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  • The Richmond Union Passenger Railway, in Richmond, Virginia, was the first practical electric trolley system, and set the pattern for most subsequent electric trolley systems around the world. It is an IEEE milestone in engineering. The Richmond system was not the first attempt to operate an electric trolley. According to the IEEE, there were at least 74 earlier attempts to provide electric trolley service in over 60 communities in North America, the United Kingdom, and continental Europe. However, these earlier attempts were not reliable enough to replace the existing animal-powered trolleys. The Richmond system was designed by Frank Julian Sprague. After trials in late 1887, it began regular operation on February 2, 1888, with 10 streetcars. Electric power was supplied through overhead trolley wires for two 7.5 horsepower motors on each car. Large cars weighed 6900 pounds, provided 40 seats, and carried up to 100 passengers; small cars weighed 6700 pounds with 22 seats and up to 65 passengers. Running speed was 7.5 miles/hour, with 15 miles/hour as a maximum speed.

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