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Where Are The Streetcars Now?

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.

Published February 10, 2012 in Transit      10 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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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.

Jacksonville Traction

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.

Main Street in Springfield

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.

Jacksonville Traction

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.

Jacksonville Traction

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.

Jacksonville Traction

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!

Jacksonville Traction

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.

Jacksonville Traction

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.

Article by Robert W. Mann.

Photos courtesy of the State Photographic Archives and R. Mann Collection.








10 Comments

Gravity

February 10, 2012, 11:59:17 AM
What a shame.

Might be interesting to cross reference a study between the removal of the lines and the deterioration of the areas

Miss Fixit

February 10, 2012, 09:26:20 PM
My house in Springfield was owned by one of the original owners of the Fernandina and Amelia Beach Railway, which was incorporated in 1883. That line was later leased by the Florida Central and Peninsular Railway, which eventually became part of Seaboard Air Line Railways. I wonder of any of Jacksonville's streetcar lines were ever associated with the larger railroad companies?

Ocklawaha

February 11, 2012, 12:02:23 AM
Yes, the Plant Investment Company ultimately bought out the early companies which included: The Main Street Railway (originally narrow gauge PINE STREET RY) which they rebuilt to standard gauge per a city ordinance. They built The Jacksonville Street Railway, and bought up the Jacksonville and LaVilla Street Railway. Shortly after Henry Bradley Plant's death, the company was sold to "The Atlantic Coast Line of Railroads," which was a bakers dozen of shoreline and regional railroads which merged to form 'The Atlantic Coast Line.'  Plant brought in the first electric streetcars along with his ownership of the Jacksonville Electric Company (both light and power as well as a street railway name: Jacksonville Electric Railway).

1912, was the year the consolidated lines of the Jacksonville Electric Railway. The consolidation also included 'The North Jacksonville Street Railway Town and Improvement Company.

Being black history month, lets just say that the North Jacksonville line made the national press, the Street Railway Journal and the Evening Journal in NYC.  (The ordinances were pushed on the city by The Avery Law, resulting from several court cases)

The streetcar companies were also opposed to the segregation laws on both moral and economic grounds. Mayor Nolan, who had defended his lax enforcement of the local ordinance , was elected to a second term of office. While white company owners resented the segregation regulations.

The North Jacksonville Street Railway company, which prided itself on only having African American motormen and conductors. The Street Railway Journal and Railway Age carried stories on "The Truly First Class Electric Railway, owned by Negroes. By 1903, the line had gained a mythical status; the Eve Journal of New York reported that “The Negroes of Jacksonville believe in self help” and had demonstrated this by putting their money together and building a street railway of their own in which “there is not a white man in the company” but which permitted whites to ride. Regardless of the eventual takeover, the temporary existence of an African American- owned streetcar company bolstered the belief that segregation could not be foisted upon the community. It also reveals the existence of an affluent African American community that could directly challenge white dominance. The company was founded by African American businessman in the wake of the 1901 boycott and bought out in 1905.

We live in what has to be one of the most accepting and welcoming cities in history. The story of the streetcar companies, the boycotts, and the court cases paint an image of Jacksonville in 1900-20 of a city every bit the equal of today's San Francisco. African American candidates served on the city council, and in fact the Sheriff was Black. As the streetcar segregation controversy continued to be tried in courts, Jacksonville was electing Black city councilmen! Negroes were elected from the sixth ward to city council, which had no candidates for the Democratic primary and the lowest number of white voters. In this ward six African American candidates competed and J. Douglas Wetmore, who would soon challenge the state's new law on streetcar segregation, was among the winners.

African Americans in Jacksonville held every political office except mayor. Both disenfranchisement and the streetcar segregation ordinance were central issues in the June 1905 election.

Simply put, The Jacksonville Traction Company bought out the Jacksonville Electric Railway and created the largest streetcar system south of Atlanta or east of New Orleans.

nomeus

February 11, 2012, 12:48:43 AM
very interesting

Tacachale

February 11, 2012, 10:57:43 AM
Ock, it's stories and posts like that that really make my day.
To quote Merlin, "There is only one thing for it, then - to learn."

RockStar

February 14, 2012, 12:05:22 PM
I love the photo with the streetcar and the palm trees. Is there anywhere I can get a hi-def jpg of it?  It's a crime that we HAD streetcars and now we don't. I'm curious to know under which mayor the streetcar system in Jacksonville was dismantled. I'll go piss on his grave.

Ocklawaha

February 18, 2012, 11:33:20 PM
I love the photo with the streetcar and the palm trees. Is there anywhere I can get a hi-def jpg of it?  It's a crime that we HAD streetcars and now we don't. I'm curious to know under which mayor the streetcar system in Jacksonville was dismantled. I'll go piss on his grave.

Rockstar, Check out the State Photographic Archives (online search) under: "Jacksonville: streetcars, trolleys, electric railways, Jacksonville Electric Company, Jacksonville Traction Company" and they can set you up with a hi-def photo. Most of these originals were Glass Plate Negatives, which have amazing definition and make good copy candidates.
Here's a starting place:  http://www.floridamemory.com/solr-search/results/?q=jacksonville%20trolleys%5E10&query=jacksonville%20trolleys&searchbox=&gallery=

OCK

scottjsmith

April 27, 2012, 04:55:08 PM
There are several articles on this site that show where some of the streetcars ended up.  There's at least on in someone's back yard in Springfield...all rusted through.  It wasn't long ago (before JAX's most recent street re-paving) that you could still see the tracks peeking through worn layers of pavement.  All the tracks are still here...they're just covered up.  Want streetcars?  Excavate 2-to-4 inches, and you're good to go!

(Edit:  Whoops...that's a subway car:  http://photos.metrojacksonville.com/History/Springfield-NYC-Subway-Car/7073384_zChDPv#!i=767019792&k=Cba7b )

Garden guy

April 27, 2012, 05:18:09 PM
One would make a great party car...10 friends 5 clubs..what a cool night that'd be....rolling from neighborhood to neighborhood with a party goin' on?

Ocklawaha

April 27, 2012, 09:57:28 PM
There are several articles on this site that show where some of the streetcars ended up.  There's at least on in someone's back yard in Springfield...all rusted through.  It wasn't long ago (before JAX's most recent street re-paving) that you could still see the tracks peeking through worn layers of pavement.  All the tracks are still here...they're just covered up.  Want streetcars?  Excavate 2-to-4 inches, and you're good to go!

(Edit:  Whoops...that's a subway car:  http://photos.metrojacksonville.com/History/Springfield-NYC-Subway-Car/7073384_zChDPv#!i=767019792&k=Cba7b )

Scott, there probably IS a streetcar somewhere in Riverside/Murray Hill/Springfield/San Marco... In FACT JTA has had calls about one or two in San Marco, but failed to take down the information as 'they don't care.'

In rare cases the original rails actually CAN be reused, it would be very cool, but 90% or so of ours were pulled up during WWII scrap drives. So one might even say, Ocklawaha's Daddy delivered some of Jacksonville Traction to Imperial Japan.

Garden Guy, DON'T PUKE ON MY VINTAGE STREETCAR OR I'LL HAVE TO TAKE YOU TO CHURCH!
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