Preface
I Horse Sense
II Early Attempts
III The Line at Last!
IV The Early Years
V Rebirth and Expansion
VI Is-zing into the Future

Bibliography
Acknowledgements
References
About the Authors
About This E-Text

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Hooves & Rails: 
A History Of The Tucson Street Railway (1897-1906)

The Line at Last!
The Tucson Street Railway is constructed

It was almost a year later on September 8, 1897, that the Tucson Street Railway was organized. The next day Articles of Incorporation were filed with the County Recorder. Officers were M. P. Freeman, President, N. H. Matas, Vice-President, Charles F. Hoff, Secretary, and M. G. Samaniego, Treasurer.

The Star optimistically proclaimed:

Tucson is to have a street car line, and that at once. The gentlemen composing the company are all substantial and progressive business men who never undertake a proposition but to win. The street car line will be in operation in less than ninety days.

Despite the media's optimism which did prove to be correct, like earlier attempts, this one too could have failed had it not been for the talent and perseverance of one individual, Charles F. Hoff. He was born in Yorktown, Texas in 1862, and attended school there, but was forced to leave school to work on his father's farm. He continued to study on his own, completing his education at home. When he turned 21, in April 1883, he left home to join his brother Gust A. Hoff (who was later to become Mayor) in Tucson. Here he entered the grocery business, first working for an established firm, then striking out on his own. For 14 months the boom in California enticed him first to Los Angeles, then to San Francisco. However, he returned to Tucson, as he felt there was more opportunity there for a young man, and entered the employ of A. Goldschmidt & Co., commercial grocers. Soon afterward, he started in business as a manufacturer's agent for the Columbus Buggy Company.

Charles H. Hoff [35K]
Charles H. Hoff

In 1892 he requested a franchise from the City to establish a telephone system in Tucson. Starting with 28 subscribers he built the business up to 225 phones by 1899. That year, he was made Special Agent in Arizona for the Sunset Telephone and Telegraph Company of Los Angeles, and as such helped build the state's first long distance network connecting Prescott, Crown King, Castle Hot Springs, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Florence, Mammoth, Oracle, and Tucson. In 1896 he was elected County Treasurer, a post he held for only one term (2 years).

In September of 1898 he had a new 10-room, two- story residence designed by architect W. W. Wilson. It was to be located on the lot adjacent to the residence of Lyman Wakefield on University Blvd. Construction started in November at a reported cost of $5000. In January 1899 he returned to his hometown to marry Miss Helen Eckhardt at the local Presbyterian church. Immediately upon conclusion of the ceremonies the couple entered a carriage and proceeded to the depot to board a train for Tucson.

At the age of 35, he faced the biggest challenge of his career up to that time when he was named manager of the new Tucson Street Railway (TSR). In that position he was responsible for construction and operation of the line.

The first step after incorporation was to sell, or have pledged the sale of the authorized stock in the amount of $25,000 at $100 per share. The fact that the company was composed of "substantial and progressive business men who never undertake a proposition but to win" no doubt enabled success in raising money where other earlier efforts had failed. In any case it was reported on October first that all the necessary money had been subscribed.

The next step was to obtain a franchise from the City which was granted on October 8, 1897. The 25 year franchise allowed the use of animal, cable or electric power. A bond of $1000 had to be posted and switches and turnouts were to be located under the direction of the Mayor and Council's Street Committee. The TSR had to maintain (grade) the street between and two feet on each side of the rails.

Thirteen different routes were granted. The initial downtown line, via Pennington and Congress (see map in centerfold) had to be started within three months and completed within six months. The second line, to the university, which had to be completed within one year from the date of the franchise, had three alternative routes. One was via Sixth Avenue and Fifth Street, another via Sixth Avenue and Eighth and Ninth Streets, and the one finally chosen, as reported by the Arizona Daily Star on November 14, was via Stone Avenue and Third Street (now University Blvd.). Beyond that the company had the option, within five years, of building any of the remaining nine lines, but no obligation to do so.

Once the matter of the franchise was settled Hoff ordered red wood ties and rails for the downtown line, then left for San Francisco, where, the Star stated, he was to buy six cars for the line. On October 28 he returned home and the same paper reported he had purchased four cars and contracted with C. C. Maag, former roadmaster of the Southern Pacific Railroad to lay the track. The Arizona Daily Citizen gave the following detail:

Chas. F. Hoff returned home last night from San Francisco where he went to make arrangements for the purchase of material and cars for the Tucson Street Railway. The larger part of the rails, ties etc., will have arrived by the first of the week and work will be started on the line from Main street to the depot in a few days. As soon as the line is completed the construction of the line to the University will be started at once. The cars have been ordered and those for the down town line are being painted at the present time. The cars on the University line will be painted in the University colors, silver and green.

Since each of the last two sentences says "cars" plural, it is assumed that two cars were painted for the downtown line and two for the university line. The downtown cars were "being painted," and thus were probably finished first, and likely were the only cars available for opening day. Work on the university cars probably did not begin until after the downtown cars were shipped, since they would not be needed for some time. The only photos of the first four cars in which the number can be read are those of car #2, the company's solitary "closed" car. It was clearly one of the "downtown" cars as it was labeled "Post Office & S P Depot" on the letter board (above the windows) and "Main Street" below the windows. Presumably the other downtown car would have been car #1. The color of these cars is unknown. This reasoning would mean the silver and green cars for the university line were numbers 3 and 4.

