Car #26 of the Sheboygan Light, Power and Railway Co. is an artifact from the expansive years of the Wisconsin interurban railroad industry. This interurban industry in Wisconsin and the rest of the mid-west started from horse-drawn city streetcar lines. With the advent of electrically powered cars, the companies were able to expand their service out of the larger cities and into the rural areas and eventually these lines connected with other urban centers. These companies were referred to as interurban railroads. A building boom followed and by 1908 it was possible to ride on electric railroads from Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, to mid-state New York. Soon after, however, the automobile started to appear. The industry reached its peak for new miles in one year in 1903, and by 1916 the total miles in use peaked. From that point the companies were less prosperous, and the cars and services reflected the austere conditions of the companies. By 1940 the industry was largely gone. The companies that survived reverted to streetcar lines although a few continued to connect large cities, but after World War II the city bus put the streetcars out-of-business.
Car #26 comes from the expansive years of the industry and gives us insight into the mood of that era. When times are good and the future appears bright, we tend to express ourselves with some degree of lavishness as in Car #26. When compared to other forms of travel in that era, Car #26 takes on the appearance of great comfort and convenience reflecting how the owners of the railroad felt about the future.
Following this beginning of great expectations, Car #26 had a life similar to the industry as a whole. When forced with austerity, the railroad modified the car so it could be operated by one person. This modification eliminated the conductor and also consisted of closing one of the entry doors in each vestibule. When the car was no longer needed by the railroad, the electrical equipment and trucks were removed and it was sold and became a vacation cottage near the shores of Lake Michigan.