It is the end of the line for the city cars, closing a glorious period of street transportation development that began in 1873 with a strange horse-drawn vehicle which lurched up and down muddy unpaved Federal Street, and ends with an all steel, powerful, comfortable and safe machine.
Street car development reached it’s height here shortly before the World War, and began to decline about twenty-one years ago when “The South Side Loop” was abandoned. Since then gasoline busses and trolley busses have taken over the job of hauling Youngstown’s workers, shoppers and pleasure seekers until today only the Campbell line is left.
That is only the beginning and the end of the story, however, the complete tale must tell of the different kinds of equipment used, the fights and mergers which took place, the growth and decline of interurban street car service, and some of the characteristic incidents that occurred. Here is that story.
Concerning Tom Michall’s story of the first street car in Youngstown, which was printed in the Sunday Vindicator of March 12, 1940, a friend and old resident writes:
“That article by Tom Michall was certainly lively, interesting and graphic, but in one important part, the first and only street car’s first trip along through Federal Street, probably running from Brandmiller’s garden to Basin Street, it seems to me that there is surely error.
Mr. Michall’s humorous account may not have been meant to cut ice as accurate local history. We know humorists as well as poets are permitted wide latitude. Artamus Ward and Bill Nye, both of whom lectured here, were not expected to stick to plain matters of fact as if each were Macaulay or a Bancroft. But if Tom wished, or wishes it understood he told the first street car truth and nothing but the truth, he’s clearly up in the clouds.
My recollection is, the first street car coming down Federal Street was crammed, jammed full of people, prominent citizens, and not merely occupied by one man, a woman, and a small poodle. The day was a fine one and the sidewalk windows, and doorways filled with people waving handkerchiefs and cheering as if Grant or Tecumseh Sherman were going along in a carriage leading a grand parade. Joe O’Neill was driver and conductor. The horse with a bell or two on the harness did not seem to feel the full importance of the occasion. The first car stopped in front of the Excelsior block. E. M. McGillin’s dry goods store was then the most westerly ground floor room. When the car stopped, Miss Mary McGillin hastened out of the store and gave the conductor a bill or two - some of the store bunch of clerks said the sum was $25. On the rear platform, which was packed full, was James M. Reno. It is likely he was then the city engineer. It is 10 to one nearly all the city officials - there was not such a small army of them here in those days - were in the car and on the platform.
If someone would call to O’Neill - I guess he is yet living - or see James Reno, he would no doubt give an account which, while far less humorous than Tom’s, would be plain unvarnished and accurate. - George McGuigan.
Mr. Reno could not recall last week that he had made the trip with the first street car. The earliest trip he could recall was one he made, often the cars had been running for some time, with Upson Andrews. They had been standing in front of Manning & McKowin’s drug store, when Mr. Andrews saw a car coming up the street, and said “Lets go take a ride.” Mr. Reno remembered the occasion because when they approached Brier Hill they came to a car that could not be run on the track; the road was built only for small cars, and in some way a car of a larger size was being tried which bound on it’s bearers and ran off the track when it should have turned. It was a small incident, but it has stayed in his mind all these years.
YOUNGSTOWN & SOUTHERN STATION
Youngstown & Southern Street Car 200
As Mr. Reno recalls, the cars ran first from Basin Street to Jefferson, and the line was later extended to Calvin Street. It was of course a single track line, and Federal Street then was unpaved and for a good part of the year as muddy as any country road. There was a turntable at the Diamond. It consisted of two large cast-iron plates so arranged that the top plate would revolve on rollers. This was accomplished by having grooves in the two plates in which were iron balls. When the car arrived at the end of a run it was turned on the table, which the horse easily revolved as he walked about on the solid ground. The great objection to the turn table was the noise it made, and the people staying at the Tod House were continually complaining of being woken up by it’s hideous rumble. The noise would be nearly as disturbing in the daytime whenever a car would cross the Diamond.
The motorman acted as conductor in the early days, there was a fare box in the front of the car, in which the patrons were expected to be honest enough to deposit their nickels. Occasionally passenger had such an experience as Mr. Reno’s mother; having only a dime she asked a man sitting by the fare box to change it, and he, misunderstanding, dropped the dime, so that she had to pay .10 for her ride.
When a new track was laid down, Mr. Reno was employed by the company as civil engineer. He took considerable care with the work and fixed the grades from Crab Creek to Brier Hill. Mr. Reno also laid the grade and fixed the location of the first railroad through Youngstown, sketching out the curves and locating the crossing.
. . . . .
F. T. Jeannot for many years a jeweler here was one of the stockholders of the line, buying out the interest held by John Hollingsworth. Among the other stockholders he recalls were: John R. Wick, Charles R. Truesdale, William Cornelius, John R. Davis and James MacKay. The stock yielded six percent annually, and was finally bought by the promoters of the electric line. At one time, Mr. Jeannot said things looked pretty serious for the owners of the line; an Erie train ran into the car at Westlake Crossing and injured several passages among whom was Dr. Whelan who brought suit and recovered quite heavy damages, which were paid, however by the Erie, and not the street car company.
Herman M. Brandmiller recalls that the first car was run either in 1874 or 1875. Soon after he opened the pleasure garden that was such a pheasant and popular resort for fifteen years or more.
Henry M. Garlick recalled something of the organization of the road. It was promoted by the McKey brothers, James, Robert and David, as a means of putting on the market the Wirt farm in Brier Hill which they bought and were laying out in lots. There were about fifty or sixty acres which they promised to the mills. St. Anne’s church as Mr. Garlick recalled, occupies part of the old farm. The capital stock of the street car company was $40,000, and the heavy stockholders, besides the McKey brothers, was brewer John Smith. The owners thought they were making money, but as a matter of fact the line depreciated so that when it came to be sold there was little of tangible value left. Rails, ties, cars, harnesses, horses - all were worn out. The only thing of real value was the franchise, and for this the promoters of the electric line - James Parmelee and his associates - gave the owners what they had originally invested.
Joe O”Neill and his brother Michael, who at one time drove the only car on the line - are both dead. Their brother William is now the night gate tender at the Wick Avenue crossing of the Erie.
Youngstown Vindicator - December 1, 1940