Remembering Our Lost Trolley Systems

When electric power became more accessible in the late 1900’s, cities around the country gradually replaced horse-drawn streetcars with electric streetcars, also known as trolleys. These trolleys were efficient, provided a smoother ride, and could carry more passengers, making them the preferred mode of urban transportation.

Trolley systems experienced significant expansion during the early to mid-20th century. As cities grew and urban populations increased, trolley networks expanded to cover larger areas, connecting more neighborhoods, and providing a reliable means of public transportation. Trolley lines became an integral part of the urban fabric, and their presence contributed to the development of various communities.    These systems include the well-known ‘red cars’ of the Los Angeles Railway, the non-elevated Chicago Surface Lines, Florida’s St. Petersburg Municipal Railway, and long gone and surprising lines like Honolulu Rapid Transit.

What’s amazing about each of these systems, is how quickly they were planned, built, and operated? Today, we’re accustomed to public infrastructure projects taking decades to plan and complete, but these systems were built in years (and in some cases, months!).

Additionally, nearly all these systems started out as private – not public! – enterprises.  This usually resulted in conflict between public officials and the owners of each trolley system, which did not help the industry survive once new technology started to change the economics of public transit.

The mid-20th century brought about a significant shift in transportation preferences. The automobile industry experienced rapid growth, and private car ownership became more widespread. As a result, demand for trolley systems declined as people chose the flexibility and convenience of personal vehicles. Additionally, the rise of suburbanization and the construction of extensive highway networks further eroded the viability of trolley systems in many cities.

In response to changing transportation trends, some cities started to replace their trolley systems with bus networks and soon the rails embedded in streets were removed and covered over.

We burned our trolleys, pulled up the tracks, and began a process of unravelling the fabric of communities built with walkability and density along these tracks.   

But they don’t need to be forgotten.  Retro Metro is the home of defunct, forgotten, and abandoned transportation and trolley brands.

Retro Metro creates high quality retro transit brand clothing and gifts that celebrate the lost causes of defunct transportation systems – and the places they served.    These designs are carefully recreated from original transit tokens and promotional materials to represent the brand and logo of these once proud and essential arteries of transit.

Retro Metro t-shirts and sweatshirts make an ideal gift for fans of history, trolley and rail fans, transit advocates or a unique, vintage design reflecting the historical roots of your home town or adopted city. is the only place on the internet where you can find authentic logo recreations of the forgotten, lost, and abandoned trolley and transit systems that once rolled along our streets.