This series of advertisements, from The Omaha Daily Bee, describes the history and current needs of the Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway. They were written by William H Hodge. During the progressive era, many public service companies were questioned about their practices.
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, January 17, 1909. Page 12.
TO THE PUBLIC
It is the policy of the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company to comply with all reasonable and just demands of the committees it serves. For some years past there has been a growing demand in all cities of the country for information regarding the business operations of public service corporations To meet this de mand and in a friendly spirit give to this community such information as it is is entitled to know regarding the affairs of the Street Uailway Company, it has been decided ' by ' the Board of Directors of this company to publish weekly articles in tho Sunday editions of our daily papers, which will give an outline of tho history, the development, the operation and the financial condition of our company. "We do this with the belief that the public has a right to know all the material facts regarding the operation of its public service corporations, and that with a knowledge of these facts and witii more intimate information regarding the plans and policies of the Street Railway Company, that our citizens will better understand and act with greater wisdom on such ques tions as from time to time are presented to them concerning this corporation.
Frequently garbled and incorrect statements have been made for political and other purposes, and laws and ordinances have been proposed, which, if enacted, would greatly retard if not entirely destroy the development of the street railway system in this community. Believing as we do that the 6treet railway system of any city furnishes the most important arteries of trade, and that the growth of theso arteries must keep pace with the growth of the city, we do not hesitate to break the long established rule of public service corporations, by tak ing the people into our confidence and telling them our history, our mistakes, our losses and our gains.
Beginning on Sunday, January 24th, there will be published a series of weekly articles which, when com pleted, will furnish much valuable information regarding the affairs of this company from its organization to the present date. In these articles we shall endeavor to give such information to the public as will correct misunderstandings and misstatements regarding our affairs, and which will acquaint the community with our future plans and policies. The first article, on January 24th, will treat of the organization and early history of the 6treet railroads of Omaha.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
Go to top of page.
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, January 24, 1909. Page 6.
Omaha was about twelve years old when public spirited citizens began to say that it ought to have a street railway. Writers of the period claimed from 10,000 to 20,000 population, according to their degree of enthusiasm in a community whose biggest assets were its promised future and the character of the citizens who made the promises. There were no paving, water works, sewers or other public conveniences common today. The "city" was a crude, poor, struggling frontier railroad terminus, exceedingly short of capital for improvement and development.
In 1867 men of Omaha actually worth $10,000 could be counted on the fingers of one hand, it was said, yet it is significant that when it came to building a street railway it was local capital and local pride that put it through. Omaha's first street railway was constructedand in operation before other western cities, like Minneapolis, even discussed the subject. There was no invasion of outside promoters and capitalists who saw opportunities for profit; there was apparently no one except Omaha citizens willing to invest a dollar in a street railway.
Therefore, it was Omaha professional, and businessmen who paid from their scanty funds into the first street railway and, incidentally, lost what they paid in for stock, for early local traction was not a profitable venture.
The Omaha Horse Railway Company was incorporated and granted a fifty-year franchise in Omaha, by the Territorial Legislature, February 28, 1867. Its charter provided that within two years it must have built one mile of single track.
The incorporators of the Omaha Horse Railway Company were as follows:
The fact that the charter lay fallow for more than a year and a half indicates the financial difficulties obstructing the path toward actual expenditure and building. It was not until October, 1868, that the Omaha City Council passed an ordinance affirming the Territorial grant, and it was on the Second day of that month that the stock subscription books were first opened to those who had faith in the city and some surplus money to back it up.
The first stock issue consisted of 990 shares and the roster of subscribers is as follows, each taking 90 shares:
The manner in which the Horse Railway developed need for fresh capital and the way in which it was
supplied; how new names were added to the stockholders and how the first stockholders added to their
"investments" are stories dryly told in the moldy pages of the first stock subscription book. Track having been laid
and cars started, by June 16, 1869, it was necessary to issue 200 more shares additional stock, it being taken by
these men, the number following the names being the shares assigned:
In August, 1869 the same year a further stock subscription was deemed necessary and Sylvanus Wright subscribed for 20 shares, George Gray 6 shares, George W. Doane 6 shares, M. F. Shinn 10 shares and Casper E. Yost 8 shares.
The sale of these 50 shares still did not suffice to construct and equip the road and reimburse the Company
for the losses in operation and a call was issued for a fourth subscription. Subscribers for the fourth stock
issued were very hard to obtain, the task requiring from October 18, 1869, to July 20, 1870, even though the shares
were offered on a 50-cent basis. On the latter date 197 shares of the new stock were taken, and with the
proceeds the road was completed for the time being but with the Company heavily burdened with debt. The roster
of those contributing their money on the fourth stock issue was as follows:
To those familiar with financial matters a mere outline of the facts recited is a story of courage and sacrifice; faith in Omaha and devotion to its upbuilding. Instances might be cited in abundance of the construction of public utilities in new communities showing how the little local capital available absolutely refused to be drawn into the hazards of such enterprises, and how money was obtained from outside sources at tremendous sacrifices. With the "boom" town of today annihilated tomorrow by the diversion of a railroad, the change of a state capitol, and like incidents of fortune, it was not surprising that men on the ground declined to take the risks.
But the stubborn fight of the Omaha pioneers to build their own street railroad and to keep it going in the face of losses and bitter discouragement, is a little chapter from the early days worthy of careful preservation in the annals and traditions of their descendants.
Many other western cities and towns had street railways started and many of them were forced to witness the discontinuance of the service, the tracks pulled up and all vestige of the ambitious undertakings removed. Some of the cities grew populous, nevertheless, and have traction lines today. Most of them, however, lost their local transportation until the coming of the interurban cars.
In Nebraska Omaha, Lincoln, Nebraska City, Beatrice, Grand Island, Norfolk and Hastings, all had horse railways started within their borders, but Omaha and Lincoln are the only cities of the 6tate that have genuine street railways today. The ancient horse car still survives at Nebraska City.
After reading the preceeding paragraph it is easier for the present generation to understand why horse railway stock was usually a drug on the market during the 70s.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
[The story of the "Horse Car Period" will begin next Sunday.]
Go to top of page.
EARLY HORSE CAR PERIOD
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, January 31, 1909. Page 16.
This car still existed in 1909. Is it still around? It has a beautiful roof.
The first officers of the Omaha Horse Railway Company were as follows:
Besides being a director, Mr. Chandler was the first superintendent, a position which he held until 1873.
According to the Omaha Daily Herald of November 15, 1868, "The gentlemen mentioned as the officers and directors will be sufficient assurance that the enterprise will be conducted in the regular way of Western enterprise."
The Omaha Horse Railway Company was not superstitious. Construction was started Friday, November 13, 1868. The first shovelful of earth was dug in Farnam Street near Ninth Street. Crowds stood and watched the laborers all day. Material had been purchased or arranged for to complete l 1/4 miles of single track road, but most of the route was undecided when construction began.
"The road,"said the Herald, "is located on Farnam Street between Ninth and Fifteenth. Beyond this point the location is postponed until a future meeting of the Board. The road will be started with first-class , cars and horses and trips will be made every 15 minutes."
Offices for the transaction of the company's business were established in what was known as the Caldwell Block, at Fourteenth and Farnam. They were on the second floor above "Williams & Baker's Store," and looked out on Fourteenth Street. These offices were occupied by the company until the spring of '73, when A. J. Hanscom, who was at that time in control of the property, built a small frame office at the horse car barn on 21st St., between Cuming and Izard.
It was more than twenty months from the time the charter rights were conferred by the Territorial Legislature before a beginning was made on building the road. Many other enterprises promised quicker and larger returns to capital. The franchise, however, required that at least one mile of single-track be down within two years and by the winter, of 1868 the time had grown short -- to less than four months, in fact.
Therefore, when work was once under way it was pushed diligently through the stormy days of the Winter. At times 100 or more men were busy on the job. There was no general contractor to take responsibility from the officers of the company, nor to take a profit from the company's treasury. The construction was handled by the road itself by day labor, a practice which has prevailed down to the present day through successive physical transformations and reorganizations.
Progress, was recorded in the public prints in a somewhat desultory way. December 6th most of the gang was engaged in cleaning away snow and "planking" between the rails on Farnam Street. Rails, ties and other material were on the ground. By December 30th track had been laid on Farnam Street from Ninth to Fifteenth, north on Fifteenth to Capitol Avenue, and up the Avenue to Sixteenth. By January 3d another block had been put in on Capitol Avenue, but the track on Farnam Street was "completely covered with show."
The road proceeded to Eighteenth, north on Eighteenth to Cass, where the one-milt requirement was met; then west on Cass to Twentieth, north on Twentieth to Cuming and up that street to Twenty-first, where the terminal was established and a car barn built, stabling 26 horses and sheltering four cars in a "lean-to." On the other end of the line the track was extended from Farnam down Ninth to the old Union Pacific Passenger Station, or to about Jones Street.
This was Omaha's first street railway. It covered a distance of two miles, traversed the business district, was able to take delegates to and from the Capitol and the depot, and experienced no expansion for five years.
The first track construction consisted of iron "T" rail weighing 25 pounds to the yard, laid on six-foot, light, hewn white-oak ties, three feet apart. The specifications were high-class at the time. Construction cost probably $6,000.00 a mile at the time. At first the road was planked between the rails to Capitol Avenue, but when the original planking wore out it was not replaced, partly because the Company could not afford it and partly because Farnam Street was macadamized in the early '70s. There were turntables at each end of the line to reverse the cars, and turn-out switches at different points so that cars might meet and pass on the single track.
The first car operated is still preserved in about as good condition as it ever was. President Frost bought it second-hand in Chicago for $700, and innocently acquired a gold-brick thereby. Sometime prior to January 22, 1869, the car, which is merely an omnibus mounted on flanged iron wheels, was brought to Omaha and attempts made to start operation with it. The car refused to stay on the rails when going around curves, and its active career was short.
This car is today the single piece of property of the horse railways of Omaha that remains intact and in existence.
The first real street cars were four "standard horse cars," 16 feet long, with open platforms. They were put on early in 1869 and ran every fourteen minutes. The trip one way over the two mile route was made in 28 minutes. These cars were manned by a driver and a conductor.
The rate of cash fare was 10 cents. Commutation books were sold for 50 cents good for eight rides. History says that during the first few years the stockholders composed the majority of passengers.
Money was lost so rapidly that the directors were driven to measures which would at the same time cut down the payroll and stimulate patronage. The 16-foot cars were disposed of and replaced by four 10-foot cars with a single step at the rear in place of a platform, and intended to be propelled by a single horse. Owing, however, to the heavy grades of Omaha's streets it was found necessary to use two horses after all. The conductors were dismissed and fare-boxes placed in the front ends of the cars, the driver being made responsible for the collection of fares and making change.
