The Washburn College catalogue for the school year, 1884-85, carried a notice for the first time: “street cars run regularly from railroad depots to the College grounds. The Washburn College street car leaves the A.T.& S.F. depot--south side--for the college, at the arrival of nearly all trains. The fare is five cents from the depot to the college.” The service was via horse cars.

Additional information was given to those who arrived at either the Union Pacific or Rock Island depots. “The fare of five cents entitles passengers to a transfer to the Washburn College car at Fifth and Kansas Avenue. By 1889 the city railway’s horse cars were departing for the college every twenty minutes during the daytime.

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For many years after street car service to the college was inaugurated, under the heading of “Suggestions,” in the college’s annual catalogues, the following appeared: “It is desirable that parents, so far as possible, should arrange the time of leaving home so that their daughters may reach Topeka by day. Street cars leave the depots every twenty minutes.”

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Soon after the Topeka Rapid Transit’s steam dummy line began operation, the DAILY CAPITAL (July 27, 1887) itemed: “The Rapid Transit is to build a line within three blocks of Washburn College and will build a board walk from the end of the line to the college.”

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Early in the year 1888, the dummy line was completed along Euclid Avenue as far west as the present Washburn Avenue. The incline from that point to College Avenue may have presented a problem, particularly during snow storms. As far as the student body of the College Hill school was concerned, the western terminal of the line, at their doorstep, was ideal for embarking on an all-day excursion. We learned about it from the NORTH TOPEKA MAIL, June 1, 1888:


Long before nine o’clock yesterday morning, the school was thronged with children and parents with their well-filled baskets, awaiting the arrival of the rapid transit train which was to convey them to Oakland Grove. A ride on the Rapid Transit is a treat anytime but at the close of nine months of school when both teachers and pupils are weary of the long confinement, there could have been no more opportune time for the enjoyment.

After passing many beautiful residences, gardens and making many curves, they arrived at Oakland Grove where everything was found as represented: swings, croquet,

baseball grounds and everything for comfort . . . .

At five o’clock the Rapid Transit train arrived to convey the party home. Crowding into two coaches once more the merry party was soon on it’s way, singing such songs as “John Brown’s Body,” “Marching Through Georgia, “ “Mountain Maids’ Invitation,” “The High Road to Learning,” etc.

A good time was had by all on the memorable occasion. (County School, District No. 22, later designated as Euclid Avenue School, was located at the southwest corner of the present Seventeenth and Lane Streets.

A horse car driver identified only as “Shady,” made the columns of both college papers following an incident that no doubt got him the new nickname of “Sleepy,” The REPORTER of April 3, 1889 revealed:

On his last trip one evening recently, “Shady,” one of the car drivers, having a half hour’s wait at the college terminus of the line, sat himself down in the corner of his car and was soon fast asleep. There he remained until 2 A.M. when officials at the barn, becoming alarmed and thinking he had been badly wrecked, sent out the wrecking crew to his assistance.

From the ARGO’S April, 1889, issue:
“Shady,”, the street-car driver who went to sleep one night and had to be sent for, says he wants the boys to take notice that he always takes them to the end of the track [campus entrance] and don’t ask anyone to push the car. This was a dig at the trolley cars which frequently required additional power--manpower--to negotiate the Euclid Avenue hill when the track was covered with snow or ice.

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Washburn (college) REPORTER, May 15, 1889:
Friday night ladies of the Cottage (dormitory) took an excursion on the electric cars to Oakland Grove. The heavens being black with storm, and the lightning interfering with the current of electricity which moved the cars, they were compelled to wait three hours at Oakland for their return car. Next time, girls, go “when the skies look calm and clear.”

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From the WASHBURN ARGO, December 1888:
It is reported on good authority that the Rapid Transit will soon extend it's line up Euclid past the College. The cars will be lighted as well as propelled by electricity, and will also be warmed. This will furnish students with as comfortable transportation as could be asked for.


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Reader ad in WASHBURN REPORTER, April 24, 1889:
The electric cars are very fine; equal to Pullman Palace cars. Electric lights in all cars of the electric railway. The electric railway is much patronized by students.

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If the new electric line works all right, the horse car line will be run by electricity, but the wires, instead of being on poles will be below the track on the cable plan. (Note: The REPORTER’S reporter was confused. The much discussed cable system which was never installed by any local transit company, did not employ underground electric wires.) In it’s April 17, 1889 issue, the REPORTER cautioned readers to withhold judgment of the two competing street car lines:

"If the Rapid Transit wishes to gain Washburn patronage, it must expect to meet the lively competition on the part of the City street car line. The latter company has been here the longest, and has shown Washburn people many accommodations. We suggest that a good way for the Rapid Transit to gain favor and patronage of the students would be to send a half-dozen or so of their street cars and take us for an excursion over their lines".

The REPORTER’S suggestion drew a compromise proposition from the Rapid Transit, set forth in a half-page advertisement in the WASHBURN ARGO (April, 1889):

Will carry Students and Visitors to and from Washburn College to all parts of City, continuous trip, for ONE FARE on The Greatest Electric Railway in the World.

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From the JOURNAL, May 26, 1892:
The main street railway line to Washburn college will hereafter be from Clay street, west on Huntoon to College avenue, and down College avenue to Washburn campus. It will be over what was formerly the City Railway’s horse car line from Clay street south and west. Work on the line was begun today, and the work cars of the Rapid Transit have been busy all day hauling ties and material to the location.





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click below photos to enlarge


Above: “What’s Wrong This Picture?” Could be the title for the artists’s sketch above of Washburn College campus which appeared in many of the colleges catalogues during the 1880’s. Actually, horse cars never operated along Euclid avenue (now 17th Street), as shown here, but approached the campus from the north along College Avenue.

Below: End of the line for a familiar Washburn Douthitt Avenue trolley, waiting at the main entrance of the campus, 17th and College Avenue. The time: 1912 Photo, Ray Hilner.








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