With electric lines overhead, streetcars became popular in Colorado following their invention in the 1890s. Here in Greeley, streetcar technology struggled to take off. When streetcar technology finally came to Greeley through the Greeley & Denver Railroad Company (G&D), residents failed to embrace mass transportation.

A Greeley and Denver Railroad Company trolley operates in the snow.

A Greeley and Denver Railroad Company trolley operates in the snow in Greeley.

Greeley was the last town in Colorado to have a streetcar with the line opening for service in 1910. Other towns in Colorado had utilized streetcar technology before the electric streetcar’s invention with some having horse-drawn streetcar service in the 1870s and 1880s. Street cars were introduced in Greeley following a population boom. Greeley’ growth required transportation across town from the grounds of the Colorado State Normal School (today’s University of Northern Colorado) to downtown and Island Grove. Businessmen dreamed of connecting the agriculture industry of Northern Colorado to the urban centers in Denver. After years of deliberation and construction, the streetcar line in Greeley opened on May 30, 1910. Opening day saw 7,000 Greeley residents riding on the streetcar as it went along the 3.5-mile loop. With rides for 5 cents, Greeleyites embraced the streetcar for a couple of years, but the relationship soon went off the rails.

Once Greeley installed their streetcar system, the technology of streetcars was already outdated. The roads in Greeley were crowded with motorized cars and animal-drawn carts competing for space. In 1912, a Greeley streetcar collided with a young child and resulted in their death further souring the city on continued streetcar operation. G&D fought to preserve their modern image by buying new cars, but their efforts would be in vain. The streetcar storage barn and power station were engulfed in flames in 1917 which destroyed the streetcars and the operation system. G&D never recovered and limped through their remaining years. They stopped paying the streetcar operators and had to repair with broken cars to keep three streetcars in operation. The operation finally ended when the last car stopped working in December of 1922. The tracks were removed the following year. Despite being the last town to embrace streetcars, Greeley also holds the distinction as the first town in Colorado to abandon their streetcar system after only 12 years of operation.

A wrecked automobile sitting on the trolley tracks surrounded by a crowd of people looking at the wreck.

A streetcar/automobile wreck in Greeley.

Even though Greeley didn’t have a long relationship with streetcars, mass transit is an important part of the Greeley community. Today, Greeley Evans Transit runs the public buses. This bus system Greeley serves people from commuters to students at UNC and CSU. If you are interested in visiting a streetcar in person, come and see our streetcar at the Centennial Village Museum during our holiday events or our summer open season.

Written by Augusta Rudnick, Lead Interpreter

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