The rate of fare was cut to 5 cents, it being concluded that the abolition of conductors would overcome the difference in the rate of fare. It was also thought that the reduced rate might increase traffic to a point where revenue, also, would be increased. These innovations were put into effect May 1, 1872. Conductors were never again used on the Omaha horse cars.
Horse railways in other Western cities were content to get along without conductors from the start, but in Omaha every effort was made to keep on the conductors and the larger cars as long as possible.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(The Story of the Early Horse Car Period Will Be Continued Next Sunday.)
Go to top of page.
THE HORSE CAR PERIOD
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, February 7, 1909. Page 16.
As stated in last Sunday's article, two horses were needed from the beginning to draw each car of the Omaha Horse Railway. The steep hills on Farnam street and Capitol avenue, and later on other lines, made one-horse operation impossible. In the hope of reducing both investment and operating expenses, repeated experiments were made to determine if horses could not be found capable of single duty, but no such animal was discovered.
The horses had bells suspended from their necks as warning to the public to keep out of the way of their five-mile an hour maximum gait. The cars had no stoves for the first decade. There were but two kerosene lamps in each car. One was placed high up in front aud served for semi-illumination of the interior and for a bulls-eye which looked out in front. The other lamp was a little one in the fare box. In winter straw or hay was scattered over the car floors to lessen the rigors of the temperature. Drivers worked fourteen hours a day, with 28 minutes relief for meals at noon and night. They were paid $1.50 per day.
In the early days, service usually ceased at 10 o'clock at night. If there was a party at the old Grand Central Hotel [Paxton Hotel site] or a show in the Opera House [United States National Bank corner at Sixteenth and Farnam Streets], sometimes an extra car was run to accommodate the handful which might care to ride.
About thirty horses were required for motive power for the service given by the original four cars They were worked in three shifts and averaged about 14 miles a day each. A few horses always were out of service, owing to sickness or injuries. From $73 to $123 was paid for each animal. The ideal car horse weighed from 1,500 to 1,600 pounds and was from 5 to 6 years old, but condition outranked age in the estimation of the buyer, who for many years, incident to his other duties, was Mr. W. A. Smith, the present Treasurer and General Manager of this Company.
Mr. Smith's connection with Omaha street railways began September 2, 1872, when he was employed as a driver. Within a year he was made Foreman and within another year, Superintendent.
Daily receipts the first few years ran from $30.00 to $40.00. The latter figure was considered large. About $10.00 a day was regarded as the maximum yield of a car.
By the close of 1872, despite the vigorous measures of retrenchment, the Horse Railway Company was still playing a losing game. Stockholders were willing to dispose of their certificates for very little. A. J. Hanscom quietly bought up a controlling interest in the stock, was elected president of the Company, and took charge of affairs about January 1, 1873.
President Hanscom immediately deposed E. B. Chandler as Superintendent and placed Mr. Smith in the position. He also gave the road its first regular bookkeeper and cashier in the person of his son, Wade Hanscom, but the addition to the payroll proved too expensive and was cut off after a few months, fiscal duties falling on the Superintendent.
Mr. Hanscom's regime did uot last long. He sold his entire holdings in the property to Captain W. W. Marsh, who became President July 1, 1873. Captain Marsh was a Black Hiljs stage line proprietor and later operated a ferry on the Missouri River between Omaha and Council Bluffs, prior to the construction of the Union Pacific bridge. He was a prominent stockholder, officer and force in Omaha Street railways from the date. he became President until he died.
Captain Marsh strove pluckily to make the Horse Railway a success. He succeeded in extending it three times its original length, and almost unaided, carried it through its most precarious period.
In 1874 an extension was built from the terminus at Twenty-first street west on Cuming to Twenty-fourth and north on Twenty-fourth to Hamilton street, a distance of one-half mile. A one and one-half mile line was constructed on Eighteenth street from Cass street north to Ohio.
Then as now the enhanced value traction lines brought to outlying real estate was understood and frequent and insistent demands were made on the Company for extensions. When the Eighteenth street line was built there were no people living north of Ohio street and very few north of Paul. The existence of the old Baumann Brewery and beer garden, however, gave some promise of the financial success to this line. As a matter of fact it barely paid the horse feed and drivers' wages for a number of years.
The cars of the original line had been painted red. The cars of the Eighteenth street line, of which there were only two at first, were painted green, The two lines were known thereafter as the Red Line and the Green Line, colored glass discs being used in the bullseyes at night for indicators.
The Green Line cars were 12 feet long and had a rear as well as a front platform. About this time a fifth car, also a 12-footer, was add6d to the Red Line, making the equipment seven cars in all. The trip on the Green Line from the Union Station to the northern terminus required 42 minutes In 1876 a third Green Line car was put on and the headway shortened to 28 minutes.
Service was greatly at the mercy of the weather. Lack of pavements and hilly streets were sometimes enough to tie up traffic completely, hard rains doing severe damage to the road bed. Car horses had to learn to walk the ties when the brickbat and cinder ballast was washed out.
Omaha grew slowly. By 1878 it had only about 14,000 population. Times were hard. Drouth destroyed the crops. The grasshopper plague descended in the summer of 1876 and devastated all the growing green things except tomato vines. Yet in 1873 the Horse Railway built an extension on Izard street from Eighteenth to Sixteenth and south on Sixteenth to a junction at Capitol avenue. And in the grasshopper year a track was built on Tenth street from the Union Station to Farnam, forming a terminal loop.
To finance the construction and equipment needs of the period 1873-78 it had been necessary to isue $20,000 bonds. The road was forced to sell these bonds at heavy discount. No dividends had been paid on stock, nor was the Company able to meet the interest on this first bond issue, and it defaulted repeatedly.
In 1878 the bondholders foreclosed under the usual security mortgage. The property was sold at a sheriff's sale and was bid in and purchased by Captain Marsh for less than the, face of the bonds and accrued interest. Captain Marsh offered to prorate the purchase price among the stockholders and let them retain their proportionate ownership, but not one of them accepted. Captain Marsh alone appeared to have krpt alive his faith in the enterprise and in the town. One stockholder remarked that he did not see why Captain Marsh wanted to pay good money for two streaks of rust down streets where there would be nothing in 100 years.
These were times, let it be remembered, when the future of the West was disputed and every town and city had a host of rivals snapping at its heels. The announcement that the street railway had been abandoned would have done untold injury to the community.
From 1878 to 1883 Captain Marsh operated the road as an individual owner, but the corporate entity was kept up, Frank Murphy and W. A. Smith serving as nominal directors with Captain Marsh. This period was the prelude to the great "boom" of 1882-8D. Horse Railway stock was worth from 5 to 10 cents on the dollar and couldn't be sold for that.
Captain Marsh secured money on his own responsibility and built a two-mile extension to Hanscom Park via St. Mary's avenue. This line was put through in 1880. It began at Farnam street, ran south on Fifteenth to Howard, west to Sixteenth and St. Mary's Avenue, up the avenue to Twenty-seventh street, south on Twenty-seventh to Leavenworth, west on Leavenworth to Park avenue and south on Park avenue to Woolworth, where the second car barn, sheltering 30 horses, was built.
The greater part of the Hanscom Park Line was built through a corn field. It was hoped that summer traffic to Hanscom Park would keep down losses while the district was being settled up. The steep grades on St. Mary's avenue necessitated the use of a "hill horse" an interesting accelerator in charge of a boy, the horse pulling from a hook on a forward corner of the car.
The equipment of the new Park Line consisted of the four old 10-foot cars from the original Red Line, six new 12-foot cars, with the lateet improvements of the times, having been purchased and put on the latter. About this time canary was adopted as the color for all cars, and the designations reduced to colored signs. The color of the Park Line was yellow.
The Park Line brought about the first transfer station in Omaha at Fifteenth and Farnam. Here a man was stationed to personally transfer passengers between the cars running to the Union Station and the Park cars, and turn switches as well. There were no transfer slips, these conveniences not having come into general use on street railways.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(Next Sunday the ttery of the Hone Car Peried will be Completed.)
Go to top of page.
LAST YEARS OF THE HORSE CARS
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, February 14, 1909. Page 16.
The Omaha Horse Railway Company was reorganized in 1883 and Capt. W. W. Marsh relieved of the individual responsibility which he had carried for five years. Omaha had started to grow in earnest and Captain Marsh saw the necessity of adding strength and capital to the street railway in order to meet the rapid demands for extensions and improvements.
From 1878 to 1883, the road had paid operating expenses but had paid no profits nor created a surplus either for improvements or renewals. A good sized floating debt had been piled up in financing extensions and betterments.
By 1883 there were some 35 cars in service calling tor the efforts of about 80 employes. Daily receipts ran in the neighborhood of $300. The new equipment consisted of cars 14 feet long, the best of their kind at that date and the largest that could be operated without a conductor.
The original name of the company was retained in the reorganization. The principal stockholders were Frank Murphy, president of the Merchants National Bank; Guy C. Barton, head of the smelting works; S. H. H. Clark, then president of the Union Pacific; Captain Marsh and W. A. Smith. Stock was issued in the amount of $500,000 and bonds in the amount of $300,000. The bonds were taken largely by the new stockholders and a portion was assigned to Captain Marsh to reimburse him for construction accounts and debts against the property. What bonds were sold to outsiders were marketed at a heavy discount, although they had to be redeemed at their full face value at maturity.
The career of the new Omaha Horse Railway Company lasted until April 1, 1889 and was full of excitement, varying fortune, expansion, perplexities, doubts and final transformation before the march of progress. The city grew like a young giant, spreading out, to its detriment, over a vast area through real estate speculation. Outside capital poured into Omaha and its population jumped from 25,000 in 1882 to 80,000 in 1889. Its official area increased in the same time from twelve square miles to twenty-two square miles.
Street railway lines were wanted everywhere. The real estate boomers recognized the value of transportation service and every effort was brought to bear on the company to build new lines. The following principal horse car lines were built, equipped and put in service:
Three modern and completely equipped car barns were built at the following locations:
During this period Omaha began to regrade and pave its streets. Among the first streets paved were those which the street railway had helped to make the main arteries of traffic. The improvements compelled the company to reconstruct its tracks and roadway at what was then heavy expense. The old iron "T" rail had to be abandoned and the "strap rail' substituted. This type of construction consisted of cypress stringers 4x6 inches in size over which was bent and fastened strips of wrought iron 1 1-8 inches thick, weighing about 25 pounds to the yard.
Increased traffic made it necessary to double-track a considerable part of the line, most of this work being done on Farnam and North Eighteenth Streets.
For the first time in its history the Horse Railway made money. The profits were substantial. But every dollar of profit was put back into the railway in extensions and betterments. Not one cent was paid in dividends.
