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
About the Authors
About This E-Text
Is-zing into the Future
Horses give way to electric
One of the reasons for the declining patronage starting in August of
1904 was the company's failure to provide the announced and promised 15
minute service on a consistent basis. The partial record of the daily
usage of the cars reveals that utilization was sporadic. The public simply
couldn't, on any given day, know how many cars would be running. For
example in the 11 months between mid-August of 1903 and mid-July of 1904,
the four required cars were operated on only 144 days, or 43% of the time.
One thing is clear. The problem continued beyond the point for which we
have records. The Citizen for January 27, 1905, quoted Hoff as saying,
"The trouble with the corporation is that it has been
losing money lately, and as a matter of fact I have had to go out and
borrow money to the extent of $3000 by selling some of my own property,
and otherwise getting coin in order to carry things along. . . During the
last two months our receipts have only been about $6 per day, and our
expenses are about $16 daily, so you see that we are not making any very
big money at that rate."
The Tucson Post of January 14, 1905 wrote:
"The service of the Tucson street railway has reached
the limit for irregularity. It appears now to be simply a question of
holding the franchise. The manager doubtless has his trials, but it is a
pity that the present obsolete system should stand in the road of an
Car #5 crossing Stone Avenue
eastbound on Congress
This comment came in the midst of a long struggle over control of both
the local power company and the street railway. Until all the issues were
resolved, no one would invest the money to electrify the line.
Full details will be left to a future planned comprehensive history of
the electric street cars of the Tucson Rapid Transit Company. Thus, only
the main landmarks along the long road towards electrification will be
The formation of the Tucson Gas, Electric Light and Power Company in
early 1902 gave some optimism in that regard. The January 26th Star
expressed hope for an electric car line to replace the "present burro
route". However, nothing happened.
The parent company of T.G.E.L.&P. was located in Denver. Thus the
people of Tucson were enthused when, in April of 1903, local businessman,
Frank E. Russell, was appointed general superintendent. Mr. Russell was
also later to become General Manager of the Tucson Rapid Transit
At the height of the success of the Tucson Street Railway, the Tucson
Post, on July 25, 1903, stated that the stockholders of the company
"... are freely predicting that they will have an
electric line in operation in another year. They claim that with a paying
horse car line it will be comparatively easy to sell bonds to install an
electric service. The company is now considering a proposition from the
local electric light company to furnish them with power to run trolley
However, in October the battle began when the Tucson Street Railway
proposed to provide street lights in exchange for an electric car
franchise. This did not set well with T.G.E.L.&P. as they held the
current contract to provide the lighting. At one point they also asked for
a franchise for an electric line. The issue was dissipated when both sides
came to an agreement and withdrew their respective applications.
The result was the status quo, although the agreement provided that the
T.G.E.L.&P. would sell TSR power for an electric line below fuel cost.
When this became public knowledge on December 18, 1903, the excited Tucson
Citizen proclaimed an impossible task in a large headline:
"Electric Street Cars Within 30 Days."
In the meantime, the business of carrying passengers went on for the
horses and mules and their burden in tow. Occasional complaints about the
treatment the animals were received. The June 15, 1903 Citizen
printed the following:
"A Fourth avenue resident objects to the street car
horses being whipped unnecessarily as witness an instance last week. The
informant is willing to give his name if desired. he said that the
driver's excuse was that he wanted to make time."
The Tucson Post of December 10, 1904 editorialized on proposed new
territorial legislation: "There is a movement on foot among lovers of
dumb animals to secure (t)he passage of a bill. . . imposing severe
penalties for cruelty to animals." The writer went on to say that:
"Such a measure will be sanctioned on all sides and
particularly here in Tucson, where its enforcement would bring about
needed reforms. An obsolete horse car system holds the franchise and
operates lines on all the best streets of Tucson. It is true that the
management has endeavored to build up this industry under difficulties but
that does not furnish an excuse for the manner in which the horses and
mules which pull the cars are treated. Anyone who patronizes the Tucson
street cars knows that the animals are beaten from morning until night and
give the appearance of being poorly fed. The mules are generally in better
condition than the horses but they are bad enough. The directors of the
company may not be as familiar with the situation as the traveling public
but if they are they will realize that this is but faint
The animal drawing car #9
The agitation of the press brought results. The Citizen of
January 27, 1905, reports in detail on a meeting between Charles Hoff and
the Humane Society. "Dr. Shattuck the veterinary surgeon, was
employed last week by the Society to make a report on the condition of the
animals. . . They were all emaciated, but. . . with proper feeding they
might be put in good shape." In a lively debate, Hoff admitted that
"On account of having given an option to sell, we have
allowed the stock to run down to some extent, but the option has expired
and we are making some preparations to buy some more animals. As to the
accusations regarding cruelty in the beating of the horses or mules, I
have instructed the drivers not to abuse them, and that if they are
arrested they need not expect any help from me."
