The story goes that the Jacksonville Traction Company got its historical start when an African American man found a four wheel tram, built a car body on it, and went into the street railroad business. While that may sound far fetched today, it should be remembered that many different trams and rails were in use in industry, such as sawmilling, throughout the area.
There is also a story of the first car to climb the old Acosta Bridge Viaduct in Riverside. It is said that when the motorman reached the top and looked down the hill, he set the brakes, got off and quit his job. Having talked to many of the old crews, they said that hill never gave them any trouble.
The story goes that the Jacksonville Traction Company got its historical start when an African American man found a 4 wheel tram, built a car body on it and went into the street railroad business. While that may sound far fetched today, it should be remembered that many different trams and rails were in use in industry, such as sawmilling, throughout the area. There is also a story of the first car to climb the old Acosta Bridge Viaduct in Riverside. It is said that when the motorman reached the top and looked down the hill, he set the brakes, got off and quit his job. Having talked to many of the old crews, they said that hill never gave them any trouble.†
This scene should look familiar by now. This is also an early photo of Car (number 3?) of the Jacksonville Traction Company or its forerunner. The Main Street Line was quickly gaining "Trolley Car Fame" by the time this photo was made and the Company spread the treatment to several other lines including North Pearl Street. The running boards down the side of the car, identify it as an "open car" not unlike one in operation in Tampa and similar to the Horse drawn cars of Disney World. These cars usually had roll down canvas side curtains for foul weather. The open platform on the front end was usually converted to a closed end with big windows as the cars were modernized.†
Another large "Turtleback" which dates this to the Stone and Webster Utility management era of the Jacksonville Traction Company. The destination curtain in front says "------Park", causing me to believe it is headed for Panama Park or Phoenix Park.
Note the "Fenders" under the front end, designed to prevent anyone or anything from going under the car. Some other cars were equipped with fancy "People" fenders that looked like a cross between a cow-catcher and a fish net. Just inches above the pavement, these were designed to knock someone off their feet and into the basket! Nice idea but going unused, they were soon removed. Also note the bars running along the windows. The Trolleys ran on rails, which permitted them to pass within feet of each other where the line was double tracked or had passing sidings. To prevent passengers from sticking their heads, or body's, out of the window during one of these meets, window bars were standard safety equipment on almost all streetcar lines.
Surrounding areas? How about 7th street in Fernandina Beach. This is the Fernandina and Amelia Beach Railway. It traveled from the CBD down Centre Street, made a jog to 7th, then all the way to the Beach shoreline.
St. Augustine? While the photo carries no real identification, this appears to have been an open car on the St. Johns Electric Railway in St. Augustine. This system covered the Old City with trolley lines, and extended to South Beach and also operated on North Beach. One has to wonder the attention an attraction like this would bring today!†
The construction of the "Bridge of the Lions" in St.Augustine, clearly shows the original Electric Railway system bridge just to the South. The new bridge included a single trolley track in the East Bound lane. How did it get back across? Did they leave the Railroad bridge in place? The Bridge of the Lions later had the addition of a Westbound track and the Trolley bridge was removed.†
Where did they all go? This is a prime example of the fate of many of the area's streetcars. Several museums have cars rescued from such locations and others may still be hidden, built into sheds, buildings or homes throughout the Jacksonville Metro Area. As an example of what COULD be done today, several large Trolley museums have made a side business of restoring old cars back to operating condition and then they are put up for sale. While Jacksonville, indeed Florida Trolleys never lived to see the operation of the Streamlined PCC Trolleys of the late 1930's - 1960's, there is currently a complete fleet of these cars on the market.
This guest column was written by Robert W. Mann, a Jacksonville transportation consultant currently residing in Colombia, South America.
Photos courtesy of the State Photographic Archives and R. Mann Collection.