From 1883 to 1889 between $700,000 and $800,000 was spent on the construction, reconstruction and equipment of the Omaha Horse Railway. At the end of the period there were about 75 cars in service, 600 horses owned and worked and 255 persons employed. There were about 25 miles of line.
The large, amount expended on the Horse Railway in these years was practically swept away by the introduction of cable tramways and the application of electricity to urban transportation. The money was paid out to give Omaha street car service during a time of vell-advised doubt over the desirability of cables and uncertainty as to what might be expected from electricity.
The cable had been demonstrated a practical working success in a number of cities and no doubt existed but that this power method was better than horses. But the possibilities of trolley operation had been foreshadowed and men gifted with optimism had attempted to picture its immeasurable superiority over the cable trams.
What good was to be produced if large sums were to be paid out, streets torn up and cables installed, if in a year or two electric railways would be proved successful and practical beyond dispute?
This was the question that confronted capitalists, traction managers, city councils and the people in the middle and later 80s. It was a question that required time and experience to answer. In the meantime the public asked insistently for something better than horse cars, adventurous men took chances and made vivid promises in exchange for franchise rights and street railway operators studied the subject night and day, conscious of their experience with horse railways and feeling that they must, in prudence, be conservative.
Cable construction was costly -- much more so than horse railway construction. Some cities escaped entirely the waste of capital in cable roads, but Omaha did not. Cable roads not only were built here, but were permitted to parallel the horse cars on certain streets.
Competition at that time was popularly believed to be a solution of public utility problems. This is evidenced by the fact that in Omaha, subsequent to granting a franchise for cable roads, the city council granted franchises for two electric railways at the same time and under the same conditions.
In the closing years of horse car operation Omaha naturally and properly wanted the best street railway transportation, even though it was not clear what was to be best in the future. Civic pride, the desire for fast and comfortable transit, and the determination not to be outrivaled in metropolitan accomplishments by competitors, made Omaha willing to encourage the expenditure of capital that might never pay out on the utilities it actually was invested in.
The people and the municipal officials invited promoters (using the word in its best sense as meaning leaders in legitimate new enterprises) to accept franchises to secure the money of others and to spend it and their own money, in new kinds of street railways. The main, thing was to get the innovations and to do so at the earliest possible moment.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
("Cable Railways in Omaha" will be Discussed Next Sunday.)
Go to top of page.
Cable Railways in Omaha
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, February 21, 1909. Page 16.
The cable tramway was a Western invention. It originated 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 car transit.
Power was transmitted to the cars by means of an endless 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 necessary 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 Richmond, Va., Cleveland, O., and other places were being made with electric motive power
The Cable Tramway Company of Omaha was incorporated June 26, 1884, by Samuel R. Johnson, C. B. Rustin, Isaac S. Hascall, Casper E. Yost and Fred Drexel. Mr. Johnson was the president of this and the succeeding 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 project and money was not secured nor construction begun until 1886. The interests of Isaac S. Hascall, Casper E. Yost and Fred Drexel were taken over by W. V. Morse, L. B. Williams and Dr. Samuel R. Mercer. Later 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 horsepower 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 claim the bonus, but the directors concluded not to seek payment 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 Manager, who received his early tramway experience in San Francisco and Kansas City. A few gripmen were obtained from the cities to 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 the old Horse Railway Company 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 B. 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 specifically, 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, electricity, 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.
("The First Electric Railways" will be the Subject presented Next Sunday.))
Go to top of page.
THE FIRST ELECTRIC RAILWAYS
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, February 28, 1909. Page 16.
Unwilling to wait until electric traction had been proved a practical success elsewhere, the people of Omaha granted two franchises July 13, 1887, to encourage the construction of trolley lines. The cable tramway was not then completed.
The franchises were identical in their terms, conferring operating rights on practically any and all streets not already used by a street railway. They ran for a period of thirty years, said nothing whatever about the rate of fare or transfers, and, curiously enough, did not bind the grantees to electric power.
One franchise was granted to the Omaha Motor Railway Company and the other to the Northwestern Street Railway Company. The question was submitted at a special election, at which 1,029 votes were cast favoring the grants and 95 against them.
The first electric railways of Omaha were built by the Omaha Motor Railway Company, of which the late Dr. Samuel D. Mercer was the chief organizer. The rights of the Northwestern franchise were never exercised. The men chiefly interested in that company, according to the records, were Henry St. John, Elmer E. Finney, Charles F. Goodman, Henry Creighton, James A. Brown, George Dorsey, Oscar P. Goodman, Hiram JG. Bell, Henry J. Penfold and Joseph Bell. Evidently the problem of financing the road proved too difficult.
The Omaha Motor Railway Conpany was incorporated April 11, 1887, by Dr. Mercer, Clifton E. Mayne, Herbert J. Davis, Charles B. Brown, of New York, Samuel S. Curtis and Emerson S. Stone. The original intention seems to have been chiefly towards building interurban lines in Douglas, Cass, Dodge, Sarpy and Otoe Counties.
Obtaining the necessary funds and constructing an electric street railway in 1887-89 was a task too onerous and entailing too many risks to tempt the conservative business man. Only an extraordinary personality, like Dr. Mercer, possessed of both imagination and will power, was fitted for the undertaking. Other local men some of them living were important factors in the Motor Railway, but the majority of such credit is is due for making the enterprise an actuality belongs to Dr. Mercer. From the time he saw an experimental electric line at a New Orleans exposition he never rested until there was one in Omaha.
The struggles of the Motor Company were crucial. After construction was started all of the original incorporators and bankers retired, except President Mercer, Samuel S. Curtis and Herbert J. Davis, the latter two remaining as directors at the request of Dr. 'Mercer. The president, laboring against great disadvantages, secured the co-operation and participation of Joseph H. Millard, E. W. Nash, J. Y. Brown and N. W. Wells, and with their help the road was built.
The Omaha Motor Railway was put into operation in the fall of 1889. The cars run were not the first electric cars propelled through the streets of Omaha, however. That honor belongs to the Omaha and Council Bluffs Railway and Bridge Company, which brought electric cars across the river on its new bridge, in the summer of 1889, and ran them around loop tracks, leased from the Omaha Motor Company.
Nevertheless the Motor Railway was among the first electric lines constructed and operated. Coming into existence about the time of the erection of the New York Life, Bee and City Hall buildings, the railway was one of the "show" achievements of the city.
The electric line first constructed and operated started at Thirty-sixth and Burt Streets, ran east on Burt to Seventeenth; south on Seventeenth to Cass; east on Cass to Fourteenth; south on Fourteenth to Howard; east on Howard to Eleventh and south on Eleventh to Bancroft Street, a distance of 4 miles. Later an extension was built on Thirty-sixth from Burt to Cuming Street and out to Fortieth Street.
The Motor Railway, having received a franchise by vote of the people there, July 25, 1887, built the first street railway to South Omaha, where the stock yards and packing houses were already well established. This line was 7 1/2 miles long and covered the following route:
Starting from Twenty-second Street and Ames Avenue, where a car house was built, east on Ames to Sherman Ave. ; south to Clark St.; west to Seventeenth; south to Burt, where it connected with the original line and used the tracks to Howard St.; west to Fifteenth; south to Leavenworth; west to Sixteenth; south to Vinton; west to Twenty-fourth; south to N Street, South Omaha.
A fourth line was built north on Twenty-second St. from Nicholas to Charles; west on Charles to Twenty-fifth and north on Twenty-fifth to Lake Street.
All of the Motor Railway construction was double track. The rail used was a steel girder rail, weighing 45 pounds to the yard. The trolley wires were suspended from wooden poles set along the curb.
A substantial brick power house, still in existeuce, was built at Twenty-second and Nicholas streets and fitted with two Corliss engines, one of 450 horsepower and the other 250 horse power, belt connected to Thomson-Houston generators.
The first equipment consisted of about twenty closed cars with Pullman bodies mounted, on single trucks. They were fitted with two, 15 horsepower Thomson-Houtson motors each. Direct current was supplied at 500 volts.
The construction, equipment and service of the Omaha Motor Railway was the very best that could be offered at that time. Moreover it was tremendously costly, and electric traction was still an experiment. The money that went into this road went in on FAITH.
The steep grades, in particular, worried the early electric traction engineers. A contract made in November, 1889, whereby the Omaha Street Railway Company took over a little horse car line which had been built in Dundee, specified that operation should be by electric power, but made a proviso for horsepower "should electricity prove undesirable for winter service on grades."
But electric traction in Omaha proved to be an unqualified success.
Six months before the Motor Railway began to haul passengers the Omaha Street Railway Company, the consolidated Horse and Cable Railways had adopted electricity, decided to electrify important lines and had made contracts for cars, engines, generators and supplies. The struggles between the two companies for priority on the streets and viaducts, the difficulty of both to obtain funds for construction and the collapse of the "boom" all contributed to the inevitable merger.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(("Consolidation nd Electrification" will be the Subject discussed Next Sunday.)
Go to top of page.
CONSOLIDATION AND ELECTRIFICATION
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, March 7, 1909. Page 16.
At the beginning of 1889 traction conditions in Omaha were about as chaotic as they well could be. The Omaha Horse Railway Company was operating 25 miles of horse railway; the Omaha Cable Tramway Company about 6 miles of double track cable tramway, and the Omaha Motor Railway Company was constructing an extensive, double track, electric road covering 10 miles.
All three were militant. The Horse Railway declared it would install both electric and cable lines. The Cable Company announced its intention of building additional lines and making itself a more formidable competitor. Both concerns watched the construction of the electric lines with keen apprehension.
The excess expenditure in investment and operation, and the inconvenience and expense of double fares to the people in competing street railways Were soon apparent to all concerned. Competition between two lines was bad enough; among three it would be intolerable.
There were strong men in both the Horse and Cable roads and each group saw the necessity of Consolidation. February 12, 1889, the Legislature passed a law permitting the merger, which formally took place April 1, 1889. Both companies were incorporated in a new organization -- The Omaha Street Railway Company -- on about equal terms. The new directorate was made up of men on the boards of old companies, as follows:
Mr. Murphy was president, Mr. Johnson vice-president, Mr. Marsh treasurer, Mr. D. H. Goodrich secretary, Mr. W. A. Smith general manager and Mr. F. A. Tucker general superintendent.
The cable and horse railways henceforth were operated as one system, transfers being exchanged, and the combined efforts of the two former systems exerted towards improving the service.
At the first meeting of the directors of the Omaha Street Railway Company, April 3, 1889, the following resolution, introduced by W. V. Morse and seconded by W. W. Marsh, was adopted:
"Resolved, That the president and vice-president be instructed
At the same meeting Superintendent Tucker was instructed to obtain "figures, estimates and drawings" for a "complete cable line on South Twentieth Street from Harney to Syndicate Park."
