HistoryLink: Interurban rail service between Everett and Seattle ends February 20, 1939

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 20, 2014 marks 75 years since the last run of the Interurban Train through Shoreline.

“Streaming confetti and loaded with passengers, two cars of the Everett-Seattle interurban line pulled out of the Everett depot at 8 o’clock Monday evening for the final round trip. ... The departure of the two huge cars was witnessed by approximately 1500 persons, who felt mixed emotions as the whistles sounded, the bell tolled, and the wheels rolled for the last time.” 
--------The Everett Daily Herald, February 21, 1939
The article is from our news partner, HistoryLink, and the photos are from the Walter V. Shannon Estate, courtesy of the City of Lynnwood. 
Motorman Walt Shannon pulls Car No. 53 out of the Everett car barn
on the last day of operation.
Photo courtesy Walter V. Shannon Estate

Interurban rail service between Everett and Seattle ends February 20, 1939
This file made possible by: Sound Transit

At 11 p.m. on February 20, 1939, the last North Coast Lines electric interurban railcar leaves Everett for Seattle. This marks the end of 40 years of regional interurban service on Puget Sound.

Fred Sander launched construction of an interurban railway between Seattle and Everett in 1900, but it took him six years to complete six miles of track between Ballard and Hall's Lake. The regional subsidiary of the giant Stone and Webster utility cartel purchased Sander's line in 1909 and organized the Seattle-Everett Traction Company to operate it. Stone and Webster already managed Seattle-Tacoma interurban service.

Car No. 53 and Car No. 55 meet at the Ronald Station c. 1937
Photo courtesy Walter V. Shannon Estate

Shaping North Seattle

The Seattle-Everett line extended from downtown Seattle near today's Westlake Center, ran north to Fremont via Westlake Avenue, up Phinney and Greenwood avenues, and then followed a route later paralleled by Highway 99. This service played a major role in promoting the development of Seattle's northern neighborhoods and suburbs and spurred development of local business districts such as Greenwood.

The Seattle-Everett interurban was reorganized as the Pacific Northwest Traction Company in 1912. The company built a second line from Mount Vernon to Bellingham but failed to complete the missing rail link between Everett and Mount Vernon. It introduced motor buses to shuttle passengers between the two terminals, and integrated bus and rail service as the North Coast Lines in 1927. That same year, the company built a handsome new downtown Seattle terminal, which survives as the Greyhound depot.

A crowd gathered on February 20, 1939 to watch Cars No 51 and 53
pull out of Everett Station for the last time.
Photo courtesy Walter V. Shannon Estate
End of an Era

Completion of Highway 99 in 1932, growing competition from automobiles, and Seattle's decision to scrap its streetcar system doomed the line. The last run left Everett for Seattle at 11 p.m., February 20, 1939. Some of its large electric cars ended up as roadside diners, and the rest headed to the scrap yard.

Federal anti-trust rulings dissolved the national Stone and Webster cartel in 1934, and its Puget Sound Power and Light Company was reorganized under local control. In 1946, federal regulators ordered Puget Power to divest North Coast Lines, ending its involvement in interurban transportation.


Richard C. Berner, Seattle in the 20th Century Vols. 1 and 2 (Seattle: Charles Press, 1991); Leslie Blanchard, The Street Railway Era in Seattle: A Chronicle of the First Six Decades (Forty Fort, PA: H. E. Cox, 1968); Walt Crowley, Routes: An Interpretive History of Public Transportation in Greater Seattle (Seattle: Metro Transit, 1993); Warren Wing, To Seattle by Trolley (Edmonds, WA: Pacific Fast Mail, 1988). By Walt Crowley, September 19, 2000

(The Warren Wing book in the Sources is for sale at the Shoreline Historical Museum.)


Anonymous,  February 20, 2014 at 9:27 PM  

Thank you for this article! My grandmother told me once about how she and her mother rode the Interurban from their home in Phinney to visit my grandmother's paternal aunt and uncle "out in the boonies" (somewhere around where Ronald UMC is now). Growing up in Shoreline, I can't fathom what it must have looked like as mostly farmland. Fun to think about.

Anonymous,  February 21, 2014 at 8:24 AM  

And how shortsighted we were to remove the line. To think that it would have made for a fantastic light rail through way is sad.

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