The Topeka City Railway was a horse and mule railway. The first short piece or road was constructed under a contract with a Mr. Hathaway of Cleveland , Ohio. It was quite primitive. The rails being 25-pound, and laid upon stringers instead of cross ties as now built. The people hailed with delight the street cars drawn by mules. The mules had a higher standing then than now, except as to cost. Such a mule as we bought then for $75 would sell now $150. The cars used were known as “Bob-tail” cars. They were not heated, had a long seat on each side of the car, and had an aisle through the center and no vestibule for the driver’s protection from the weather. Such cars are used now in small towns. Grades had not been established on some of the streets when the road was built.

With some exceptions, we got along peacefully with the people and the city council. The passengers had to drop fares in a box, so that the driver had to keep a weather eye on the passengers as well as the mules. There were some advantages [to the slow travel] not fully appreciated by passengers then, if now. For instance, one could catch up with a car and get on if the driver missed seeing him, and one could get off at no great hazard without stopping the car. The mules were averse to running over people in the streets and willingly stopped upon the least occasion, so that damages were slight.

But we had some troubles, nevertheless. The county commissioners for some reason inconsiderately asked the company to pay for maintaining the flooring across the [Kansas river] bridge because they alleged our mules in crossing to and from helped wear out the planks, and they were disposed to stop us from using the bridge. Not coinciding with their views, the company enjoined the commissioners from interfering with it’s property on the bridge on the grounds that the bridge was part of the street and under control of the city council, and that our company had a franchise permitting the use and occupancy of the streets.

And again, the city council once got on the war path about something we had done or had not done on Sixth street, and the city attorney served notice on us that he had been directed to take steps to forfeit our franchise. But as the Hon. J. D. McFarland was the city attorney, a man not given to impulsive action (he with much more coolness and deliberation than characterized the action of the council) he broke the news to me, as president, the dreadful information in such a quiet manner as not to shock me, and as he did not rush us into court, the matter died of inaction.

 

At another time we had some trouble with the hackmen of the city who sought to prevent us from building a track down Topeka Avenue to the fair grounds. But we went before the court and secured an injunction against their interference with construction. We had the popular side of that case as the people much preferred to get to the fair grounds for a nickel than to walk or pay 25 or 50 cents for a hack.

The City Railway constructed a temporary track down Topeka avenue [from Fourteenth street] with T-rails and cross ties borrowed from the Santa Fe R.R.

We had in those days some open cars with steps along the outside the entire length of the cars. People would fill the cars and then the outside steps like a swarm of bees. Sometimes a car would get off the track and then, with a great shout, all would jump off and as many as could would lay hold of the car and lift it back on the track, shout and roar with laughter and rush aboard again. A good natured people they were, no ugly discourteous remarks about the management. (On this point, Mr. Mulvane apparently forgot the tone of innumerable Vox Pop letters in local papers, critical of his company’s ways of doing business.--Ed.)

Well, the boom came on about 1885, and it was a severe attack. It looked like there were not enough street railways or town lots. With few exceptions people lost their financial sense and judgement--those that had any--and among other things a crop of street railway charters for Topeka were filed. They had great names, such as “Rapid Transit,” “Inter-Suburban” [interurban], “Cable Electric” and such. It looked as though the mule might be short on oats--when these lines were built. The city council freely granted franchises to various companies.

The rapid Transit built on Jackson and some other streets and the mule road was a discarded sweetheart. Almost a riot occurred at the crossing at Jackson and Tenth. The Rapid Transit, when it’s construction reached Tenth Street, was found to be upon a different grade than the constructed track of the City Railway. As they were in high feather, being the “new broom,” they were disposed to tear up our track unless we changed our grade to conform to theirs. We refused to do so as our track had been laid upon a grade as given by the city engineer.

Jesse Shaw, our super- intendent, non-combatant and sweet tempered as we all know him to be, donned his fighting clothes,

and supported by a number of our employees, stood in battle array to protect our property. The attack was not made. Better counsel prevailed.

Another time the Rapid Transit sought to get to the Rock Island depot at First and Kansas Avenue. In order to protect our double track right on Kansas Avenue, our company proceeded to construct a spur in front of the depot, connecting it with our single track. The Rapid Transit people tore up our track one night and put down some work of their own. We promptly proceeded to tear theirs up. The matter got into court and an injunction stopped the war.

(Mr. Mulvane could have told of another clash between City Railway and the Rapid Transit when the latter, through a court order, forced the horse car line to share the lucrative route along Topeka Avenue to the fair grounds. As a result the street from Fourteenth to Seventeenth was all but filled with two double tracks, leaving a narrow lane along one side only, for carriages, hacks and wagons.--Ed.)

Again, the Rapid Transit sought to extend on Second and Jefferson Streets, they having a franchise for the occupancy of one side of the street, and we were assigned the other. Being in high favor, they proceeded at a meeting of the city council at which we had no representative, to make it appear we were obstructing their constriction. Whereupon the council promptly passed a resolution declaring the rights of the City Railway forfeited, and directed us to remove our property from all streets in Topeka. We protested in an amiably worded communication, stating our rights and that the allegations were untrue, and that the action was taken in our absence upon an ex-parte hearing. We begged the council to rescind it’s action. Some of the councilmen were so exercised as to declare our property should be torn up and thrown in the Kansas river. The saving clause, however, was that they were slower about attempting to enforce their decisions than in declaring them.

We decided to sell to the Boston Syndicate while it was still flush, in 1887. We got a price satisfactory to ourselves. The consolidated road [Topeka Railway Company] operated for quite a while but it’s capitalization being so great, and bankruptcy looming up, the road was permitted to run down and become dilapidated. In this condition the present owners came to the front, bought and rebuilt the property. It is now as good as the best anywhere, and rendering service of which all are proud.

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Mission Statement

 

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF
TOPEKA’S FIRST STREET RAILWAY

Joab Mulvane

(Pages 39 - 43)

 

 

 

 

 

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Steam Dummy towing trailer similar to those manufactured in Topeka RWY shops. Click all photos to enlarge.

 

JOAB MULVANE

In addition to his interest in the City Railway, he figured prominently in organizing several other “firsts” for Topeka including it’s telephone system, electric light and water plants.

Mr. Mulvane, who died Dec 26, 1929, at age of 92, made substantial gifts to Washurn College and Baker University.

 

 

 

 

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JOAB MULVANE