The new company thus affirmed its intention of following close in the wake of invention and giving battle to the Motor Railway. The contest between the two organizations for certain privileges was intense, particularly for trackage rights on the South Eleventh Street viaduct, on Lake Street and other streets. Officers and employes of one company were shadowed at night by men of the other, lest surprises might be sprung. The controversies were taken into the courts delaying construction and hampering financing. In general the public was painfully aware that competition ex isted between the two organizations.
In May the Omaha Street Railway Company decided to make a contract with the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company for its system of power. A site for a power house was bought at Nineteenth and Nicholas Streets, and contracts awarded for engines, generators, cars and material for electrification. Letting contracts was one thing; paying for the goods was another. When the Street Railway Company attempted to market a 5% mortgage bond issue in New York on a 90-cent basis, it failed to sell a single security. Much more favorable terms did not tempt investors. President Murphy made special trips to New York in the effort to dispose of the bonds without success.
By midsummer, 1889, the directors were thoroughly disheartened, as is indicated clearly by the records. At one time it was proposed to sell the bonds prorata to the stockholders on a 60-cent basis, but this plan did not work and on August 26th the president was authorized to borrow $400,000 "On such terms as he could obtain and deposit bonds as collateral."
A contributing cause of the failure to sell bonds was, the waning of the "boom," but the principal cause was the fact that the Street Railway Company was not alone in the field and was menaced by the competition of the Motor Railway. Therefore, securities went begging.
Meanwhile the Motor Railway Company, also, had critical financial problems to solve. Long before the road was put in operation the public anticipated its consolidation with the Street Railway, so logical was this course. About the time electric service was first offered to the public, negotiations were held between the two managements.
The result was the purchase of the Omaha Motor Railway by the Omaha Street Railway Company October 15, 1889.
The owners of the Motor Railway had made extraordinary effort and sacrifices to create the property had taken great risks in doing so and they were in position to drive a good bargain.. They secured in the transaction a large profit in stock, which, however, was of little value for years.
Prior to the purchase the Street Railway Company had proceeded too far with electrification to draw back. It built the brick power house at Nineteenth and Nicholas Streets, electrified the Hanscom Park and North Twenty-fourth St. line, and within a short time, placed in use its first installment of electric cars, consisting of 20 motor cars and 10 trailers. The power house was equipped with two Westinghouse engines of 250 horse power each, belt connected to Edison generators.
Under the terms of purchase Dr. Mercer and J. J. Brown became directors in the Street Railway Company. The motor road's property was turned over November 2 and unified operation, which has continued to the present day, began November 4, 1889.
Competition caused the erection and equipment of two expensive electric power houses and one cable power house where there might have been but one, and duplication in many miles of track, all of which could have been avoided had the people preferred to deal with and encourage the existing company, instead of granting franchises to new organizations and inviting competition.
Fortunately the power systems of the two electric establishments were such as could be worked together. For a period of years the Nineteenth Street house was maintained, as the chief power source and the-Twenty-second Street station used as a reserve.
With unification the immediate financial problems became somewhat easier despite the deflated "boom" and approaching hard times. Electrification of the old horse railway lines, therefore, proceeded swiftly.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
((Next Sundays Installment Will Tell of "The Pre-Exposition Period.")
Go to top of page.
THE PRE-EXPOSITION PERIOD
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, March 14, 1909. Page 16.
It might be supposed that consolidation of the three principal street railway systems of Omaha into one organization simplified the problem of financing electrification and other improvements. This was true only in a measure. Immediate advantages were almost nullified by other conditions affecting city, state and nation.
The eight years preceding the Trans-Mississippi Exposition constituted the most disheartening period in the entire street railway history of Omaha. A brief recital of general facts will make this statement clear, even to those who cannot verify it by personal knowledge.
This city, from the final collapse of the real estate boom until the Trans-Mississippi year, was veritably in the "slough of despond." Business slackened, factories closed down, firms went bankrupt, people moved away, fortunes in land and other property were lost, the unemployed grew great in numbers and dire in necessity, and the incomes of those lucky enough to retain incomes were seriously diminished.
At first, sectional and local, the depression soon paralyzed the entire country. The panic of 1893 is historic and its aftermath long and dreary, ineffably impressed in the memory of those who endured. The days of the public soup houses will be remembered long.
Hard times in Omaha beginning fully three years before the crash, of 1893, gave this city much more than its full share of privation compared with the country as a whole. Capital for any purpose was next to impossible to obtain.
The Omaha Street Railway Co. at this particular time, found itself confronted with the problem of installing an electric power system over about thirty miles of line, and raising money to pay for the power machinery, new cars, motors, trolley wire and poles, new track and roadway, the necessary engineering expenses and labor and the hundreds of incidentals involved in such a work.
Once having seen and used the electric cars the public was satisfied with nothing less. The horse car, long in high disfavor, became absolutely taboed, and the costly cable tramways no longer received even a particle of admiration. The demand for electrification of the entire system was so strong that the management could not have resisted it, even had it so desired.
In the face of financial difficulties that seemed insurmountable, the company succeeded in changing over all the horse lines to electric lines within three years. The cables were taken out in 1894 and replaced with trolleys, the greater part of the cable investment having been made valueless in less than eight years. Besides the loss of capital in the tramways, operation never paid. There were times on the Harney line, for instance, when every nickel collected represented an expenditure of 8 cts.
Directors then, as now, held frequent meetings. Stock, for financing the improvements, could neither be sold or used for collateral in borrowing money. Bonds, however, were sometimes marketable provided they were sold for much less than their face value. Many urgent demands for funds were met by making short time loans with bonds as security, but there were occasions when this expedient failed and individual stockholders and directors were compelled to guarantee loans personally in order to secure money for the company. Credit is due certain local banks which tided the Company over many an emergency.
The revenues of the company suffered severely, not alone from the hard times, but from the bicycle competition during the fad of 1893-96. The bicycles were used for several years by men, women and children as a common mode of transportation. Demands of the city for paving between and outside of the rails increased in volume and added materially to investment costs.
It is almost needless to say that during this time there were no profits, real or imaginary, in dividends or otherwise. Neither was the company able to establish a depreciation fund to pay for renewals. It was hard to make necessary betterments and maintain the existing property.
Tracks and rails, suitable for the horse cars were unavailable for the heavier electric cars, and a 45-pound girder rail, bonded, was submitted. The horse cars were too frail to hold the heavy motors and mechanism of the electric cars. A few of the better ones were remodeled, but the remainder was scrapped and sold for junk prices less than $10 a car. Some of the cable trailers were converted into trolley cars, but the grip cars could not be changed over because of their peculiar construction.
In addition to electrifying the system, the company made material extensions of lines, built the carhouse at Twenty-Fourth street and Ames Avenue, started to vestibule all cars for the protection of motormen, practically re-constructed the entire track and roadway, and took over, electrified and operated a number of small suburban horse car lines. These lines included the following:
During the period of financial depression, electrification, reconstruction and absorption, a reasonably good service was given by the company over a city which had spread out over an immense area considering the size of its population.
The Trans-Mississippi Exposition, as is well known, was a great success and restored Omaha to its progressive course. The Omaha Street Railway Company contributed its full share towards this success in handling the people to and from the Exposition and about the city, besides subscribing liberally to the enterprise.
By the exertion of determination and heavy expenditures the company placed itself in good condition for transporting the crowds which visited Omaha in 1898. The principal routes used to haul passengers to and from the Exposition were by way of North Twenty-fourth Street and through Sherman Avenue. These lines were looped in the business district and an excellent service provided. The Dodge line cars were run direct from the railroad stations to the grounds.
It was the general verdict that the company acquitted itself creditably during the Exposition and assisted materially in the convenience and comfort of visitors, and also to give them a good impression of the city. The revenue of the company in 1898 was more than twice as great as that of the preceding year. For the first time in the local street railway business 30 years there was a surplus in the treasury greater than the immediate financial demands.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(The Installment Next Sunday Will Outline Briefly the Development up to the Present.)
Go to top of page.
THE PERIOD FROM 1898 TO 1909
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, March 21, 1909. Page 16.
With this installment the chronological history of the street railways of Omaha is closed. Succeeding articles will discuss certain phases of modern operation and service.
The first dividend ever declared by a street railway in this city was paid for the year 1898 on the strength of the revenue derived from the Exposition traffic. It was a dividend of 2 per cent. By 1902 a 4 per cent dividend was paid. It is now realized by the management, however, that these apparent profits consisted of money which should have gone to make up a renewal or depreciation fund.
Since 1898 Omaha has grown rapidly and the business of the street railway has steadily increased in proportion. Prior to 1903 some small extensions were made and an amount of track reconstruction accomplished, but in the year before the Omaha Street Railway Company found itself compelled to deal with a vital situation.
The growth of the city and the increase in passenger traffic had outgrown the facilities of the company. Its power equipment was worn out and expensive to operate; its cars were much too small and too few in number and most of the track required reconstruction with heavier rails and a firmer and more costly roadway, Prevailing demands were too much for the road without even considering the needs of the future.
The stock and bond issuing capacity of the company had been exhausted and the proposition had grown to a size too great to be handled readily by local capital exclusively. In addition the time had arrived which appeared opportune to unify the operation of the Omaha lines with the Omaha & Council Bluffs Railway and Bridge Company a property which had never been able to earn profits operated independently.
To meet the demands and finance the rehabilitation and consolidation of the two systems, a reorganization took place, December 22, 1902, which brought the Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company into existence. Under this reorganization a large amount of money was obtained from Eastern sources, the capitalization of the property was increased and the Council Bluffs lines and bridge taken over for operation on a 99-year lease.
The first Board of Directors of the new company were as follows; Frank Murphy, Guy C. Barton, G. W. Wattles, W. V. Morse and W. A. Smith, all of Omaha; C. R. Tyler of Council Bluffs; Albert Strauss of New York; Randall Morgan of Philadelphia and Hugh J. McGowan of Indianapolis.
The officers, were as follows: Frank Murphy, president; Guy C. Barton, vice-president; W. A. Smith, treasurer and general manager; R. A. Leussler, secretary and F. A. Tucker, general superintendent.
Following the reorganization and the acquirement of additional capital, the Omaha and Council Bluffs street railway systems (except the bridge) were practically made over, rebuilt and re-equipped in all essential respects. In addition many miles of extensions were made to the lines. Following is an attempt to sum up the most important improvements in the briefest possible way:
Modern, 10,000 horsepower, power station constructed and equipped at the foot of Jackson Street, replacing two power stations in Omaha and one in Council Bluffs and causing the scrapping of old machinery formerly used.
