Today in Transportation History – 1911: An Interurban in Oklahoma

The Sand Springs Railway in northeastern Oklahoma was incorporated. By that May, the railway formally began operations on 8.6 miles (13.8 kilometers) of track between the community of Sand Springs and the city of Tulsa.

The major force behind the new railway was a Wisconsin-born businessman and philanthropist named Charles Page. He and his family had moved to Tulsa in 1903, and five years later he purchased 160 acres of nearby land to establish what soon became Sand Springs. He used part of the property to build a home for orphaned children. Another one of his big projects for the fledgling community was a local park that eventually featured a number of amusement rides. Page also had deer, antelope, and bison transported to the park to live there.

Page initiated the Sand Springs Railway to facilitate travel between the community and Tulsa. Passenger service for the railway was first provided by two gasoline-engine rail cars. In 1912, however, these cars were replaced by electric trolleys.  The Sand Springs Railway – characterized by many as an example of the then-popular transit service known as interurbans – also hauled freight for various businesses in the area.

The railway quickly proved to be beneficial for Sand Springs, which became a city in 1912. “Interurban Road Made Sand Springs,” proclaimed the headline for a July 1915 article in the Tulsa Daily World newspaper.

“The benefits that come to a community through the operation of an interurban railway through it have never been more strikingly displayed in the example of the Sand Springs line, running out of Tulsa . . . to Sand Springs and Sand Springs park,” reported the article. “Sand Springs cars entering Tulsa on Saturday afternoons and evenings are almost as loaded with humanity as they are when departing from Tulsa with persons bound for Sand Springs park.” The park, as the article further noted, had “picnicking grounds, with zoo and lake and flower gardens and open-air band concerts three nights a week.”

The original Sand Springs Railway made its final passenger run between Sand Springs and Tulsa in January 1955; at the time, it was the last surviving interurban service of its kind in Oklahoma. In its current incarnation, the Sand Springs Railway is owned by the Colorado transportation firm OmniTrax, Inc., and operated as a freight rail service for steel, pulp, scrap iron, scrap paper, petroleum products, lumber, and plastic.

For more information on the Sand Springs Railway, please check out  https://www.american-rails.com/ss.html and the 30 May 2014 Tulsa World article “Historic Sand Springs Railway sold to Colorado’s OmniTrax at http://www.tulsaworld.com/businesshomepage1/historic-sand-springs-railway-sold-to-colorado-s-omnitrax/article_c8e13934-556d-5c17-abf9-097046c2e42d.html.

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