December will mark the 100th anniversary of the inaugural run of one of Jefferson County’s faded treasures. The Interurban, a full-sized electric train, ran daily between Port Arthur and Beaumont from December 15, 1913, to August 15, 1932.
In the early 1900s, both Port Arthur and Beaumont were thriving. Oil had surpassed cattle and lumber as the major export of SETX, and many people had come here at the turn of the century to earn a better living. A burgeoning industry as well as a growing population had given rise to the need for transportation between the two cities, and in 1913, Jefferson County residents received a gem.
In July of that year, the Stone and Webster Corporation purchased the Beaumont Traction Company, thus acquiring 12 miles of track with overhead electric lines, 20 passenger cars, and a car barn. This, along with the formation of the Jefferson County Traction Company, laid the groundwork for a rail system between Beaumont and Port Arthur. Acquiring the right of way through the county was a simple task since most of the landowners and farmers welcomed the idea of easy transportation to and from the cities. Most gave the required land away or sold it for a token dollar.
The train would make 19 trips per day with an early start of 5:45 am and a midnight finish. Tickets cost 90 cents for a roundtrip or 50 cents one way and were prorated for the 10 stops between the two cities. Stops along the way included South Park, Spindletop, Nederland, Rice Farm, and Griffing/Pear Ridge.
Certainly the railway was a great asset to Jefferson County during its run, and in 1915, it aided the fleeing residents of Port Arthur during a hurricane until a power outage stranded the train. Some passengers rode out the storm, spending a total of 12 hours in the railcars.
In August 1932, the Interurban railway made its final departure, ending 19 years of service. Although it had survived hurricanes and other element-related hardships, it could not survive progress. By the 1930s, private ownership of cars and a bus system ultimately made the need for a passenger railway between Beaumont and Port Arthur redundant.
Nothing is left of the original line except a right of way where the tracks once lay. Sadly, the tracks have been replaced with power lines, which stretch from 19th Street in Port Arthur to near Lamar University in Beaumont. A historical marker, dedicated in 2002, is located on Austin Avenue in front of what was then the office.