til the fad cooled in 1897.
The first part of the Lake Minnetonka line, the Como-Harriet interurban line, was opened on July 1, 1898. It started at 34th Street, east of Lake Calhoun.
The St. Louis Park and Hopkins Electric Line Car Barn at
Brownlow was destroyed by fire from lightning on October 7.
The carhouse and one car burned. The carhouse was
rebuilt, but was damaged by the tornado of 1904 when the
storm blew a car into the waiting station.
Twin City Lines bought up much of the
old McCrory Motor Line route, started work in the spring, and inaugurated the electric Excelsior
(Lake Minnetonka) Line on September 30, 1905. The line went from Downtown to
Morningside, Hopkins, and Excelsior. The right-of-way was
widened. The 14 mile double
track line was slightly different from that of the old Motor
Line. It was standard gauge, and had local stops at Browndale, Mackey, and the
Brookside Station, which was located at the corner of Motor
Street [44th] and Main Street [Brookside]. An express ran to
Minnetonka, and that train went so fast it was known as
quite a wild ride. The line had some
double decker cars, but
they were decapitated because they weighed too much and were
too hard on the infrastructure. Brookside Ave. crossed the
tracks on an overpass that was removed in about 1956 or
1957. The tracks were laid on a private right-of-way, mostly
following the route of the McCrory Line. Electric lights
hung from the span wires.
A second track of the Lake Minnetonka line was added to the Lake Minnetonka line.
Thomas Lowry died and his son-in-law, Calvin Goodrich,
became president of the Twin City Lines until he died in 1915.
An article in the Journal dated November 2, 1913, indicated that when T.B. Walker's electric streetcar was sold to TCRT in 1905/06, there was the expectation that there would be a 5 cent fare into the city, and when that happened, the village would develop as a manufacturing suburb and residence district. The article also mentioned the Dan Patch line, then under construction, which would carry freight as well as passengers. "Until such time it was felt that it would be at least a drawback against bringing in settlements and improvements. Under these circumstances, the Park has lain dormant until the present time."
The Dan Patch Electric Railway, started in 1907 by Col. M.W. "Will" Savage, came to the Park running north-south.
An independent company ran a bus line in Minneapolis.
Twin City Lines carried 226 million passengers, an all-time high. It had nearly 530 miles of track and 1,021 streetcars. The carhouse or station at 2108-2130 E. Lake St. was at the center of a trainman’s day. It was a home away from home, a private club of sorts. If you were a motorman, it was where you reported for work to pull out your car. If you were a conductor, it was where you got your change supply or turned in your receipts at the end of the day. Or, it was a place to catch some sleep between a late-night run and an early pullout the next morning. The system was dismantled in 1954, and Lake Street Station was demolished and now houses the Hi-Lake Shopping Center.
Twin City Lines bought up all independent bus lines, and all taxi companies. The city smelled monopoly and ordered the taxis sold later in the year.
In August, the Lake Minnetonka line was truncated and only ran to Hopkins.
August 28 marked the last run of the
Streetcar. The Minneapolis Tribune reported that a
huge crowd turned out at 12:40 am to say farewell. The process started in 1934, when the Village
Council authorized the Council President to bargain with the
Minneapolis and St. Paul Suburban Railway for bus service to
replace streetcar service and to bargain for better service.
Is it just a coincidence that the streetcar was taken out at
about the same time Highways 7 and 100 were built?
Many oldtimers later regretted the demise of the streetcar
and expressed sentiment about the line, but news coverage at
the time showed a different story. Residents "made
real whoopie," staged a "busline polka," and 50 people rode
the last streetcar into town, smiling and waving. The advent of buses appealed to riders because of
their more flexible routes and more comfortable rides. The photo above is said to be the last
streetcar in St. Louis Park.
Transfer from the last streetcar ride, August 28, 1938
Between July 1943 and November 1945, the Twin City Rapid Transit hired 381 female streetcar drivers or "motorettes" to replace motormen who had gone to war. Read the whole story by Twin Cities mass transit expert Aaron Isaacs Here.
Three of the first motorettes report for work at Nicollet Station, Thirty-first Street and Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, 1943. Photo courtesy Hennepin County Library.
From the Minnesota Streetcar Museum website:
Ossanna, rebuffed by local financiers,
went straight to General Motors, hoping to buy 25 new diesel
buses. Roger Keyes of GM (later to become Assistant
Secretary of Defense) found conditions so promising that he
was willing to extend credit to buy 525 new vehicles. USA
Confidential posits that "Joe Massei, of Detroit's Purple Gang, with a bundle of
Mafia cash, was in on the deal." Ossanna, Barney
Larrick, and two of their associates were convicted on
August 6, 1960 of defrauding the TCRT of company assets,
including scrap metal and real estate, during the
In November the 3.3 mile stretch of track between
Brookside Ave. and Hopkins was removed. All the tracks in
the system were removed by 1954.
After a mind-boggling two-year conversion, a fleet of 525 buses totally replaced Minneapolis streetcars. Cars were sold to Newark, Cleveland, and Mexico City. Offers of jute bags from India, coffee from Brazil, and beef from Argentina were apparently turned down. The older, home-built cars were sold to private citizens for things like lake cottages, construction shacks, and camp mess halls. Those that could not be sold were burned. A picture of Ossanna receiving a check from James Towley in front of a burning street car, smile on his face, enraged streetcar proponents, and he had to live that down from then on. The Twin Cities’ last trolley rolled down Hennepin Avenue on June 18, 1954.
The City Council was alarmed at the reduction of bus trips on Excelsior Blvd. from 59 to 37.
Starting on July 16, 1973, St. Louis Park became the first Minneapolis
suburb to have its own MTC minibus system, the St. Louis
Park Crosstown. 19 buses
(capacity 17 passengers) traversed a route between 44th Street
and Wooddale on the south to Highway 12 and Louisiana,
every half hour, Monday
through Saturday. Principal stops were the library, schools, rec center, St. Louis Park Medical Center (now Park Nicollet),
Methodist Hospital, Westwood Shopping Center, Shoppers’
City, and Miracle Mile. The fare was 25 cents for adults, 20
cents for students. The buses were dedicated at a
ceremony at the Rec Center. The action was the result of a
study by the Citizens Advisory Committee. By February 1974
the Echo reported that the route (36A and 36B) suffered from
a lack of riders.
Route 67 was an express bus that went to and from
downtown Minneapolis to St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, and
Deephaven via Minnetonka Blvd., Highway 100, and Highway 12.
This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.