New concrete sub-station, built at Twenty-seventh and Lake Streets, equipped with transformers and rotary converting machines, and conduits for carrying high-tension cables laid to central power station.
All of the light track construction in Omaha replaced with 73-pound girder rail, laid over rock, cinder and gravel foundation and connected with continuous joints.
Complete replacement of and large addition to rolling stock with new and modern cars, the majority being 40 feet long and upwards, on double-trucks fitted with powerful motors.
Large brick car-building and general repair shops constructed at Twenty-sixth and Lake Streets.
Overhead construction thoroughly rehabilitated, including the replacing of wooden with iron trolley-poles on principal thorough fares, and the running of heavy electric feeder cables for the proper distribution of power over the system.
The following extensions of lines were made in Omaha:
A second, or double, track was put down on the following lines:
The service has been steadily improved, and while it is not perfect, the management believes that it compares favorably with the service of any city of similar size.
In forty years the system has grown from two miles of a single-track operated with four horse cars to a modern electric street railway, equipped with the best centralized power equip ment that money can buy, maintaining a service over 140 miles of track, having at its disposal upwards of 350 modern cars, and requiring the services .of 1,000 men the year round and 1,500 men during the construction season.
It seems proper at this time to submit a few words of appreciation of the man who was the strongest single force in the upbuilding and unification of the local street railways Frank Murphy. Mr. Murphy died suddenly Decem ber 12, 1904, and the city and the company lost one of their most aggressive constructors and wisest advisers.
Mr. Murphy was succeeded as president of the company by Guy C. Bar ton, G. W. Wattles becoming vice-president. Upon Mr. Barton's retirement in January 1908, Mr. Wattles was elected president and Frank T. Hamilton vice-president.
The present Board of Directors is as follows: G. W. Wattles, Frank T. Hamilton, K. C. Barton, L. F. Crofoot, W. V. Morse, W. A. Smith, C. R. Tyler, Albert Stauss and Randall Morgan.
F. A. Tucker, who was general superintendent and a much valued officer for many years, died in November 1906. About this time the title and duties of assistant general manager were assigned to Secretary R. A. Leussler.
It is hoped that the following articles will make clear the policies of the present management and the determination to dolts full duty as a public servant.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(The "Track and Roadway" Will Be Discussed in Next Sunday's Installment.)
Go to top of page.
TRACK AND PAVING
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, March 28, 1909. Page 16.
One of the heaviest items of expense entering into the cost of street railway construction is "track and roadway." That this part of the entire property is expensive is apparent to the casual observer, but comparatively few persons realize how great the account is and what ratio it bears to the total outlay.
The average life of a rail used on the Omaha street railways does not exceed 12 years. Some last longer; others not so long, much depending on the frequency and weight of the cars passing over them.
When the first horse car track was put down in 1868-69 it cost about $6,000 a mile. The estimated cost of the heavy construction which the future of Omaha demands is about $30,000 a mile.
While there is no comparison between the two types of track, yet all of the increased expense is not represented by the improvements themselves. A large part of the advance is due to higher prices for metal, ties, ballast, paving and labor.
The street railway tracks of this city have gone through at least four
separate and distinct phases. These may be listed as follows, the pound
weights being by the yard:
The first type of construction was used for the horse cars prior to paving. The strap rail was substituted when the streets were paved. The 45-pound steel rail was used for the first electric railways, and for a number of years afterwards. The 73-pound rail of the present has been "standard" on the local system for some ten years. Its finish is in sight, and a 100 pound rail is contemplated for the next change.
With each change from lighter to heavier rails came the necessity of heavier foundations and ballast.
Much of the track and roadway reconstruction from time to time (this kind of work is always in progress) was not worn out and might have sufficed for years longer, were it not for the constantly increasing size and weight of the cars. The first electric cars were 24 feet long, weighed but 9 tons, and ran on four wheels. They were followed by 25-foot, 30-foot and finally by 42-foot cars, the weight increasing to about 20 tons, and the single giving way to the large double trucks.
The first electric cars were too heavy for the old horse car rails and roadway, and it was necessary to reconstruct the track at once.
The 20-ton, double truck cars could not be operated with safety and comfort to the passengers on the 45-pound rails. It was absolutely necessary again to put in heavier track construction. When the horse car lines were being electrified and 45-pound rails were going down on a good foundation of crushed rock with concrete between and over the ties to hold the paving, citizens told General Manager Smith that the track would outlast his connection with the system. These prophets were wrong. Their predictions were discredited years ago.
There is at the present time considerable dispute among engineers as to what really is the best type of street railway track construction. That common in Omaha is by no means the heaviest or most expensive known, yet it has been adequate for satisfactory service up to the present time.
The 73-pound steel girder rails are 7 inches high. They are laid on white oak ties, 6x8 inches and 7 feet long in size and two feet apart from center to center. Under the ties is from 5 to 6 inches of packed rock, gravel and cinders, and concrete is used to fill the space between the rails and above the ties to a height of two inches.
The question of welding the rails together has been discussed by the Company from time to time, but the practice has not been adopted because of the satisfaction given up to the present by the continuous rail joints long in use.
Lines on unpaved streets and highways are equipped with 60 and 70-pound steel "T" rails.
The City has always required the Company to bear the cost of paving between the rails. This requirement has caused the expenditure of approximately $1,000,000 by the Company and its predecessors for paving. The expense of reconstruction is greatly increased by the cost of taking up and relaying paving. On paved streets where the improvement is 40 feet wide, the Company's proportion of the total work is about 25 per cent.
The Company has always endeavored to carry out the official orders of the City with reference to track, roadway and paving. The City has followed a reasonable course and the Company has not been forced to great expense trying out experiments in various forms of construction. As a result paving between and along the rails with brick or granite on asphalt streets was a settled policy in Omaha long before other cities stopped wasting large sums trying to maintain asphalt over the tracks. This is not possible owing to the constant vibration caused by the car traffic.
In closing this instalment it may be stated that the Company, recognizing the near necessity of heavier and more costly tracks and roadway on the principal lines, is keeping in close touch with the best practice and development. Its engineers are constantly studying and observing the present and prospective needs, and the manner in which similar conditions are being met in the larger cities.
It is our desire to maintain our tracks and roadway according to the most approved specifications.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(The Next Installment Will Describe the "Car Building and General Repair Shops.")
Go to top of page.
CAR BUILDING AND GENERAL REPAIR SHOPS
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, April 4, 1909. Page 16.
A feature of the street railway system of which the Company feels proud is the new car-building and general repair shops at Twenty-sixth and Lake Streets.
The shops of the Company are entitled to consideration by themselves as an industrial and wage paying factor. Permanent employment is made possible for about 100 men comprising the highest and best paid kinds of artisans. As the work done at the shops is constantly growing with the expansion of the Company, the payroll will show a steady increase. The shops and large storage yards are located on a tract of ground two blocks square, giving ample room both for present and future needs. The buildings were erected in 1905, are semi-fireproof, adequate and roomy from a practical standpoint and present an ornamental exterior appearance.
Construction is of light pressed brick with buff stone trimming. The main building is 245 feet long by 120 feet wide. The offices and drafting room are housed in a separate building 35 by 50 feet in size and fitted with a fireproof vault for the storage of maps, plans and records.
The shops are separated by heavy brick fire walls into six separate departments, as follows: Machine Shop; Forge Shop; Truck Room; Armature Room. Mill or woodworking Shop and the Paint Shop.
All of the many expensive machines, apparatus and devices used are thoroughly modern and capable of performing far more work than is required of them at present. All mechanical power is electric, and so far as practicable the various machines have their individual motors, ready for the most economical operation at all times. The natural lighting facilities are excellent and the entire building is fitted with incandescent lamps.
Compressed air is used for operating hoists and certain tools. The hoists are portable and are employed when it is desired to lift anything which would tax a man's strength upwards to the 20-ton cars.
No foundry has been installed up to the present time, it having been found advisable to purchase most of the castings required from local institutions which specialize in that class of work.
A fire at the shops or in any of the car barns at night would put many cars out of commission and interfere with the service. To guard as far as possible against accidents of this kind the shops and car houses are fitted throughout with automatic sprinkling fire extinguishers operating on the usual thermosta tic principle.
It does not lie within the scope of this article to attempt a complete or technical description of the shops. A person in terested in machine tools would find much to interest him and excite his admiration, including a number of devices originated by the Company's officers and employes. Noticeable among these are the elevated inspection pits in the truck room, with concrete piers and a specially designed electric lighting system.
Particular attention has been given to the welfare of the men, who have individual lockers, commodious lavatories and other conveniences.
The Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company has built some of its own cars since 1906.
In deciding to build its own cars the Company was influenced by a number of reasons, one being the wish to add to the industrial growth and welfare of the city. The Company found that it could build its own cars about as cheaply as it could buy them from the manufacturers. By building the cars stronger and better and carefully supervising each bit of construction, it was believed that superior service could be offered and maintenance costs reduced at the same time. Repair parts would be always obtainable and local needs could be studied and specially met as they arose.
The results of the policy have proved gratifying and have produced a larger, better riding, more convenient and handsomer street car than it was possible to buy.
The cars which are turned out at the Company's shops may be compared advantageously with any in regular urban service in the United States. They are 42 feet long, built on heavy double trucks and operated by two 40 horsepower motors. They are heated by hotwater system, with the stove in the motorman's compartment. The seats, affording room for 42 passengers, are covered with cane, the larger proportion being cross-seats with an aisle in the center. Electric push buttons between the windows to signal the motorman.
The motorman is completely enclosed, insuring at all times warmth and freedom from distraction in order that he may give full attention to his duties and the safety of the passengers and public. There is no standing room for passengers on the front platform.
All the large cars are equipped with air brakes and air controlled sanders. The rear platform is large and roomy, the steps are wide and easy to mount and the passageway into the car is protected by a railing. Careful attention is given to ventilation and every effort is made to offer a passenger the safest and most comfortable ride which money and invention can procure.
The Company not only attempts to give its patrons the highest class of car equipment but makes special efforts to keep the cars clean, hygenic and sightly.
At least once a year every car on the system goes through the general shops for a thorough overhauling and revarnishing. Once a week each car remains in the house long enough for a thorough daylight inspection and for any minor repairs which may be needed. Every night all cars and trucks are inspected, oiled and cleaned and if anything is found materially wrong the car is taken out of service.
The cars are cleaned thoroughly each day with soap and water and disinfected twice a week with formaldehyde. Plans are now formulated for making the daily cleaning more efficient so far as it may affect disease apt to be communicated by bacteria.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(The Next Installment Will Describe the "Car Building and General Repair Shops.")
Go to top of page.
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, April 11, 1909. Page 16.