The fall of 1904 seems to have brought on a rash of derailments. Cars
were reported off the track on August 11 on Fifth Avenue and a month later
at Meyer and Congress. Two of the Tucson Grays, Tucson's baseball team,
were on board on the way to a game. The car was quickly returned to the
track with their assistance. On October 8 it happened again at the same
corner. On the 22nd a car derailed at Stone and Congress causing
considerable inconvenience and on November 12 the incident was on North
The August 23, 1904 Citizen recounted a conversation about the
condition of Stone Avenue north and south of Congress. The oft repeated
complaint that the streetcar tracks stuck up too high above the level of
the street had been brought up. The truth was, the writer learned, that
the streetcar tracks were exactly right, it was the roadway which needed
to be brought up to their level and properly sloped down to the gutter.
Streetcar #5, 1904
Charles Hoff cited this very fact something over a month later on
October 14 when he took the Mayor and several of the City Councilmen to
look at the track on Congress near Scott. Two days earlier there had been
a serious accident there when a surrey carrying two women overturned going
around the corner after the horses had become frightened. The public had
raised "a great deal of complaint" to the City Council, the
Citizen reported. Mr. Hoff was engaged in explaining that ". .
.the T-rail could not possibly have been the cause of the. . .
accident." It was his information that the wheels never touched the
track, but that the horses swerved in such a way as to overturn the buggy.
The Citizen of August 25, 1904, reported that: "The balloon
ascension at Elysian Grove last night was one of the best ever witnessed
in this city. Prof. Haddock ascended at exactly 8:30 o'clock amid a shower
of fireworks and fuzees. . ." A few weeks later, on September 19, the
same paper carried the following:
"An accident was narrowly averted Saturday noon when
Prof. Haddock made his balloon ascension on Congress street. The balloon
came down on south Stone avenue in the yard of No. 175. Mrs. L. A.
Desmond, who resides at that number, was in the yard when the balloon
dropped and it just grazed the back of her head and entirely ruined her
clothing. That was the only damage so far reported."
December brought the City elections. Levi Howell Manning was nominated
for Mayor by the Democrats and won by a margin of 159 votes out of a total
of 1295 votes cast. He was to play a crucial role in bringing electric
street cars to Tucson's streets.
The Tucson Post of April 15, 1905 proclaimed: "Hoff Sells
Tucson Street Railroad."
"Mr. L. H. Manning and a few associate capitalists
have purchased the interests of Charles F. Hoff in the present street car
system. Mr. Manning says that as soon as possible an electric line will be
The article went on to state that Mr. Manning's associates were from
Texas, and that seaside property and harbor privileges at Aransas Pass,
Texas were part of the payment to Mr. Hoff for his interest in the road.
On May 2, a locally recorded deed from Manning conveyed considerable
property in additions surrounding the City of Tucson to Hoff. The total
was thirty whole blocks plus 101 individual lots.
The sale of the assets of the Tucson Street Railway was being forced by
the foreclosure of the mortgage the company had taken out to raise the
money needed for the improvements of 1902 through 1904. The Citizen
of June 9 reported that "The bondholders will in all probability buy
the property and equipment of the Tucson Street Railway company tomorrow.
. . when it is sold at the court house by Sheriff Pacheco to satisfy a
judgment for $22,000."
Indeed, that is exactly what happened. The next evening's paper stated
that "The buyer was Mose Drachman, who represented Rosario Brena,
trustee for the bondholders of the Tucson Street Railway company."
The carbarn was sold for $4,000. "The franchise, sixteen horses and
mules, cars, rails and other property was sold for $18,000."
In July the new Tucson Rapid Transit Company applied to the City for a
25 year franchise for an electric street railway covering the principal
streets of the City. It was granted September 5, 1905.
The franchise having been secured, the next order of business was the
remaining interest of the bondholders of the Tucson Street Railway who
still controlled the carbarn and the track in the streets. On September
30, this interest was sold by Trustee Rosario Brena to TRT in a deed
recorded the same day.
