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Streetcars in Covington

Mulecar in front of Newton County Courthouse. (Library of Congress).

In the 1870s, Covington and Oxford stood about two miles apart on either side of the Georgia Railroad, with the railroad depot about halfway between the two communities. Recognizing the need for an improved link between the three points, a group of citizens incorporated the Covington & Oxford Street Railway Company on February 22, 1873. Grading began in June of that year, and some crossties were laid soon afterwards, but the company found it difficult to sell enough stock to adequately fund the construction. By late 1874, it had failed, and fifteen years would pass before another attempt would be made.

On February 14, 1888, papers were filed for a new company with the same name. This time a greatly improved economy generated sufficient investment to construct the line; it opened throughout its 3-mile length on January 1, 1889.

North side of city square. (Georgia Archives).

The standard-gauge railway had six cars, two other vehicles, and ten horses. Rails were 25 pounds per yard and of the T variety. The cost of the road and equipment was reported in 1890 to be $16,000.

In 1893-94, the operation's total length had grown to six miles by one report and seven miles by another.

A report on the railway from Poors Manual, 1903. There were 5 streetcars reported.

Above, a report on the railway from Poors Manual, 1903.

A report in the 1908 edition of McGraw Electric Railway Manual listed the Covington & Oxford Street Railroad as a 6-mile, standard-gauge operation with 8 horses and 7 horse cars. The tracks were 25-pound T-rail.

The street railway proved to be successful in transporting residents of each town to and from their shared railroad depot, but continuing beyond the depot involved something of a nuisance. Although requests were made to the Georgia Railroad to allow the trolleys to cross its tracks, permission was never received. As a result, passengers were forced to exit one car, walk across the tracks, and board another car to complete their trips.

In 1914 the Covington & Oxford Street Railway reported operating 6 miles of rail line with 2 cars. The number of horses was not specified. E. W. Fowler was the company's president; R. C. Guinn was secretary-treasurer, general manager & purchasing agent; J. B. Copeland was superintendent; and T. Bird was roadmaster. (McGraw Electrical Trade Directory, 1914).

Despite the situation at the depot, the railway continued to operate well into the twentieth century, succumbing to automobile competition in 1917. Citing a "great increase cost of labor and material, with no profit to its stockholders," the Covington and Oxford Street Railway requested surrender of its charter. The request was approved by the General Assembly on August 15th, 1917.

Photographs of Covington's streetcars are online at Georgia's Virtual Vault:

early 1900s photo

ca. 1905 photo

ca. 1915 photo

A recent article about the railway. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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