In 1903 the electric train service replaced the old steam dummy line in Highland Park. The line started at Eight and Monroe, thence west to Kansas Avenue, north to Seventh Street, east to Madison and south to Eleventh Avenue. Passing over the Shunganunga it crossed the pasture to Twenty-first Street and Maryland Avenue, thence south to Twenty-eight to California Avenue, then angled south and east to Vinewood Park.

From Vinewood Park the freight track went on east to the stone quarry about where Lake Shawnee is now located. A heavy electric engine with cow catcher and baggage space pulled trailers and regular freight cars. The trains would go out of the barns, Vinewood bound, loaded with ice cream, supplies, machinery and feed for the farmer. It would return to town with it's cars filled with grain and crushed rock. Cattle and sheep that had been driven to the end of the line were often transported. Many times the company found it necessary to double head these engines to pull their load back into town.

These Vinewood trains were a source of great interest and curiosity to the young boys and girls in Highland Park. They came clanging through the Park nearly as fast as a regular passenger train. They would pull several trailers, and on excursion trips would be so crowded that passengers

 

would fill the baggage compartments. These cars were also used as funeral cars, the casket being placed in the baggage compartment and mourners in the seats behind. Destination: Topeka Cemetery. The fee for a funeral car, round trip to Topeka Cemetery, was $10.00

Old Betsy was a smaller passenger car used for many years, exclusively for Highland Park service. This car was built in the shops of the Railway Company. On one side of the center aisle was a long seat with it’s back to the windows. The other side had conventional seats for two, facing the front of the car. The scramble was always for a seat facing the front, but if the choice seats sere taken the long hard bench was gratefully accepted. This car had no bell to ring for a stop signal and the passenger called his street to the motor man.

Old Betsy was presided over by Frank E. (Doc) Hammond, a most colorful person. He was a ruddy, jolly, friendly man who knew every patron on his route, where le lived, what he did, and even what were his joys and sorrows.

Old Betsy ran every forty-five minutes and turned at Twenty-ninth and California for the trip back to town. The car service to and from Highland Park was the life line of the community.

Meeting a well known man

whom I knew was born and reared in Highland Park, I asked him what he remembered most about his childhood days there. He answered promptly, “Soaping the street car tracks”

Seeing my startled expression he laughed in rather an embarrassed manner and repeated, “Yes’em, soaping the street car tracks. We fellows kept it up until the company put a walker along the tracks to keep us off, but we were soon able to outwit him. We divided into two sections. It was the duty of the first section to play along the tracks and attract the attention of the company employee and entice him to follow them along the line. That gave the second section plenty of time to apply their ample supply of grease to the tracks.”

The car company finally won their battle over several groups of mischievous boys. In April, 1926 the company replaced their trolley cars with motor buses.

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A number of street car drivers quit today. They asked to make a gong register for all persons who paid their fare and this they thought could not be done successfully--TOPEKA COMMONWEALTH, September 18, 1882

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OLD BETSY
Horace T. Wilkie
Reprinted from the December, 1956 BULLETIN
(Page 113)

 

 

 

 

 

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