Page 82 - Apr2017

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Out & About |
a look back
The Galveston
Street Railway
Images courtesy of Rosenberg Library
Galveston was the first city in Texas to have a street railway
system, when Col. R. Rush Plumly chartered the Galveston City
Railroad Company one year after the Civil War ended. That line
began operations in 1868, with a line down Market Street using
mule-pulled cars. The rails were originally laid with wooden
planks between the rails for the mules to walk.
In 1880, the Galveston City Railroad Co. reported it had carried
1,879,729 passengers over 16 miles of road. Its 149 mules had
drawn 54 cars a total of 938,747 miles, and the company had
83 employees. On Sept. 2, 1890, the city granted the railway
company the authority to electrify its lines, and on Dec. 6, 1891,
the first electric car ran down the East Broadway route.
In 1897, the Galveston City Railroad Co. went bankrupt and all
assets were sold to Charles E. Hotchkiss, who obtained a city
franchise that year to operate their equipment. That endeavor
came to a quick end just three years later on Sept. 8, 1900
when the 1900 hurricane swept the island and nearly destroyed
the streetcar system.
On Dec. 13, 1900, the Galveston City Railway Co. was
organized to take over what was left. For a time, mules again
pulled the cars, as the storm had wrecked the powerhouse. In
1905, the Galveston Electric Co. was organized, and on May 1
of that year, took over the assets and franchise of the Galveston
City Railway Co.
Many of those first electric cars were merely mule cars
mounted on “trucks,” or undercarriages, equipped for electrical
operation. The first real electric cars were small open cars made
by the Jackson and Clark Co. They had a single trolley pole and
a single, four-wheeled truck.
The second type of electric car operated in Galveston came
into use about 1912. It was an open car, with a single truck and
one trolley pole, but it was longer than the original Jackson-
Clark. In July 1923, the first Birney Co. closed “safety” car made
its appearance, and this car ruled the rails on the Island until
the street railroad was phased out in the next decade.
The beginning of the end for the Galveston streetcars came
on Dec. 17, 1936, when the first city bus began running on the
island down the West End route. On May 2, 1937, the Market
Street line — where street railways got their start in 1868 —
was abandoned. A week later, the 33rd, 21st, 25th, 37th, and
Winnie lines were taken over by buses.
The streetcar era officially ended on May 22, 1938 when the
Crockett line car, the last one still running, headed to the car
barn for the last time.
The Galveston Railway runs near 24th Street
and Beach Avenue, c. 1898
The Galveston Railway runs near 23rd
Street and Beach Avenue, c. 1898
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