Burlington Traction Company.

Hide Profile

The Winooski and Burlington Horse Railroad Company and the Military Post Street Railway Company were predecessors of the Burlington Traction Company. In 1872, the Winooski and Burlington Horse Railroad Company (WBHRRC), a company which provided horse-drawn cars for running on rails, emerged as a practical and economical solution for suburban and urban Vermonters needing to travel relatively short distances in their local areas. It was the first horse-drawn railroad to be chartered in Vermont (in 1872), yet only became fully operational thirteen years later, on November 15, 1885. Its rails sprawled between the cities of Winooski and Burlington, beginning at the Central Vermont Railroad Depot at the intersection of College and Lake Streets and running all the way across the Winooski River.

By the 1890s, the United States witnessed the advent of the electric trolley system, the latest trend in municipal transportation. Following with the times, the directors of the WBHRRC believed that the conversion would not only yield a quicker means of transportation, but would also be more economically profitable. Bonds to finance the project were sold without difficulty, and the work began without delay. The change of the horse-rail line to trolley system also resulted in a change in company name. The trolleys system's name was changed to the Burlington Traction Company (BTC) in November 1896. In the next few decades, lines were expanded and the cities of Winooski, Burlington, and Essex Junction became inter-connected. The last expansion was made in 1922. The entire line totaled approximately twelve miles. Another horse-drawn line called the Military Post Street Railway Company (MPSRC) began operation in early 1895, organized and conceived by the same individuals that owned the BTC. The line began in Upper Main Street in Winooski and ran two miles to Fort Ethan Allen. The company was leased to and operated by the WBHRRC on July 27, 1896, and was ultimately absorbed by the BTC on July 27, 1926.

The early 20th century saw great prosperity for the BTC, as the trolleys operated on quick schedules (usually 20-minute routes) and fast speeds (25 to 30 miles per hour) and served a key economical purpose for merchants and industries of surrounding cities. However, gradually, ridership declined as a new, alternative mode of transportation was introduced: the automobile. In February 1926, the first local bus route was established by William S. Appleyard, who received permission by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to operate a non-competitive route in the Hill Section of Burlington. The BTC had received an order from the Public Service Commission to terminate its service between Shelburne Road and Queen City Park, and to expand its lines. When the BTC refused, the PSC granted Appleyard permission to operate his buses in places directly in competition with the BTC. The final blow to the BTC was the devastating flood which hit Vermont in November of 1927. Among the staggering losses was the collapse of the Winooski Bridge, a main route of BTC. Although the bridge was rebuilt and a new trolley line established, it was clear by that time that the trolley era had come to an end. In 1929, Appleyard's Burlington Rapid Transit company bought the BTC in order to acquire its routes and eliminate competition.

From the description of Burlington Traction Company records, 1883-1929. (Vermont Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 729434966

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Burlington Traction Company. Burlington Traction Company records, 1883-1929. Vermont Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Burlington Rapid Transit. corporateBody
associatedWith Military Post Street Railway Company. corporateBody
associatedWith People's Hydro Electric Vermont Corporation. corporateBody
associatedWith People's Light and Power Corporation. corporateBody
associatedWith Vergennes Electric Company . corporateBody
associatedWith Winooski and Burlington Horse Railroad Company. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Essex Junction (Vt.)
Burlington (Vt.)
Winooski (Vt.)
Trolley buses
Electric utilities
Electric railroads
Horse railroads

Corporate Body

Active 1883

Active 1929

Related Descriptions

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6sr4vr8

Ark ID: w6sr4vr8

SNAC ID: 25564975