Portland Railway Light & Power streetcar system map, 1915
Portland was built around the streetcar. In the early 20th century, the city was rapidly expanding, and the best way to build new suburban subdivisions was to build streetcar lines. After all, if you didn't want to take the train, didn't own a horse, and weren't a millionaire who owned one of those newfangled automobile gizmos, you had to walk. The train system was run by Portland Railway Light & Power, which is the ancestor of today's Portland General Electric.
The combination of transit service and electric utility seems odd today, but at the time it made perfect sense. Streetcars were one of the largest consumers of electricity at the time, and the infrastructure used to build out electric streetcar networks could also be used to electrify homes and businesses. In addition to the P.R.L. & P. local streetcar system, there was also a regional electric rail system known as the interurban system. (A separate map of that is shown here.)
The local streetcar system would close in 1950, and its regional interurban lines would close in 1958.
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