Mrs. George B. Lewis boards car #2 [20K]

Mrs. George B. Lewis boards car #2

On November 1, the board of directors of the TSR met to authorize the hiring of an expert-track layer and a civil engineer. What happened to C. C. Maag who Hoff had arranged to hire in San Francisco is unknown, but the Star reported that G. E. Stevenson was hired on the recommendation of Mr. Sroufe, the resident engineer of the S. P R. R. The surveyor employed was City Surveyor L. D. Chillson. He was paid $149 to layout both lines.

The spikes, nuts, bolts, tools, rails and ties all arrived the first week of November and work commenced with surveying and grading on Friday, November 5, 1897. Monday morning the track crew went to work at Toole and Pennington near the railroad depot and by Wednesday evening the Citizen reported that they had laid over a block of track. Two days later the track was to Congress and Sixth Avenue and the surveyors had worked ahead to Stone and Congress.

By the end of the first week, the Star reported that the line had reached the school house on Congress (which had opened in 1874 and occupied the north side of Congress west of Sixth Avenue) and predicted that the cars would be running to the university by Thanksgiving. They reminded the public that: "With the building of the street car line to the University the price of lots in that section will take an upward tendency, as that portion of the town will make a very desirable location for residences."

By Monday, November 15, the establishing of the grades for the line was completed to Pennington and Main. By Thursday the track had reached the court house on Pennington (at Church). On Friday, November 19, 1897, the cars arrived and were placed on the track, and operation was immediately begun as far as the line was finished. The next morning "regular trips" were started according to the Star.

The smallest of Tucson Street Railway's street cars, the "bob tail" car [28K]

The smallest of Tucson Street Railway's street cars, the "bob tail" car

Monday's Citizen told the following story of curious children:

"A good story is told of General Wilson's intercession in behalf of a lot of rollicking youngsters who were making the most of their opportunity with a new street car as it stood a the end of Pennington street Saturday morning. Many of the youngsters had never seen a street car before, and they were in and out and all over it like a lot of wild Indians. General Wilson and a stranger happened to be passing at the same time. The latter evidently with an eye to abraised point, called out authoritatively and asked the children what they were doing there. They stopped their gambols with a started look, whereupon General Wilson said to the stranger with an equal show of authority "If I don't object to the children being in the car, I don't see what right you have to interfere." The man evidently believing that he had struck the president of the road apologetically said "Oh, I beg your pardon" and went on, where the children under an apparent show of privelege (sic), redoubled their efforts in having a good time with the new bob tailed car. The funny part is that General Wilson has no more interest in the car than the other man."

View of the U of A, 1902 [34K]

View of the U of A, 1902

It is interesting that the paper refers to the street car as bob tailed. The term was used of what were also called "fare-box" cars. Of them John H. White, Jr. in his book Horsecars, Cable Cars and Omni-buses says:

"This was an extra-lightweight, single-horse, one-man car meant for small cities of poorly patronized routes. Great operating savings were effected by cutting the crew and team in half. Weight was held to about 2500 pounds or just over one half that of a standard two-horse car. The scheme was the invention of John B. Slawson, an omnibus operator in New Orleans.. While organizing the first street railway in that city, he recognized the need for a cheap style of car. Stephenson (John H. Stephenson of New York City, the country's largest horsecar builder) produced the first car on Slawson's plan in 1860. The fare-box idea would naturally occur to a bus operator since it was the normal method of fare collection. Street railways had traditionally employed a conductor to collect the fares and manage the car. Passengers complained about the great step backward to one-man cars...but railway managers, alive to the economies...were delighted with the new design. By 1883 Stephenson reported that...more than one half of American street railways, were running fare-box cars and that two thirds of the cars ordered during the previous year were of this style."

View of campus, 1904 [32K]

View of campus, 1904

Regardless of car size, the Tucson Street Railway started out using two-man crews. This practice was questioned by the Arizona Daily Star on December 17, 1897 referring to the "bob tail" cars used in other cities "...with but a driver who is ex-officio conductor". Apparently the practice was changed, as all but two of the known photographs of the cars in operation show only one man. Initially they used a single horse. This may have been fine in the winter, but as the weather warmed, the Star for June 1 reported that: "The motive power of the street cars has been doubled and it now consists of two horses instead on one". Whether this practice was confined solely to the hotter months is unknown.

The Pennington street line was completed with cars running to Main Street by Wednesday evening the 24th of November. The previous day, work (presumably grading) had started on the line to the University up Stone Avenue from Pennington Street. By November 27 track was installed to the Southern Pacific Railroad crossing.

That week the Star reminded the public that: "The cars are now running and the cost of a ride to the depot is accordingly reduced." In fact, it was a significant reduction as the car fare was only a nickel while the hacks and carry-alls reportedly charged 25 cents.

