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Streetcars in Clarkesville

Streetcar in Clarkesville, Georgia

A century ago, Clarkesville was too small to justify the considerable investment needed to build a street railway. It did have, though, a somewhat unusual situation in that the railroad depot, a place of major importance in the community, was over a mile away from the center of town. This provided a need and thus a potential market for a street railway company.

To reduce the capital investment required, it was decided to use gasoline rather than electricity or steam. A 25-horsepower Mitchell touring car, modified with flanged wheels, provided the power. It pulled an omnibus for passengers and a flatcar for baggage, mail, and express packages. As many as 40 passengers were carried on a single trip. The car made ten trips daily at a rate of five cents per passenger and 25 cents per trunk.

Old photographs show that the town also had a more conventional trolley, a small gasoline-powered vehicle, open on the sides but with fabric curtains that could be lowered in inclement weather.

Streetcar at the Habersham County courthouse.

Streetcar made from a modified automobile in Clarkesville, GA

A modified automobile also provided street railway service in Clarkesville. (Photo from The Motor World, October 27, 1910.)

In 1914 the Clarkesville Railway Company reported operating 1.25 miles of standard-gauge tracks with 2 gasoline motor cars. The company's president was E. S. Hunnicutt; the vice-president was W. S. Erwin, and the secretary & treasurer was M. C. York. (McGraw Electrical Trade Directory, 1914).

Regardless of the motive power used, the operation never turned a profit for its stockholders and was sold under foreclosure.

In 1916, the last owners of the company, T.G. Spencer and Oscar Mauldon, notified the Georgia railroad commission that they intended to tear up the line’s tracks and go out of business. The commission responded that the company would have to surrender its charter to the legislature to relieve it of the necessity of operating its road. This process was undertaken by the owners, and the surrender of the company’s charter was approved by the General Assembly on August 14, 1917.

As World War I was going on at the time, the trolley line was scrapped and its metal was reused in the war. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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