Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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(I do NOT buy or sell certificates on this website)

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Search the Coxrail database for descriptions of 23,700+ certificates from over 7,400 North American railroad companies.

Utilities and public service companies

Examples:

Cataloged
XYZ Power & Railway Co
XYZ Light & Street Railway Co
Excluded
XYZ Public Service Co
XYZ Light & Power Co

Yes, it is true that many references to railroad companies and street railways include utilities among their listings. I understand that because I have recorded almost 30,000 "railroad" names from countless sources.

However, my goal is NOT to record every utility that ever had an interest in, or even operated, a street railway. Why? Because my project is about railroading, an industry that made the bulk of its profits from transportation. Utilities made their provides from selling power. Those two endeavors overlapped for a while, but sometimes only days.

Early 20th century utilities often grew from streetcar operations. Many streetcar companies started out as horse car operations. Large numbers of those early companies were never formally incorporated, so researching horse car companies is very challenging. Relatively few horse car companies appear in this database.

As electric generation became available in the later part of the 18th century, many horse car operations switched to electric power. During switch over, hundreds of streetcar companies incorporated.

In big cities, redundant and parallel streetcar lines were the norm. Most developed large appetites for electricity. Business logic dictated consolidation was necessary to pay for power generation.

Companies consolidated and gradually realized that extra power could be sold to municipalities and business. During the early 1900s, many streetcar companies evolved into power generation companies and started including words like "power & "light" in their corporate names.

After World War I, highly mobile buses began appearing in great numbers and quickly cannibalized ridership from fixed rail routes. Development of electric-powered buses grew rapidly and by World War II, streetcar operations had disappeared by the hundreds.

Demand for electricity continued to grow while demand for streetcars decreased. Essentially all references to rail transportation had disappeared from corporate utility names by 1950.

It is true that many utilities evolved from old streetcar companies. For that reason, hundreds of utilities could be included in my railroad database. However, I would need to research every company in order to determine which companies has streetcar origins and exactly when they dropped streetcar transportation.

Although some utilities operated streetcars for years, most utilities dropped rail operations within a year or so and dropped "Railway" from their corporate names. Some operated street railways for only days before switching over to buses, so it is hard to understand why anyone would call such short-timers "railroads."

I simply do not have time to catalog utilities in addition to railroads, so I list power generation and public service companies in the railroad database only when their company names confirm rail involvement. I exclude ALL other utilities.

Some collectors argue that today's utilities are large users of rail equipment and therefore should be cataloged as "railroads."

Today's railroads haul staggering amounts of coal by long "unit trains" made up of 110 to 120 cars. If you see one of those monstrous unit trains and all the cars look they same, you are probably watching cars owned by a utility or leased TO a utility.

However, is use, or even ownership, of railroad cars sufficient to be called a railroad company? If it were, then I must be a computer company because I own several computers!

Obviously, ownership of rail equipment does not make a utility a railroad company.

Wish there were a separate stock and bond database for utilities? Me, too. Why not begin such a project for yourself?

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(Last updated August 8, 2020)

 

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