The majority of people have not the remotest conception of how power to run street cars is obtained and applied, nor of the machinery and expense involved. It would require many articles the length of this one to make the subject reasonably clear to the uninitiated, but a few general facts may be given which help the reader appreciate the investment and operating costs.
Electricity is the product of friction. Steam is the product of heat and water. To produce electricity by friction, steam power is used. Therefore, it is necessary to have, in the first place, boilers and steam engines to drive the friction machines, called generators or dynamos.
Fully one-half the power installation of a street railway company is used less than four hours a day. The heavy investment in the boilers, engines and generators which lay idle 20 out of the 24 hours is due to the nature of the traffic, which culminates in two "peaks" during the rush hours of the morning and evening. The average non-rush hour electrical load of our system is about 2,100 kilowatts; the electrical load at 6 p.m. on an ordinary week day is 5,000 kilowatts. It is the maximum, not the average, demand which the company must be able to supply. The investment of the Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Co. in its central power station, rotary converting substations and high voltage cables and conduits, runs into the millions. It will be necessary within a short time to spend a very large amount for additional power installation.
By 1903, or in a little more than a dozen years, the company had entirely outgrown the two power stations which had served, with many additions and improvements, from the first days of electrification. A great deal of the machinery was not worn out, but it was no longer equal to the demands nor economical to operate. It was scrapped, most of it sold for junk and the source of energy centralized in 1904 in the new Jackson Street Power Station.
The Jackson Street Power Station lies at the foot of Jackson Street and near the river. It was designed by John J. Lichter of St. Louis and it supplies motor energy for the whole system. The actual maximum capacity is more than 10,000 electrical horsepower. From skylight to foundation piers the station and equipments are modern, efficient and costly.
The building consists of duplicate sections, each 130 feet long and 54 feet wide and 75 feet high. Construction is largely of steel and concrete with brick walls. The roof is covered with tile. The east section of the building is the boiler room; the west section is the engine-generator room.
There are four double batteries of Bahcock and Wilcox boilers. Each boiler has a capacity of 525 horsepower, meaning a total steam horsepower capacity of 4,200.
The engine room contains a Curtis Steam Turbine Alternating Generator of 2,000 kilowatts rated capacity; three General Electric Direct-current Generators of 1,000 kilowatts rated capacity each, direct connected to as many Fulton Cross-compound Reciprocating Engines, and one 850 kilowatt Direct-current General Electric Generator direct connected to an engine of the same type. The principal machines in addition to these are three rotary converting generators of a total capacity of 1,425 kilowatts.
To run the Jackson Street Station one day requires 150 tons of coal. If the coal is delivered in hopper bottom cars it is never touched by hand or shovel, but is transported from car to grate automatically by means of coal conveying machinery. If the cars are not hopper bottom it is necessary to shovel the coal into the receiving pit.
The fuel is first put through the coal crushers and then carried by belt conveyers to the coal bunkers which are located high above the boilers. These bunkers will hold 300 tons. From the bunkers the coal descends by gravity through iron spouts to a position directly over the open or receiving end of the chain grates. The grates are continuous and moving forward automatically at the desired rate of speed, carry the coal in a layer, of from 5 to 6 inches under the boilers where the greatest pos sible degree of heat is extracted. Even the ashes are handled by automatic conveyers and dumped into cars waiting to receive them. Stoking, in the old sense of the term, is no longer known in a plant like this.
The boiler furnaces are operated under an induced draft obtained by the use of duplicate vacuum fans 22 feet in diameter, Between the furnaces and the stack are located a series of radiators known as fuel economizers which are used to heat the boiler feed water. The economizers utilize as much as possible of the products of combustion which escape through the chimney.
All of the steam used in the plant after performing its work in the turbines and engines is passed over pipes containing cold river water and condensed. Thus the water is used over and over again and never allowed to become cold. The circulating system necessary to obtain the desired results is too complicated to describe, but it may be stated that when water enters the boilers it has already been heated to a temperature of from 225 to 250 degrees.
The street cars are moved by what is known as direct current electricity placed on the wires at a pressure of 600 volts. To enable the proper and economical distribution of power, however, a large proportion of the electrical energy is manufactured in alternating or high speed current at 13,200 volts. Part of this is sent to the substations and converted into 600-volt direct current energy. The remainder is likewise converted at the central station and used to feed the trolley wires.
The principal Substation at Twenty-seventh and Lake Streets is a costly investment in itself. The building is of concrete with brick curtain walls. The 13,200 volt alternating current from the Jackson Street Station is conveyed through three-wire cables in underground clay conduits, entering the Substation through oil switches built in a fireproof Vault. The current is run through air-blast cooled transformers, which reduce the voltage to 430 and is then sent through the rotary convenors, which change the alternating current into direct current suitable for the trolley wires. The converting capacity is 800 kilowatts.
The transforming and converting apparatus at Jackson Street is similar but of larger capacity.
The company maintains a Portable Substation housed in a specially constructed car which may be taken to any part of the line. This Portable Substation is found very useful in summer in handling the heavy Lake Manawa traffic. It has a transforming-converting capacity of 400 kilowatts.
The interior of the Jackson Street Station is exceptionally pleasing to the eye of the layman, even though he may not be of a mechanical turn of mind. Tile floors, ornamental iron lamp brackets, automatic ventilating devices and a general atmosphere of spotless order and cleanliness prevail.
There is nothing to indicate to the senses the terrific power concealed in the high voltage mechanism under the sole control of the switchboard operator, who from his isolated perch directs it into its proper channels, not by insulated hand devices, but by low-voltage electric switches, which in turn control the power which is too dangerous to risk personal contact.
There is some likeness between the unseen forces that exist in this station and the unseen hundreds of thousands of dollars which have gone into it.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(Next Sunday a Article Wilt Be Devoted to the 'Trainmen and Other Employes.)
Go to top of page.
THE MEN ON THE CARS
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, April 18, 1909. Page 16.
The operation of a large street railway system demands the earnest physical and mental effort of a large number of men. The Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company endeavors to be a just and generous employer, ranking the quality of service as of first consideration. The force has grown year by year from a dozen or so required to run the first horse-cars, to approximately 1,000 men permanently on the pay rolls.
The passing of the fare -- cash or transfers -- to our conductors now means that upwards of 150,000 business transactions take place on our lines every day. Let the reader imagine himself meeting and doing business with the entire population of Omaha men, women and children all inside of about 18 hours and he will begin to appreciate the human chances for error, accident and ill-temper.
Of the force of 1,000, about 600 are conductors and motormen, with a somewhat larger proportion of the former. These are the men whom the public meets and sees and to whom our reputation as an efficient and careful public servant is largely entrusted. They are the men who bear the brunt of contact with people and conditions as they are; who are accountable for the safe transportation of passengers, and who are expected to be always courteous, wise and exact under all conditions.
We think our car men as a body are as loyal, patient and efficient as any force of public service employes in the country. Out of the 600, more or less, 38 have been with the company twenty years or longer; 131 ten years or longer; and 233 five years or longer; stated in another way, 39% of the car men have been in the service five years or more, this despite the fact that street railway conductors and motormen throughout the country do not, as a rule, remain in the service for long periods.
The Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company's system is operated in four divisions, as follows: Ames Avenue Division, with its car house at 24th and Ames Ave.; Vinton Street Division, with its car house at 24th and Vinton Sts.; Harney Division, with its car house at 20th and Harney Sts.; and Council Bluffs Division, with its car house at 28th Street and Ave. A, Council Bluffs. Each car house is under the supervision of a day Foreman and a night Foreman, who have immediate direction of the car men. The latter are ranked in order of their seniority according to the divisions to which they are attached, the older men having preference of runs, etc.
Ten Road Officers are vested with general direction of car men while the latter are actually on the cars, and with the responsibility of maintenance of schedules, and prompt and safe operation of the cars. Foreman and Road Officers report to the Superintendent of Transportation or Assistant Superintendent of Transportation, who in turn report to the General Manager.
There are, of course, other important departments in the organization, but we are dealing here only with the men on the cars.
As the force of conductors and motormen is constantly depleted by men leaving the service, either voluntarily or through discharge, it is necessary to keep building it up, although nearly 50% of the men who leave voluntarily return at some time for re-employment. In employing new men, the greatest of care is exercised in selection, and an applicant is carefully scrutinized as to his physical and temperamental adaptation to the work required of him. After that, his past record is thoroughly investigated before he is entrusted with the safety of the public.
New men are required to spend at least twelve days on the cars under the tutelage of old employes, who are paid an additional compensation for the instruction so rendered. They are then further instructed and examined by Road Officers, given some practical experience alone by themselves and finally examined by the Superintendent of Transportation before they are considered regularly employed. It is necessary to maintain an extra list of about 150 men, who must hold themselves in readiness to take the places of absentees from day to day and who are rotated in priority. At the present time, a man usually serves about six months on the extra list before he obtains a regular run. The company prefers to employ married men because of their usually steadier habits and greater sense of responsibility. The positions of Foremen and Road Officers are filled by promotion from the ranks of conductors and motormen.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the wages paid conductors and motormen in Omaha are considerably above the average paid in other cities in the United States. The scale is graduated according to the number of years of service and is as follows: For the first year 21 cents per hour; second year 22c; third year 23c; fourth year 24c; fifth to ninth years 25c; and thereafter 26 cents. The pay of a conductor or motorman begins when he steps on the platform of his car, and stops when he leaves it at the car house.
Men on regular runs work about ten hours per day on the average, as nearly as possible within a space of twelve hours. They may work every day in the year if they choose, or lay off several days a month at their option. The maximum earnings per month are about $90; the minimum $60; and the average $75 for men having regular runs. Men on the extra list average about $45 per month.
At each car house there are club rooms, fitted with libraries and reading and writing tables for the use and convenience of conductors and motormen waiting to go on duty, or at which' they may spend their leisure time.
In every organization where large numbers of men are employed, it is necessary to have a system of discipline. The method followed by the company consists largely of reprimands, warnings and recording violations of the rules, penalties such as taking men from regular runs and placing them on the extra list for short periods and as a last resort, discharge from the service.
Every man employed is an important unit of the system and necessary to the operation of the road. The co-operation of all is a prime requisite if the best interests of the public and the Company are to be served. Towards impressing this cardinal principle, the company about a year ago inaugurated a series of lectures or talks for the benefit of employes, in which various phases of operation were taken up, discussed in a practical way and the logic of methods and rules fully explained. These meetings have resulted in so much good that they will be continued as a permanent feature.
The employes of the company have an organization to which all employes are eligible, called the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Employes Relief Association. It is conducted absolutely by the men themselves, although the Company lends encouragement. Membership is voluntary and the dues are 50 cents per month. One dollar a day is paid sick or disabled members after the first 6 days of disability for a period not exceeding 6 months. A death benefit of $100 to cover funeral expenses is paid in case of death. The Association is in a flourishing condition and now has about 600 members.
