Belle City Street Railway History

Discover the intriguing history of the Belle City Street Railway, a pivotal force in Racine’s transportation evolution. Uncover its beginnings, growth, and the role it played in shaping the city’s public transit landscape. Explore the enduring legacy of this historical transit system that connected the community for generations.

Racine, WI, Belle City Street Railway, horse car, first public transit, Main Street, Monument Square, October 4, 1883.
Racine’s first public transit began on October 4, 1883. The Belle City Street Railway operated horsecars on narrow gauge railroad tracks through the unpaved streets. The horsecars ran through downtown connecting to Racine’s three railroad depots located on State Street, Main Street, and Junction Avenue. This photo shows the first run of a bright yellow and red horsecar at the corner of 5th & Main Streets in downtown Racine. Today’s modern buses follow many of the original transit routes. Billings photo.
Racine, WI, Racine Junction, Belle City Street Railway, Milwaukee Road, electric streetcar, 17th Street, Holborn Street, buffalo coat, 1892.
Electric streetcar 14 pauses at the end of the line at the Racine Junction depot (17th & Holborn Streets) where passengers could transfer to the steam train to Sturtevant. The driver wears a full length buffalo coat to stay warm in the open cab of the streetcar during his 10-hour shift. Racine’s first electric streetcars began operating in 1892. The horsecars were slow and extremely hard on the horses, so the system was upgraded with the new form of technology— electric power. Progress continues as today’s transit system is being converted to electric battery-powered buses.
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