Mayor Levi Howell Manning, proclaims that
he has kept his promise to deliver an electric streetcar system to the
citizens of Tucson, June 1, 1906
Ownership and legal matters out of the way, TRT could turn their
attention to building an electric line. The Tucson Post of December
16, 1905 reported that construction had commenced. This included the
needed poles and overhead line as well as replacement of the track. Even
the heavier 25 pound rail used by the TSR was not strong enough for the
larger electric cars which weighed at least seven or eight times that of a
horsecar. Instead 60 or 65 pound rail became the standard, although some
40 pound was used along South Stone Avenue.
Of course while the line was being built the faithful old horses continued
to plod along. On March 4, 1906 a large group returning to downtown from
the University had quite an experience as described in detail in the
First the weight of the load caused the car to spread the rails, the wheels
ending up on the ground between them. When the passengers, after disembarking,
pushed the car ahead back onto the rails, the mules who were unattended
took off with the driver chasing them. He caught up with the rear of the
car, scrambled aboard and managed to stop the team about a block down the
track. The passengers, after walking the block, boarded the car and arrived
downtown without further incident.
The first new electric car arrived around the beginning of May 1906.
The May 3rd Citizen reported on the progress on both the track and
trolley wire and predicted "Cars to University In Another Month".
A trial car was run to the University on the 26th. The crossing at the
Southern Pacific tracks was completed on May 30, and all was ready.
On June 1, 1906, the symbolic last horsecar and two electric cars proceeded
from Stone and Congress to the carbarn on the northeast corner of Stone
and Fifth Street where the mule car turned off into the barn. After a photograph
was taken, the two electric cars continued to the University filled with
invited guests. They then returned to the Elysian Grove for speeches and
The last reminder of the Tucson Street Railway in the press was a notice
on July 3 to the bondholders to exchange their bonds for those of the Tucson
Rapid Transit Company.
A most fitting conclusion to this story of Hooves and Rails is the essay
of the Tucson Citizen on the June 8, 1905 at the time of the sale
of the Tucson Street Railway to the Tucson Rapid Transit Company.
"This sale will mark another decided step in the
passing of the mule motors. But this transformation from mule power to
electricity coming gradually as it will, will nevertheless be a severe
blow. It will occasion untold pangs of regret.
"With the swift-running, easy-going motor cars, it
will be no longer be the privilege of the native to spring on the
tenderfoot the time-honored joke: 'If you're in a hurry, walk; if you've
lots of leisure time, take the street car.'
"Nor will it be possible to hail the car from one's front door.
This was one of the unique features of the mule line, for the rights of
the individual who was hailing the car were paramount to those who were
already on the car. It was not an unusual thing to wait two or three
minutes on a prospective passenger. Then, too, electric cars will run on a
schedule. The dear old mule-propelled cars ran when they had
"Moreover, no matter how the night behaved, no matter how the north
wind roved, the mules were always doing duty. What if the lightning's flash
painted a lurid picture on the skies; what if the thunder rolled ominously
from the Catalinas to the Tucson mountains, and back again? It hindered
not the mules. They plodded quietly along in their peaceful way. Never
was their trolley off; never were their wires down; never were they stalled
by a dead rail.
"But the mules must go. They have been long in the public eye. In
a little while it will be to the pack trains of the desert with them.
There as the noonday sun scorches the desert sands, they will meditate on
the days when in all their glory they paraded down Stone avenue, Congress
street and other highways, while a generous public surveyed them with
||Date in Service
||New Or Used
|Open, "bob-tail" car
||only closed car
silver & green
silver & green
||P.B. Zeigler & Son
with F. Ronstadt Co.
||wide letter board,
||Used, Los Angeles
Electric Railway Co. #56
||Used, Los Angeles
Electric Railway Co.
||dash cut at
45 degree angle
Arrived after 7/22/02
||F. Ronstadt Co.,
||Open Trucks by Gardiner, Worthen & Gross; Being built by 10/17/02
||F. Ronstadt Co.,
||Open Trucks by Gardiner, Worthen & Gross
||F. Ronstadt Co.,
||Open Trucks by Gardiner, Worthen & Gross
- All Cars were single truck (4-wheel), about 18' long. Car #2 probably
sat about 18 passengers while all but on of the open cars sat about 25.
- Cars #3 & 4 were the "wrecked" car and "2-horse
car" looks very similar to car #5, the distinguishing by it's
ogee roof and bulkhead wall with windows in it. It was retired 4/6/1898.
The "2-horse car" looks very similar to car #5, the distinguishing
features being a narrow letter board and vertical posts anchored inside
the seat support. It was removed from service by 7/1903.
- Cost of cars from Ledger 3, TSR Records: #1-4, $1795.41;
# 5, 540.98; #6-7, $1153.44; #8, $1121.85; #9-10, $2038.61
Continue with Bibliography, References, About the Authors, and Funding