The company and its employes have had the good fortune never to have experienced difficulty which could not be adjusted without a strike or lockout.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(Next Sunday's Article Will Deal With the Increased Cost of Operation.)
Go to top of page.
INCREASED COST OF OPERATION
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, April 25, 1909. Page 16.
Everyone knows that during the last 15 years the cost of living has greatly increased. A street railway experiences the same effect as an individual in its expenses, due to the advanced prices of necessities. A corporation does not consume groceries and clothing, it is true, but its employes do, and a street railway uses great quantities of steel, iron, timber, copper and coal.
Since 1902 the Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company has been practically rebuilt, and equipped with a new central power station, new general repair and car shops, new car houses, new and larger cars, new and heavier rails and roadway, and new electrical distributing systems. The first electric lines of tne early '90s have disappeared. Besides this many miles of new lines and extensions have been constructed. All of the work has been done with first class materials, purchased at the high prices of the period, and with labor constantly, and justly demanding higher wages and receiving them.
The higher costs of labor, materials and supplies are reflected not only in the expense of new construction and reconstruction, but in the annual outlays for operation and maintenance. Operation includes the wages paid the permanent force of 1,000 men, the coal burned and the depreciation always in progress over the entire system. Maintenance means the repairs made to keep the property at operating efficiency. To give the reader a very conservative idea of the advance in the cost during the last 15 years of some of the principal materials and sup plies used in street railway operation, the following table is presented:
These prices no not truly represent the average increase in copper, which fluctuates greatly. The general tendency during the last ten years has been much higher and in 1907 the price rose to 26 cents.
It must be apparent to every one that it costs more to maintain the track and roadway of today than it did to maintain the early track and roadway, and also that it costs more to maintain the heavy modern cars in operation today, with their airbrakes, hot water heating plants and other accessories, than it did to maintain the small sigle truck cars in use when electric operation was commenced.
The heaviest single item of street railway operation is the wage account. In 1908 this Company paid out nearly three quarters of a million dollars in wages and salaries. Of this amount $429,560 was paid to mortormen and conductors, representing an increase of 8 1/2 per cent in this item over the year before.
The following table shows how the maximum hourly wages paid trainmen has more than doubled within 35 years. It shows a progressive increase and it is signifcant that three out of six advances have been made within the last half dozen years:
The maximum wage has been used in this table because the loss of early records has made it impossible to compute the average wage paid trainmen prior to 1890. In the days of horse car operation, drivers began at a daily wage of $1.25 and gradually worked up to $1.75, and later $2. They worked from 14 to 16 hours a day, but in calculating their hourly wage in order to make a uniform basis of comparison 14 hours a day has been used.
From the time of electrification until 1902, a flat hourly wage of 20 cents was paid and the hours per day reduced to an average of 10 for each man, this being the rule today.
Since 1875 there have been no reductions in the pay of trainmen. The Horse Railway started paying $2 a day, but it was found necessary to reduce this scale materially in the early 70s. By 1875 the rate had advanced to $1.75, maximum.
Following the panic of 1893 many street railways in the United States reduced wages of trainmen during the hard times. The Omaha Street Railway Company did not.
January 1, 1902, the company put in effect a graduated scale of wages as follows: First year, 20 cents; second year, 21 cents; third year and thereafter, 22 cents.
May 1, 1906, another advance in wages was paid comprised in the following scale: First year, 20 cents; second year, 21 cents; third year, 22 cents; fourth, fifth and sixth years, 23 cents; seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth years, 24 cents; thereafter, 25 cents.
May 1, 1907, the present scale with a minimum of 21 cents and a maximum of 26 cents, fully described in the last article, went in force. Under it all trainmen on the system earn an average of 23 1/2 cents an hour.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(The Article Next Sunday will show the Increased transportation Power of the Nickel.)
Go to top of page.
TRANSPORTATION POWER OF THE NICKEL
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, May 2, 1909. Page 16.
The power of a 5-cent piece in buying clothing, food and other necessities has decreased at least 33 per cent since 1898. The power of the same 5-cent piece in buying transportation through Omaha and suburbs has increased 50 per cent in the same time.
In 1898 the longest local street railway ride that could be purchased for 5 cents was eight miles. Now the same coin will buy any one of several rides each about twelve miles long. Furthermore the money buys transportation in larger, roomier, safer, easier riding, swifter and more comfortable cars.
Forty years ago 5 cents spent in car fare in Omaha procured a ride of but one mile in a creeping horse car, unheated, poorly lighted, cramped in space and having a chronic habit of jumping the track.
In 1872 the nickel was good for a ride of two miles in the same kind of a conveyance, the increased purchasing power being due to a reduction in the fare of from 10 to 5 cents.
By 1888 the nickel was good for a cable or horse car ride of three miles, stoves having replaced hay heating.
In 1898 the 5-cent ride was good for a maximum of eight miles in small electric cars run on 45-pound rails, the service being excellent for the period.
In 1909 the nickel buys a maximum ride of twelve miles in a smooth-running, 42-foot, hot-water heated, air-brake car, traveling over heavy rails on a firmly constructed roadbed and driven by energy distributed from a 10,000 horsepower central power station.
In serving the community the Company ignores the artificial lines of corporate limits and regards Omaha, South Omaha, East Omaha, Florence, Benson, Dundee and immediate territory as a single district to be served impartially and without discrimination. The nickel is good for a ride from any point in this territory to any other point on the lines of the system. A universal transfer system, which permits travel in the the same general direction at any junction, enables this accomplisement.
The territory described contains over 38 square miles and about 170,000 people. There are approximately only 4,473 persons to each square mile, meaning an extremely scattered population.
In Omaha and environs there are 112 miles of track, giving the extremely high ratio of .659 mile of track for each 1,000 of population.
Compared with other cities of the United States the population per square mile of Omaha is very low and the mileage of track per 1,000 of population is very high.
The effect of these conditions upon street railway operation causes low gross earnings per car mile. In order to retain the 5-cent fare for the large number of long rides, which are unprofitable, it is necessary to do a heavy short-haul business. Beyond a certain limit, (about five miles), no profit whatever is earned on the passenger carried. He is hauled at a loss.
To Omahans it is almost unnecessary to call at tention to the fact that one can, for 5 cents, ride from the southern limits of South Omaha to Florence, East Omaha, Benson or Dundee. These are the particularly long rides, but there are many of from eight to ten miles which are made daily with and without transfers.
Before the street railway bridge was constructed the only means of mechanical transportation between Omaha and Council Bluffs was by steam train, or "dummy," operated over the Union Pacific bridge. The rate of fare was 25 cents each way, or 50 cents for the round trip. Street railway transportation at both ends of the "dummy" line brought the total round trip fare up to 70 cents.
The electric lines perform the same service (round trip) for 20 cents cash fare, or 10 cents by use of commutation books.
Before the electric line was built to Florence about four years ago 'bus fare from Florence to Ames Ave. was 10 cents and car fare to the Omaha business district 5 cents additional, bringing the total fare one way up to 15 cents, or 30 cents for the round trip. Dundee and Benson originally had independent horse railways and for a time collected an additional 5-cent fare from passengers bound to and from Omaha.
In closing this installment it may not be out of place to remark that it has seemed curious to street railway operators, who, after many profitless years have succeeded in placing their property on a paying basis, to witness attempts to reduce the rate of fare in a time when street railway transportation is one of the few things greater in quantity and better in quality offered for the same unit of charge which prevailed ten and fifteen years ago.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(Next Sunday's Article Will Discuss the Improvenents and Needs of the Future.)
Go to top of page.
DEMANDS OF THE FUTURE
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, May 9, 1909. Page 16.
Within the last ten years it has been necessary to double the carrying capacity of the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company. There is no reasonable doubt that during the next ten years it will be necessary to double the present capacity, and it is possible that even this rapid pace may be exceeded.
A public utility company which serves its territory efficiently bears the future ever in mind. That the coming decade will bring heavy demands for investments in construction and equipment this company knows, not alone from its own experience, but from study of street railway history in other growing cities.
While it is impossible to estimate the financial needs of the next ten years with accuracy, the company would not be surprised if the amount ran close to $10,000,000.
Electric street railways are still in process of evolution. The advance that electric traction has made in the twenty years of its general existence has been remarkable, but the progress of the next twenty years may be more remarkable. It is an art of which it can be truly said that striving for better results accruing to the benefit of the public is part of the daily routine.
As readers of these articles know, great quantities of equipment and material were removed long before worn out, and scrapped at great financial sacrifices and replaced by new and better substitutes. This has been a matter of necessity rather than choice on the part of the Company, largely because of popular demands. We do not criticize these demands and desire merely to point out how they have made the raising of large amounts of capital imperative from time to time.
When any decided improvement in traction is made in any large city and proved successful it is only a question of time until companies in other cities are forced to adopt it, no matter how great the expense.
With these obvious conditions existing it must be apparent to everyone that a street railway company must so maintain itself as to give confidence to investors and invite them to place their capital in the enterprise. To make an investment inviting it is necessary to pay reasonable profits.
Many factors enter into the upbuilding of a municipality and its commercial supremacy . We think the street railway is one of these factors and by no means the least important. No middle or-outlying real estate is worth much unless it is easily accessible by the electric cars. No visitor comes to the city without forming an impression of the street railway and using it in passing judgment upon the town. No small-salaried worker can enjoy the pleasures of home-owning or the lower rents and healthier surroundings unless he can go to and from his work quickly and at small cost.
In the foregoing paragraph we have tried to state merely a few of the many reasons why good street railway service is highly desirable.
Street railway corporations have ambitions as well as individuals and it is the ambition of the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company to give this community at all times the best possible service. Towards maintaining this end its officers and engineers are constantly analyzing future needs and making provision to meet them.
Inside the last year the Company bought a piece of ground 142x284 feet in size adjoining its Jackson Street Power Station on the south and extending to Jones Street. This land will enable the expansion of the present power station three times.
Two years ago the Company purchased more than a block of ground lying north of its shop property between Ohio and Miami Streets and extending from Twenty-sixth to Twenty seventh Streets, to insure the needs of the future with respect to shops and storage facilities.
The immediate needs of the future include large additions to practically all branches of the property.
Engineers are now calculating upon a considerable addition to the power-generating capacity of the Jackson Street Power Station. This station, representing more than twice the power capacity of five years ago, needs amplification to the extent of at least 20 per cent to care for the demands of the next two years.
A second principal Substation will be needed soon, to be located at some point in the southern part of the city. Excavations have been started for a two-story car house covering half a block of ground on Pierce Street and extending from Tenth to Eleventh Street. Construction will be of re-inforced concrete faced with pressed brick. The house will accommodate about 100 cars.
