Transportation Deployment Casebook/2021/Arkansas


Arkansas Antique Streetcar

Prior to the 1880s city transport consisted of the modes walking, running and by horseback. Streetcars found themselves conveniently in the transitional period between the horse riding and automobile era having a short but fruitful lifespan. The rail component of the trolley is the most important as it allowed for strict direction control and in combination with its double flanged wheel required less force to move due to decreased friction. In 1883 Arkansas, streetcars were introduced in the form of a trolley being pulled by mules over rail however within 10 years electric streetcars quickly overtook the mule-pulled trolleys and were heavily used in Arkansas. The main hub for trams in Arkansas was Fort Smith which got major benefits such as new roads.[1]

As the 20th century dawned on Arkansas the usage of the trams reached its peak when they enabled access to theme parks such as the Electric Park and go for baseball games. Baseball was prohibited on Sundays in Arkansas, so when a tram line that went to a ballpark in Arkoma first opened an estimated 10,000 people used to Streetcar that day. The streetcar steadily declined from there as the main provider Fort Smith Light & Traction Company ran into legal issues and finally the Great Depression left the streetcar in ruin. In November of 1933 the last streetcar had its final run in Fort Smith which was once known as the main hub of streetcars in Arkansas. Although a few lines still ran in Arkansas by 1947 there were no streetcars within the state.[2]

Past Transport SystemsEdit

Previously within urban cities in Arkansas the horse and buggy were predominantly used on roads. This system however was not a public system and was mostly only available for families who were wealthy. Even a horse with no carriage would be reserved for the upper classes as land is required for a horse. The streetcar was the first major transport system for the public produced from the industrial revolution.[3]

Horse Powered TramsEdit

The first horse pulled tram introduced into the US in 1832. It was an early form of transport that allowed for public use and didn't require it to be booked out. It combined steel wheels and rail to allow for extremely low friction allowing horses to pull more then what they could in normal carriages. Arkansas saw the use of horse drawn carriages from 1876 to 1926. The main disadvantage for this system is the need for horses. [4]

Horses can only pull a tram for so many hours before they are exhausted. To maintain one network a lot of horses need to be used. On top of this costs for feeding them and stabling them are extremely high as are other factors in its general upkeep. Electric powered trams quickly overtook horses as they were much cheaper and required less logistical management.

Horse-Pulled Tram

Technological AdvancementsEdit

The rapid urbanisation of cities due to the industrial revolution was a key factor as the demand for transport increased.  As these cities started getting larger in size people needed a transport mechanism to get from place to place. Streetcars provided this transport in bulk and was able to utilise the already in-place infrastructure such as roads which were initially constructed for horses and carriages. The Although mule powered streetcars were used at the start, electric streetcars were quickly adopted and were far more efficient.

Steam Powered TramsEdit

Steam powered trams made a very brief appearance in Arkansas in 1888 but only lasted one year due to their many limitations. Steam powered trams simply weren't efficient in power usage and due to the burning of coal required to create steam its produced many pollutants which reduced the air-quality of cities. Its thick smoke emissions that were produced made the city look generally worse and since electricity power advanced quickly the Arkansas steam powered line only lasted one year.

Steam Powered Tram

Electricity Powered TramsEdit

Although electric trams existed in the 1880s there wasn't any infrastructure and the technology didn't exist to make them a possible better alternative to the current trams at the time. As the use of electricity soared and was seen as something extremely versatile adoption was a no brainer. The Ground-level power supply system allowed electric trams to be powered by the rail they were on. In some areas this was a safety hazard as people or pets would walk over the rail and get an electric shock. An alternative technology was Overhead Lines which provided power through electricity lines above the ground.

The first electric tram in Arkansas appeared in 1896. As soon as it arrived all previous forms of energy used to move trams started to be phased out rapidly. Electricity which was becoming a source of power for a variety of different appliances and as its availability increased as did its convenience to be used. [5] The companies that owned the first electric trams in

Electricity Powered Tram

Market DevelopmentEdit

As there was a large void for intra-city transport the street-cars caught on very quickly. Transport systems allow a population to be more efficient as a group. Street-cars turned job opportunities from walking range to much further as they could be used to travel to and from work. Baseball was prohibited in Arkansas  on Sundays due to it being the  day of the week to go to church. When a tram line to Arkoma ballpark which is located in Oklahoma. On the first Sunday of its opening 10,000 people left the state to go to the ball park. The world becomes much smaller when transport becomes available. The Electric Park also received many visitors who came by tram. Businesses began using street-cars as a distribution system and some of these trams were refrigerated moving meats and other foods.[6]

Policy DevelopmentEdit

Arkansas replicated the main policies of heavy rail with minor amendments. The policies present at the time allowed tram lines to be privately run but must be done to government standards. This meant that fees for this transport system were fixed and unable to change to ensure no economic inequality. This however would be removed when tram companies were struggling against automobiles. This policy could be argued as being the main killer of the tram system as by the time the fixed fare policy was removed it was too late and trams were rendered obsolete shorty after. The fixed rate of 5c did not account for inflation and therefore

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a policy which ensured that people with disabilities that were unable to travel by tram could still have a transport system. This transport system was separate to the tram line and if they were unable to use the tram they could use a custom system that the private company in-charge of that rail network would have to by policy provide. This system would usually run parallel along the line.[7]