Tuesday, November 30, there was a one day interruption of service. The Citizen reported:

"The cars. . .were not running today owing to there being some alterations necessary. The gauge of the track being slightly too narrow it was deemed necessary, in view of the fact that the cars are very prone to jump the track, to alter the gauge of the wheels somewhat."

Work on the University line continued. By December 18 track extended up Stone Avenue to Third Street, and heavy grading was finished on Third Street to Park Avenue. Ten days later the excavation for the ties in the graded area was completed to the end of the line, with the exception of a short section where blasting had to be done on account of the caliche coming up to the surface of the ground.

With public attention focused on the work in progress the Arizona Daily Star took the occasion to point out the need for improvements on streets leading to the university, including the desirability of opening Sixth Avenue through to Third Street. In fact, many of the platted streets in the City did not exist on the ground, including Third Street and Sixth Avenue. Once horse and buggy and wagon traffic crossed one of the bridges over the Tucson Arroyo north of the railroad tracks, they just took trails across the desert. The Tucson Street Railway did not grade the entire street, only a section wide enough for their tracks as required by their franchise. This is clearly shown in the contrasting photos of Third Street taken in 1902 (or early 1903 before the car line was extended up Park in March) and 1904 from Old Main on the U. of A. campus.

In mid December, work on the line seems to have stalled. Apparently there was some hold up in obtaining rails as the January 28th Star reported that two carloads "...are expected to arrive very shortly...". Both newspapers hoped the line would be completed by Arbor Day, February 4, so that citizens could attend ceremonies at the university. But it was not to be. They might almost have made it had rail been available as the February 7 Citizen noted that: "The Tucson Street Railway company now have the ties for their line to the university laid...".

In pushing the work ahead as rapidly as possible, two connections were left temporarily undone. The first was the crossing of the Southern Pacific tracks which had to be done by their crews. That work was reported as complete on January 21, 1898. The other was the switch at Pennington and Stone. On February 3, the Citizen noted that it was being installed.

On February 17, James C. Goodwin of Tempe came to Tucson to sell the rails of the defunct Tempe street railway. Apparently the rails were loaded and shipped to Tucson by February 24. On that day, one Charles L. Hall filed a suit against the Southern Pacific Railroad, presumably to halt their unloading. He claimed he had a lien of $285.52 on them. This event must have ended all hope of a quick completion of the line, as the newspaper accounts fall silent until April.

Before the line could be completed to the university, the first recorded accident involving a streetcar was reported by the Citizen on April 7, 1898:

"People coming up Pennington street last night after the show were somewhat startled at the approach of what they thought to be the railroad yard engine tearing up the street, but on a closer approach of the object was found to be nothing else but Jack Bolyn's heavy truck loaded with show scenery giving a show of its own with "Jack" as the star performer. At the corner of the opera house alley and Pennington street Jack made his debut as a high air performer and landed almost upstairs of the Harding property. The team finally wound up the performance by going through the street car and badly wrecking it."

The same day the Star asked:

"When on earth is Charley Hoff's street railway going to be finished?" asked one of the University folks yesterday. A politician near by answered: "Not until the county election is well on. Then Charley will try and run himself in again on that street railway by showing what Charley has done for the town, or by holding the workmen with him to election day." This news will certainly cause Hoff to get a move on that road."

A week later they reported:

"The street railway grading is now about completed clear out to the University. They are expecting a decision from the district court in a few days as to the title to the rails; and if the decision is favorable to the railway the work of laying the rails will be begun at once and finished up in a week or ten days."

The decision was indeed favorable and the work of laying rail again commenced. By April 29th the track reached the Indian School which was on the south side of Third Street between 3rd and 1st Avenues. Four days later the paper announced that the street railway was receiving passengers as far as the Indian School. It had been established by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions and opened in January of 1888 with Rev. Howard Billman as superintendent. It was designed to provide educational facilities for the Pima and Papago Indians.

On May 10, the Star reported:

"The street car line to the University will be completed by day after tomorrow, from which date cars will leave the old post office for that place at regular intervals. Commutation and students tickets can be ordered from conductors, Secretary Hoff or Sam Drachman's cigar store (located at Stone and Congress at the east end of "the wedge"). The cars will run so as to take students in time for the assembly, and in a few days a table will be published showing the exact time when cars leave and arrive at the old post office, Indian school and university. Fare is only five cents, so that for ten cents one can take a nice cool pleasant ride of nearly four miles."

Then on May 12, 1898, the line was finished to the campus. The Arizona Daily Citizen reported it thus:

"On Thursday Mr. Charles Hoff drove the golden spike at the University end of the street car line, in honor of the completion of the line. The old car that was worked some time ago was was (sic) placed at the end of the line to serve as a station or waiting room. The University board has made a walk from the University to the end of the car line and cut a gate in the fence. Cars are now running regularly to the University."

Car #2 heads toward the University on Third Street [21K]

Car #2 heads toward the University on Third Street

Cost of the line is hard to determine. There appears to be no complete record of labor costs in the extant company records. Expenditures of $1842.23 for track iron and $1815.90 for ties and culverts are shown in Ledger 3 up through the end of 1898.

Continue with IV The Early Years