The Danbury and Bethel Street Railway was a streetcar operator in Danbury and Bethel, Connecticut. Service began in 1887, and at the greatest extent the company operated 15 miles of trackage. The primary coverage area was the old and historic central area of Danbury.
In Connecticut, most local trolley lines were interconnected and operated by the Connecticut Company or the Connecticut Railway and Lighting Company. Danbury's system, isolated from these, was atypical.
The company's main line was on Main Street from City Hall to Wooster Square. At Wooster Square, the line branched. One line went north on Main Street to North Street, ending at the intersection of North Street and Padanaram Road. Another line left Wooster Square and went east to White Street, to the edge of Beaver Brook at the intersection of Triangle Street and White Street. The line went west from City Hall up to the West Street park. At the West Street park, the track divided again, one line going farther out on West Street to Lake Avenue. The other branch at the West Street park went out Division Street to West Wooster Street, along West Wooster to Frye’s Corner, west on Park Avenue to the Fairgrounds, down Backus Avenue to Kenosia Avenue and on to Lake Kenosia.
From the City Hall the tracks went down South Main Street to the car barns and then south to Bethel, continuing down to its Main Street, ending at Fountain Place.
Around 1914, the Danbury and Bethel Street Railway ran into financial difficulty, with decreasing ridership resulting from the decline of the local hat factories. The company attempted to construct a trolley route between Bridgeport and Danbury, but could only build as far north as Trumbull, and this caused a severe loss of funds.
As roadways were improved and mass production made cars more affordable, passenger ridership further declined as they swiched from riding the streetcars to driving private automobiles. Further financial losses resulted from a fire in the barns in the early 1920’s which destroyed 19 trolley cars.
In the 1920s a new form of competition developed. Small privately operated buses operating flexible routes dubbed “jitneys” began operation in Danbury in the 1920’s. Jitney was slang for a nickel at that time, and jitneys got that name because they had a 5 cent fare. But service was not permitted on the trolley routes.
In 1918, after the company went into bankruptcy, J. Moss Ives, the brother of famous Danbury composer Charles Ives, took charge. He purchased the first buses by 1921 to operate a route between West Street and Lake Avenue in Danbury, rather than expending the capital to extend the trolley line. Ives reorganized the trolley company as the Danbury and Bethel Traction Company in 1925, now operating on 13 miles of track.