streetcar

streetcar, small, self-propelled railroad car, similar to the type used in rapid-transit systems, that operates on tracks running through city streets and is used to carry passengers. Most often cars of this type are powered by electricity supplied through an underground third rail or an overhead wire. A device called a trolley that is connected to the streetcar's electrical system makes rolling or sliding contact with the rail or wire; hence the name trolley car often is applied to such vehicles. Streetcars are sometimes powered by diesel or other internal-combustion engines, generally in suburban or rural areas, where the distances to be covered make the cost of electrification prohibitive. The first streetcars, which were drawn by horses, were introduced in New York City during the 1830s. The first electric streetcar system for urban passenger service in the United States was introduced in Cleveland during the 1880s. The use of streetcars expanded in the United States until World War I. Since then most have been replaced by buses, although many still remain in use, and a new system of streetcars has been built in San Diego.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on streetcar from Fact Monster:

  • A Streetcar Named Desire - Starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden, Rudy Bond
  • trolley - trolley: trolley: see streetcar.
  • Appleton - Appleton Appleton, city (1990 pop. 65,695), seat of Outagamie co., E Wis., on the Fox River near ...
  • Riga - Riga Riga , city (1992 est. pop. 901,700), capital of Latvia, on the Daugava (Western Dvina) River ...
  • Marlon Brando - Biography of Marlon Brando, Don Corleone in The Godfather

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Technology: Terms and Concepts