It is considered necessary to replace many of the present smaller cars with larger and more commodious cars, for which orders have been placed, both in our own shops and with manufacturers.
The demands for new lines and extension of present lines are being pressed upon the company in greater volume and with stronger force than ever before. In endeavoring to comply with them the Company is willing to accept a certain percentage of operating losses for a number of years, provided that within some reasonable period the lines will bear expenses. No business concern would be deemed prudent, however, that did not use care in considering additions to the capital account. A number of new lines and extensions will be built soon. A large amount of work for this year was planned and announced by the board of directors last fall.
A large amount of track put in new eight or nine years ago will need replacement within the next few years with 100 pound rails on extra heavy foundations.
The immediate demands of the future contain many other items besides those enumerated, but detailed recitation would hardly interest the public. The facts given enable the reader to form a general idea of what lies before the Company in the next two or three years, and some conception of what must be accomplished during the next ten years.
The construction and equipment tasks of a street railway are never finished.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(Next Sunday's Article will cover the Financial Condition of the Property, Earnings etc.)
Go to top of page.
EARNINGS AND CAPITALIZATION
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, May 16, 1909. Page 16.
The majority of the stock of the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company is owned by citizens of Omaha and Council Bluffs, and control of the property, therefore, is vested at home. There are now about 500 stockholders in the corporation. Of late years many local investors have bought the company's stocks and bonds, a practice which the Company is glad to encourage.
In this article is presented a condensed statement of the earnings and expenditures of the Company for the year 1908, and also a condensed balance sheet at the close of business December 31, 1908, showing the assets and liabilities.
From the first it will be seen that the net profits of the Company for the year were $422,680, of which $400,000 was paid in dividends, and $22,680 carried to surplus.
The second statement shows that the outstanding capitalization of the Company amounts to $9,433,000 in bonds, and $9,000,000 in stock, or a total of $18,433,000.
That the entire physical property of the Company could be reproduced today for less than $18,433,000, all conditions being equal, is undoubtedly true. In this connection several important factors must be considered. Millions of dollars have been spent for construction and equipment of which no trace remains today. Large amounts were forced into the capitalization through the principle of competition fostered by the people in the 80s. The capital account was further swelled by reason of the absence of a depreciation fund prior to the reorganization of 1902.
A considerable part of the capitalization of the Company represents values which never went into the property because it was necessary to sell securities for much less than par in order to obtain capital for construction, reconstruction, renewals, rehabilitations, electrification and the purchase of competing lines. The principal reason why the Company was forced to part with its stocks and bonds at sacrifices was because the corporation never succeeded in paying a dividend until 1899.
For illustration: An investor buys stock which has borne no dividends on the theory that some day it will pay dividends. The difference between the par value 1 of the security and the price he pays for it is the way he measures his belief in the chances of dividends being paid. He offers $60, say, for a $100 stock (face value); $60 goes to the Company and is spent on the property. But when the days of profit-making comes the Company has to pay dividends on $100, not on $60.
As a general rule the more prosperous a company is the less of this kind of "water" gets into the capitalization. A very prosperous corporation can sell its securities at a premium, and the premium as well as the par-value proceeds may be spent on the physical property. Fortunately this Company has now established the value of its securities so that in future little, if any, discount will be required if present conditions continue in the sale of its securities.
Before presenting the condensed statements permit us to call attention to the fact that the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railways paid no dividends for thirty out of forty years, and that in 1908, if the capitalization outstanding was cut in two, the total earnings on bonds and stocks were less than 10 per cent, for that year.
Following is the statement of the receipts and expenses of the Company for the year 1908:
The total number of passengers carried by the entire system in 1908 was 55,087,993. Of this number 12,810,947 rode on transfers for free, the latter being comparatively few and representing, firemen and policemen in uniform and the Company's own employes.
In 1903 the percentage of passengers carried on transfers was 21 per cent. In 1908 the proportion had grown to 30 per cent and it is constantly increasing. This condition not only decreases the earnings per passenger, but tends to decrease the net earnings of the Company.
Professor Mortimer E. Cooley, Dean of the Department of Engineering at the. University of Michigan and a foremost street railway authority, recently, while testifying in an important case, discussed the subject of universal transfers, stating that they increased travel, but diminished earnings per passenger. All expenses advanced with the number of passengers carried, he said, and therefore, universal transfers had resulted not only in decreased net earnings per passenger, but in decreased net earnings for the Company.
Transfers reduced the revenue per passenger for that part of the system in Omaha and suburbs to 3.76 cents in 1908.
In the general balance sheet will be noticed an item of $868,742.19 "reserve for depreciation." The Company is setting aside a constantly increasing amount each year -- $240,000 for 1909 -- as a depreciation fund. This account is for this purpose of replacing construction or equipment worn out or junked because of obsolescence. It does not go for additional equipment or for new construction, but simply, to maintain the operating efficiency of the existing plant.
If there is no depreciation fund the expenditures for this purpose find their way into the capitalization. This his been declared contrary to public policy by the New York, Wisconsin and other State Public Service Commis sions and by the United States Supreme Court. It is proper, therefore, to make provision for depreciation from the earnings, in order to preserve the integrity of the property and keep down the capitalization.
Up to 1898 the local street railways did not succeed in earning enough to establish a depreciation fund. As a result depreciation charges found their way into the capital account. There was no alternative since it was manifestly impossible to increase the rate of fare.
In considering the capitalization of the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company it should be remembered that it reflects actual conditions developed while Omaha and Council Bluffs were growing from frontier outposts to large and splendid cities. The man who put his money in real estate and kept it there has seen his capital increased many times. The man who put his money in our street railways received nothing in the nature of profits for years, and today is receiving less than would be deemed remunerative in mercantile or manufacturing lines.
This particular installment of our series marks a departure in corporate methods in the United States. We have been presenting articles for many weeks in the hope of making our Company and its affairs understood. Our effort is being watched all over the country as a guide to indicate how far a large corporation may go in dealing with the public on terms of utmost frankness.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
(The Installment Next Sunday will be the Concluding Chapter of this Series, and will recapitulate what has already been presented.)
Go to top of page.
Why We Ask Cooperation
From the Omaha Daily Bee / Sunday, May 23, 1909. Page 16.
For nearly four months past, the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company has published full page articles in the Sunday newspapers for the purpose of making itself better understood by the public.
We have reason to believe that our efforts have met with a large degree of success. The facts presented were given in good faith and we believe the information was received in the same spirit in which it was given.
In taking the position that the public is entitled to know all the essential facts about our company, we recognized the mutuality of interest which exists between a street railway organization and the people.
Very little of the space used was devoted to abstract statements, and none to preaching. A determined effort was made to offer genuine information in a way that could be grasped by anyone who took the trouble to read it. Care was had to insure its reliability. No time was wasted in buncombe or in trying to represent conditions other than as they were.
The history of street railways in Omaha was traced from the organization of the first horse railway company by local men in 1867 to the present day. It was shown how large investments were made in horse, cable and electric railways, which were rendered worthless by the pace of improvements and reduced to junk value long before worn out. It was pointed out how the first complete electric equipment became wholly inadequate in less than a dozen years, and by 1902 sufficient only for a ground work on which to reconstruct and re-equip the entire system.
Different phases of operation were discussed and an earnest attempt made to give the public an adequate idea of what constitutes the street railway today, and of the tremendous improvements in urban transportation during the last twenty years.
It was shown by facts, figures and diagrams that the Omaha street railway passenger is today receiving far more for his nickel than ever before, although nearly every element entering into the cost of traction operation has, like the necessities of life, mounted upwards in the last ten or fifteen years. It is proper and right that public service corporations should be required to bear their full share of the burden of taxation. The Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Company pays annually about one-seventh of alL the personal taxes assessed in the city of Omaha.
Upon the strength of the entire showing, we think we are justified in asking the co-operation of the public to the extent of meeting us in a friendly spirit in considering our problem and dealing with questions which affect us.
The co-operation we desire 'is not the kind that would perform pur work for us or lift our responsibilities from our shoulders. Rather it is the same appreciation and encouragement which is accorded any worthy commercial enterprise whose labor and ambitions help to make the city great. A large city cannot exist in the United States without street railways. Neither can street railways exist without cities. They are mutually dependent.
On the one hand, efficiently conducted railways enable the people to spread out over large areas and gain the advantages of cheaper land and rents and healthier environment; permit residence and manufacturing districts to be maintained in distant sections; prompt ease of communication and dispatch of trade, and make possible frequent journeys for recreation and amusement to theater, parks and social gatherings.
On the other hand, the city and its population offer a patronage which should pay the cost of operation and maintenance, return a fair profit on a large amount of capital necessarily in vested and allow a margin for depreciation to preserve the integrity of the property.
The street railway company that makes no profit is not a good thing for a city. The management of such a company is confronted with a constant struggle to make both ends meet, and this means the cutting down of expenses and consequent impairment of the service. The property of such a company is not kept up to operating efficiency; no depreciation fund can be provided and both the public and the corporation suffer.
Again, a profitless corporation finds it impossible, or very difficult, to sell bonds or stock to obtain money for improvements and extensions. It is forced to incur liabilities in excess of the actual capital obtained, and these liabilities must later be liquidated in full.
For thirty years there was,no profit in Omaha street rail ways. It is only during the last ten years that the property has succeeded in properly establishing itself. It is now earning 4 per cent dividends on its common stock and 5 per cent on its preferred stock, and there is a healthy local demand for its securities.
The street railway system of Omaha today is recognized all over the country as a splendid system, in sound condition financially and physically, and in a position to obtain capital for improvements and extensions on fair terms. It is enabled to maintain its service at a high standard, and to meet the needs of a growing community as they arise. Its officers and directors are constantly engaged with earnest endeavor to secure the money necessary for the company to keep pace with the growing demands of this great city. We do not expect these demands will grow less, but rather that they will increase as time goes on, and it is a matter of grave importance that this company shall be able to continue its policy of expansion rather than be driven into the necessity of a more economical or parsimonious policy.
There seems to be much misconception about our use of the streets, and for that reason we wish to say here a few words on that subject.
The streets of cities are set apart for the use and convenience of the people, and it is proper and right that they should be used for the transportation of its inhabitants, whether by private or public conveyance. Our tracks are in the streets because the people want them there.
In conclusion, let us say that both utility managers and the people are beginning to realize that there is only one way of getting a square deal and that is by giving a square deal. All this company asks is a square deal, and no city can afford to grant less than this to its street railway corporation.
G. W. WATTLES, President.
Go to top of page.
Where & When/
Chronology/ Miscellany/ Links/ Map/ Bibliography
Copyright 2014 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.
Last updated 01-August-2014