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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 21, 1909)
I HE OMAHA' SUNDAY- BEE: FEBRUARY 21, 1000.
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The cable tramway was a Western invention. It origin
ated in San Francisco, was tried in Kansas City and then
introduced in, Omaha. The cable was intended to solve the
problem of hauling cars , up steep hills and to replace horse
Power was transmitted to the cars by means of an end
less wire cable, running in concrete conduits underneath the
center of the track. An apparatus called a "grip" extended
from the car through open metal slots and gripped or released
the cable at the will of the operator. The cable was passed
around a large drum at the power house to secure the neces
sary motion. ;
. Cable trams were constructed in a number of large cities
but gave way rapidly before the development of electric
power. The cable roads were expensive to build, expensive
to maintain and operate and not nearly as satisfactory as the
electric railway, being far less reliable, and the motion of the
cars not nearly as smooth and even as that of the trolley cars.
As will be shown, the people
of Omaha were very anxious to
have cable tramways built, even
though experiments, at Rich
mond, Va., Cleveland, O., and
other places were being made
with electric motive power. , .
The Cable Tramway Com
pany of Omaha was incorporated
June 26; 1884, by Samuel R.
Johnson, C. B. Rustin, Isaac S.;
:.Hascall, Casper El Yost and Fred '
Dfexel; '.''Mr. Johnson !.: was the !
president of this and the succeed- ;
ing cable company:
A franchise to build and
operate cable tramways on certain streets was granted by the
City Council October 7, . 1884, and confirmed by the people
at a general election November 4, 1884. There were 2,261
votes cast on the tramway proposition, 1,797 favoring it and
464 opposing. The majority for the tramway franchise was
greater than the majority at the same election in favor of
issuing $500,000 intersection paving bonds.
No limit was placed on the duration of the franchise; no
rate of fare was specified and nothing was said about transfers.
The officers of the Tramway Company had difficulty in
financing their prdject and money was not secured nor con
struction begun until 1886. The interests of Isaac S. Has
call, Casper E. Yost and Fred Drexel were taken over by W.
V. Morse, L. B. Williams and Dr. Samuel R. Mercer. Later1
A. S. Paddock and Chas. F. Manderson interested themselves
in the venture. Funds were finally secured from stockholders,
directors and eastern sources, and a thoroughly modern,
double-track cable tramway built and placed in operation.
Two separate lines were put in. The first began at the
Union Passenger Station and ran up Tenth Street to Dodge;
West on Dodge to Twentieth and North on Twentieth to
Cass. This line was soon extended'on Twentieth Street to
Lake Street The other line . ran up Harney Street from
Tenth to Twentieth; North on Twentieth to Dodge and
West on Dodge to Twenty-fifth. ' :;; ' '.
A large brick power house was constructed at Twentieth
and Harney Streets and. a Wright engine of about 400 horse
power and other expensive machinery installed. Each line
was operated as a unit and each required a heavy, continuous
cable approximately five miles long and lasting only about
90 days. The cables were made at Trenton, N. J., weighed
45 tons each and were a source of heavy expense.
So desirous were the business men and others to have
the tramway in operation, that they subscribed collectively
about $40,000 as a bonus to be paid if operation was started
within a certain time.
The cost of construction at best was heavy owing to the
heavy ' concrete conduits for the cables and the steel yokes
supporting the rails, the open slot in the center of the track
making the usual crossties impossible. The rail used weighed
56 pounds to the yard and was what was known as a "center
bearing" rail, there being a flange on both sides. The cost
per mile, as remembered by those connected with the road,
was considerably in excess of $100,000.
The public, wish to have the road built quickly caused
the company to pay extraordinary wages to the contractors
and workmen to hurry completion. Mechanics drew as high
as $10 and $12 a day. Construction was finished in time to
claimthe bonus, but the directors concluded not to seek pay
ment and burned the notes or agreements in the office stove.
Sufficient cars of the best
obtainable type were purchased
to operate the tramways with an
adequate service. Operation
from the start was in the hands
of F. A. Tucker, General Man
ager, who received his early
tramway experience in San Fran
cisco and Kansas City. A few
i J I ?
gripmen; , were obtained from
Cable Train as Operated in Omaha in 1888.
the4?Wtiei,vto teach new men
how to run the cars. -
The cars were; sent out in
trains of two each a grip car
and a trailer. The service was
popular, but the company never
made money or declared a dividend. The heavy investment
and peculiar problems of operation prevented profits. The
volume of traffic did. not justify the expense involved.
There was. constant competition from and friction with tlie old Horse Railway Com
; pany and its vastly .more extensive system of horse car lines.' The conditions made the
payment of double fares by no means uncommon, as the roads, naturally did not exchange
passengers. A bitter fight was carried on between the two companies both in and out of
court. The Horse Railway objected to the Cable Company running a track on each .side
of its own lines on Tenth and part of Twentieth streets. The courts finally permitted
the Cable Company to do so, but required the payment of heavy cash damages. '
- Existing conditions and certain doubts as to the validity of franchise rights caused
the organization of a new Cable Company to be advisable. This proceeding was carried
out and on May 1, 1888, articles of The Omaha Cable Tramway Company were filed, with
Samuel R. Johnson, L. B. Williams, Charles 13. Rustin, Samuel D. Mercer, William V. Morse
and Benjamin F. Smith as incorporators. The cable property was transferred to this new
Company under a contract dated November 1, 1888.
A franchise ordinance,"; conferring rights for a period of 40 years, and authorizing
the Company to occupy and use practically any and all the streets in the city, mentioned
ppecifically, was submitted to the people at a special election May 22, 1888, and was
approved by a majority of votes. For power this franchise permitted "endless cables, elec
tricity, compressed air, steam motor under, certain conditions or by such other motor as
may now or hereafter prove to , be practicable." . '
This is the principal franchise under which the present Company is operating. The
validity of the first cable franchise, however, was" sustained by the State Supreme Court. '
When the second franchise described was granted there were three separate railway
organizations operating or building in Omaha.
The Cable Company made preparations to build new lines. A change to the new
electric motive power was contemplated, Mr. Morse and other directors having observed
experimental roads in operation and become impressed with the innovation.
The Horse Railway Company, also, prepared to make a strong fight to survive.
Both organizations were menaced by the new electric lines already being built in
Omaha and Council Bluffs. Under the . circumstances money to finance improvements
and extensions was not forthcoming. The logical result was consolidation and this was
what took place in 1889. ,
G. W. WATTLES, President,
Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Co.
(?Tk First Electric Railway" will ba the Subject presented Next Sunday.)
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