Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha interurban (MRK)
Explore the fascinating history of the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha interurban (MRK), a remarkable transportation system that once connected these vibrant cities. Uncover its origins, expansion, and the pivotal role it played in fostering regional connectivity. Dive into the legacy of MRK and its enduring impact on the communities it served.
In 1897 the M-R-K Line became the nation’s first electric interurban railroad by connecting the local streetcar systems in Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha. It followed the route of today’s Highway 32, which was a dirt country road at the time.
By 1932 the M-R-K interurban route of TMER&L was relocated away from the side of the road to a separate and safer non-stop Rapid Transit route. Local passengers living along the highway were shuttled to connections with the interurban by small gasoline buses.
Much of the abandoned Rapid Transit route through Racine’s northside, Caledonia, and Oak Creek still exists today as a bicycle path and utility corridor for gas, electric, and communication lines.
A southbound interurban train is about to turn west off Main Street into the Racine Union Station on Wisconsin Avenue in 1946. Passengers could transfer to local streetcars and regional buses serving Sturtevant, Burlington, Delavan, and Lake Geneva from this station. The historic Racine Public Library building is visible in the right side of the photo. Today this is the home of the Racine Heritage Museum.
An interurban train rolls south on Wisconsin Avenue between 11th & 12th Streets in Racine in the summer of 1946. Trains moved slowly and stopped at assigned corners when operating on city streets, but they ran at speeds up to 60 m.p.h in the open countryside. Rod Robinson photo.
Beneath a canopy of shade trees, this southbound M-R-K interurban train is about to turn off Wisconsin Avenue to run west on 17th Street in August 1946. The tracks continued west on 17th Street to Mead Street, then turned south to reach the J.I. Case plant and the separate right of way parallel to Sheridan Road for the run to Kenosha. Automobiles and pedestrians were required to move out of the path of the enormous trains running in the streets. James P. Harper photo.