Is-zing into the Future

Horses give way to electric streetcars
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 electric line."

 Car #5 crossing Stone Avenue eastbound on Congress

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 cited here.

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 Company.

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 cars."
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 criticism."
The animal drawing car #9
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 Stone.

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

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 installed."
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
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 Citizen. 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 overhead 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 a banquet.

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 passengers.

"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 unfeigned admiration."


Car # Date in Service New Or Used Builder Date Removed
From Service
1 1897 Used
San Francisco
Unknown by 7/1903 three sections,
four seats
Open, "bob-tail" car
2 1897 Used San Francisco Unknown by 7/1903 only closed car Closed
3 1898 Used San Francisco Unknown see note see note Open: color silver & green
4 1898 Used San Francisco Unknown see note see note Open: color silver & green
5 1/14/1901 New P.B. Zeigler & Son with F. Ronstadt Co. May 1905 wide letter board, outside posts Open: color light blue
6 9/13/1902 Used, Los Angeles Electric Railway Co. #56 Unknown December 1903 clerestory roof, bulkhead wall Open-closed end; Arrived 6/9/02
7 after 9/29/1902 Used, Los Angeles Electric Railway Co. Unknown Sept. 1905 dash cut at 45 degree angle Open: Arrived after 7/22/02
8 1/8/1903 New F. Ronstadt Co., Tucson July 1904 running board anchor location Open Trucks by Gardiner, Worthen & Gross; Being built by 10/17/02
9 11/4/1903 New F. Ronstadt Co., Tucson June 1906 running board anchor location Open Trucks by Gardiner, Worthen & Gross
10 1/17/1904 New F. Ronstadt Co., Tucson June 1906 running board anchor location 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
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