History - Early 1900s
It was during the early 1900s that the need for public transportation became apparent in Oklahoma City. This was due to four separate housing additions being developed between NW 10th and NW 23rd. The developments were a great distance from the downtown business district, during a time when most people walked to work.
A solution surfaced in 1902 when Anton Classen, Charles Colcord, Henry Overholser and John Shartel obtained the first franchise in Oklahoma City for a streetcar system. On January 30, 1902 the Metropolitan Railway began with only two lines; the “University Line” (Blue Line) and “Maywood Line” (Red Line). Within three years 16 miles of track had been laid.
In 1904, the Metropolitan Railway was renamed as the City Railway Company. It was renamed again in 1907 as the Oklahoma Railway Company (ORC). Classen was ORC’s first president, and Shartel was the first vice president.
Oklahoma City’s population grew from an estimated 14,000 in 1903 to 64,205 in 1910. It was during this period of growth that Classen and Shartel realized the need to facilitate recreation in Oklahoma City. Lines were extended to reach the OKC Fairgrounds, Delmar Gardens and Wheeler Park (home of the city’s first zoo and baseball park). By 1906, the system had moved nearly 4 million riders!
In 1908 Classen and Shartel built a power plant in the Bell Isle addition on the fringes of the city. The power plant was needed to operate the trolleys after a shortage of electricity forced the superintendent of the power company to decide between lights and trolleys.