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Streetcars in Decatur

Streetcar in downtown Decatur, Georgia

Decatur saw its first streetcar in 1891 when Atlanta's Metropolitan Street Railway extended its Fair Street (Memorial Drive) line eastward to the DeKalb County city. From Fair Street the extension ran on mostly private right of way which later became Arkwright Place, Woodbine Avenue, and Oakview Road.

The Metropolitan's cars were first pulled by steam-powered "dummies," a type of steam locomotive encased in a car body designed to hide most of the engine's moving parts, supposedly to avoid frightening horses. The dummies were discontinued in 1894 and replaced by electrically powered cars.

Steam dummy

Steam dummy of the type used by the Metropolitan Street Railway.

A second line from Atlanta to Decatur was initiated in early 1893 by the Atlanta City Street Railway Company, a new enterprise incorporated just a few months before. Its line began at Loyd Street ( now Central Avenue) on the north side of the Union Depot, then continued by way of Decatur Street, Ivy Street (now Peachtree Center Avenue), Gilmer Street, Pratt Street, Bell Street, Tanner Street (later obliterated by the Downtown Connector), Fort Street, Irwin Street, Lake Avenue, Euclid Avenue, McLendon Street, and DeKalb Avenue to Decatur. (Not all of these streets existed in their present form at the time.)

In January 1901 the Atlanta Rapid Transit Company (formerly the Collins Park & Belt Railroad Company) opened the third line to Decatur. This company was associated with Henry M. Atkinson of the Georgia Electric Light Company. From downtown Atlanta, the Atlanta Rapid Transit Company's line followed Auburn Avenue and Howell Street to a private right of way along present-day DeKalb Avenue. Entering Decatur on Howard Avenue, the streetcars passed by Agnes Scott College and the railroad station, turned north on Oak Street (now Sycamore Place), and then turned west onto Ponce de Leon Avenue. From Ponce, the cars turned left onto Court Square, passed by the southeastern corner of the courthouse, turned south onto McDonough Street, and then returned to Howard Avenue.

Atlanta Rapid Transit Company streetcar on Decatur line

Atlanta Rapid Transit Co. double-truck car on the company's Decatur line, ca. 1901.

A cut on the Decatur line of the Atlanta Rapid Transit Company, ca. 1901

Streetcar passing through a cut on the Decatur line of the Atlanta Rapid Transit Co., ca. 1901.

A fill on the Decatur line of the Atlanta Rapid Transit Company, ca. 1901

A fill on the Decatur line of the Atlanta Rapid Transit Co., ca. 1901.

The Decatur line of the Atlanta Rapid Transit Company, ca. 1901

The Decatur line of the Atlanta Rapid Transit Co. around 1901. On the right are the tracks of the Georgia Railroad.

Of the three lines, the one built by the Atlanta City Street Railway Company had the shortest life; its tracks east of McLendon Avenue at Clifton Road were abandoned in 1901-02, and much of its street trackage in downtown and east Atlanta was also taken up. The other two lines lasted into the 1940s, but by the end of that decade all of the streetcars in Atlanta and its suburbs were gone.

1940s map of streetcar lines in Decatur, GA

Decatur streetcar lines in the 1940s. Solid green lines indicate streetcar routes and dashed red lines show the routes of trackless trolleys. A complete copy of this map is online at SaportaReport here.

More information:

On this website, see Streetcars in Atlanta; Streetcars in Stone Mountain; and Trolley Line Trail. At Decatur Metro, see 1940s Home Movie of Decatur Features Streetcar, Train and Football.

Suggested Reading:

O.E. Carson. The Trolley Titans; A Mobile History of Atlanta.
Glendale, CA: Interurban Press, 1981.

Jean Martin. Mule to MARTA, two volumes, Atlanta Historical Society,

Wade H. Wright. History of the Georgia Power Company; 1855-1956. Atlanta: Georgia Power Company, 1957. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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