In 1903 the Arkansas General Assembly wanted to pass the Streetcar Segregation act which forced African-American and white passengers to be segregated to “separate but equal” streetcar sections.[8] Jim Crow was the individual behind this act however since there were no black law makers the Arkansas General Assembly. This lead to a large boycott of trams and African-American leaders. It was not only black people who were angered by this but also white people. The protests went on for weeks however this policy would still define the way in which transport would work in Arkansas for decades.[9]

Quantitative InvestigationEdit

The following data has been extracted from the McGraw Railway Directory. It contains in the miles of track in each municipality in Arkansas that had trams organised by year. Using this data and a 3 parameter logistics function the birthing, growth and maturity stages can be identified. An estimate for the decline can also be done. Municipalities that only had one or two entries of data were removed from the table as they would impact the data negatively being an outlier. Years prior to 1897 had limited numbers and were not kept well as many of the suburbs were missing. It is important to note that streetcars were around before this time. The data was not included due to it scenarios seeming impossible where there was high growth followed by miles of track missing.


Miles of Track in Arkansas MunicipalitiesEdit

1897 1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1917 1918 1919 1920
Argenta - - - - - - - - - 8 - 4 4.5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Eureka Springs 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 3 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Fort Smith 8.5 8.5 6 6 6 1.5 4 12 12 20 23 23 23 23 23 25 27 27 33 33 33 33
Helena - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5.2 5.5 5.5 5.5 5.5
Hot Springs 11.8 11.8 11.8 11.8 12.8 12.8 12.8 12.8 12.8 10 12.8 12.8 12.8 12.8 13.8 13.8 13.8 13.8 13.8 13.8 13.8 13.8
Little Rock 19 19 19 19 21 21 22.5 28 33 33 30.417 32 32 32 32 32 32.3 37.28 39.58 39.58 41 41
Pine Bluff - - - - - 6.5 7 8 7 7 7.5 8.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9 9 9 9.5 9.5 11 10
Texarkana 3 4 4 4 4 4 - 10 12 12 12 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 14 14 14 14
Walnut Ridge - - - - - - - - 1.5 2 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5
TOTAL 44.8 45.8 43.3 43.3 46.8 48.3 49.8 74.3 81.8 87.5 99.717 93.3 98.8 99.3 100.8 102.3 104.6 114.78 126.88 126.88 129.8 128.8

S-Curve EstimationEdit

In order to estimate the birthing, growth and maturity of the street-car in Arkansas the following model was used:[10]



  •   - Predicted miles of track
  •   - Maximum Saturation
  •   - Year to be estimated
  •   - Inflection time
  •   - Coefficient estimated

The data from McGraw Railway Directory was used in these estimates and the following parameters were found:


The parameter   was found by using Solver in excel to change b until the average for the delta between predicted miles of track and miles of track was at a minimum. This produced the following table.

Miles of Track & Predicted Miles of TrackEdit

Year Miles of Track Predicted Miles of Track Delta
1897 44.8 32.01051577 12.78948
1898 45.8 36.59933878 9.200661
1899 43.3 41.58009195 1.719908
1900 43.3 46.91510399 3.615104
1901 46.8 52.54909486 5.749095
1902 48.3 58.41040366 10.1104
1903 49.8 64.41398609 14.61399
1904 74.3 70.46601391 3.833986
1905 81.8 76.46959634 5.330404
1906 87.5 82.33090514 5.169095
1907 99.717 87.96489601 11.7521
1908 93.3 93.29990805 9.19E-05
1909 98.8 98.28066122 0.519339
1910 99.3 102.8694842 3.569484
1911 100.8 107.0459049 6.245905
1912 102.3 110.8049521 8.504952
1913 104.6 114.1546232 9.554623
1914 114.78 117.112969 2.332969
1917 126.88 123.9120322 2.967968
1918 126.88 125.5909366 1.289063
1919 129.8 127.0291282 2.770872
1920 128.8 128.2563934 0.543607

Using this data both sets of data were plotted and the following was produced:



Although there was plenty of data missing as Arkansas the overall outcome seems to fit the curve quite well.

Using the S-curve it can be predicted that Arkansas' tram network grew steadily starting from 1880 and had a period of rapid growth starting in 1900 and reaching maturity in 1909. This growth would start to level out in the early 1920's and it can be estimated that it would start to decline in 1925. Although there was data missing the model seems to be quite accurate and it aligns with real events that occurred.


  1. Trolleys in Arkansas | Only In Arkansas
  2. Streetcar City | National Museum of American History (
  3. "The Era of Trolleys in Fort Smith, Arkansas". Fort Smith Trolley Museum. Fort Smith Streetcar Restoration Association Inc. 2006.
  4. Middleton, William D. (1967). The Time of the Trolley, ISBN 0-89024-013-2.
  5. McGraw-Hill Company, McGraw Electric Railway Directory, August 1920
  6. White, John W. (1986). The Great Yellow Fleet.
  7. NADTC History of the ADA Information Series
  8. Streetcar Segregation Act of 1903
  9. Caste and Class: The Black Experience in Arkansas, 1880-1920
  10. The Transportation Experience: Policy, Planning, and Deployment, By David Levinson & William Garrison (2005) [Page 384]