Then and Now

Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad

Trains combined with power from hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River became the first urban public transportation system in early Spokane.


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Image One Photo Archive The Spokesman-Review Image Two Jesse Tinsley The Spokesman-Review

Trains combined with power from hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River became the first urban public transportation system in early Spokane. The Spokane and Montrose Street Railway, which operated the first electrified streetcar system, was taken over by a business group headed by Jay. P. Graves in 1902 and renamed the Spokane Traction Company. Graves and timber businessman Frederick Blackwell of Coeur d’Alene extended electric train service to Lake Coeur d’Alene in 1903 under the name Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad. Other interurban trains were added with the goal of opening land to development along the routes. James Hill, the driving force behind the Great Northern Railway, bought the intercity train system in 1909. The S.I.E.R.R. was folding into the Great Northern in 1929, but continued to operate its interurban lines, to Colfax, Moscow and Coeur d’Alene, until the early 1940s. Spokane Traction Company discontinued its streetcars in 1936, converting its fleet to buses, which were more flexible and economical. Most of the S.I.E.R.R. system was scrapped in the 1970s and early 1980s.


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