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History of the Horse Railroad

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser



                              Alton - Upper Alton Horse Railroad

Planning began on the Alton – Upper Alton Horse Railroad (streetcar) in 1865. The rail system, driven by horse-power, would mostly benefit Upper Alton trade, and the citizens and leaders there were highly motivated. W. T. Miller, Chairman of the Exchange Committee, was appointed to explore the cost of the railroad. In December 1866, a meeting was held to discuss the plans for the railroad, and W. T. Miller reported the cost, excluding grading which was already completed, would be from $10,000 to $18,000 per mile. In March 1867, the recently incorporated firm of the Alton and Upper Alton Horse Railway Company met, and Cyrus Edwards was elected President, with James N. Morgan, Secretary. Charles E. Hall, H. N. Kendall, and W. T. Miller were appointed to have the charter published in the Alton Telegraph. The charter would be void if the road was not completed within two years. By April 1867, $6,000 had been subscribed in Upper Alton for the cost of the railroad. An office for the company was opened in the Alton City Hall, and it was determined that the starting point of the road was on Broadway, directly opposite the city hall at Broadway and Market Streets.

The work on the horse railroad began in August 1867. The rails were ordered from a company in Pennsylvania, and the ties from St. Louis. However, the rails were delayed, and didn’t arrive until October 3, 1867. A force of between 75 and 100 hands were hired, with Captain Hall superintending the construction. The railroad was completed by December 1867, and the large festival and supper was held at the Alton House, in honor of its completion. The festival was attended by citizens from Alton and Upper Alton, and was presided by Cyrus Edwards. Toasts were presented in honor of Mr. Edwards and Mr. Clawson, who worked diligently to complete the railroad. The editors of the Alton Telegraph took their first trip to Upper Alton on the horse railroad on December 13, 1867. The long hill on Washington Avenue was ascended without difficulty, and at the Upper Alton station (at Broadway and Washington), they encountered a side switch to enable cars to pass each other. The car stopped at Hewit’s Store in Upper Alton, but track was being laid further to the post office, which was the terminus of the road. Returning to Alton, there was standing room only in the car.

The horse railroad system (also referred to as the horse-drawn streetcar) continued to operate for about 25 years. The Alton Improvement Association was then formed to furnish transportation to those living in Middletown. They promoted a car line, first using horse power, and then substituted a steam “dummy” – a locomotive disguised as a streetcar, so it would not frighten nervous horses. This line began at Broadway and Market, and crossed Third Street, following a terrace the company constructed, since a portion of Market Street was too narrow for a car line. The line turned the corner at Sixth and Market, and went to Alby, then to Twelfth Street, Henry, Fifteenth, Liberty, Grove, and Central Avenue.

In 1893, Joseph F. Porter, took over the Alton electric light and gas plant, naming his new company the Alton Railway and Illuminating Company. He made plans to increase the powerhouse to adequately serve Alton, and invested all his money into the effort. Electric lines and rails were installed, and the electric streetcar or trolley began operations, supplying transportation between Alton, Upper Alton, and North Alton. In 1896, Mr. Porter purchased grounds near Upper Alton, and developed it into Rock Spring Park. He extended his electric railway system from Middletown and Upper Alton into the park, bringing in visitors from all over the surrounding area.





Source: Alton Telegraph, December 7, 1866
The project for building a horse railroad between Alton and Upper Alton is meeting with universal favor. The many and great advantages which would accrue to both places from the completion of such an enterprise are patent to everyone. The project is already assuming shape, and there is very little doubt of its being soon undertaken. Mr. W. T. Miller, the chairman of the Exchange Committee, appointed to make a report on the probable cost of such a road, has received estimates from competent parties in St. Louis, who report that the cost after the road was graded would be from $10,000 to $18,000 per mile, in proportion to the weight of the rails used in the construction. The roadbed is already graded, which would thus bring the expense within very moderate limits. A public meeting is to be held in Upper Alton on Monday evening next, to consider the matter, at which time a committee will be appointed to confer with the Exchange Committee on the subject. A meeting of the two committees will be held on Tuesday morning at 9 o’clock, at the store of F. Hewit in Upper Alton. The committees will go over the whole of the proposed route, accompanied by a competent engineer, and make such surveys and observations as may be considered necessary to make a complete and intelligent report.


Source: Alton Telegraph, March 29, 1867
The corporators of the Alton and Upper Alton Horse Railway Company met at the office of Miller & Morgan on Saturday last, and accepted the charter. Subscription books are to be opened in this city and in Upper Alton. We are informed that the prospect for the successful carrying out of this great and vital improvement is very encouraging. In Upper Alton especially, the people are much interested in its success, and will subscribe a large amount of stock. In Alton, there is not as much interest manifested in the road as we could wish – still, when our merchants realize the great advantage it will be to their business, they will doubtless subscribe their due proportion of stock with alacrity.

Cyrus Edwards was elected President, James N. Morgan, Secretary. Charles E. Hall, H. N. Kendall, and W. T. Miller were appointed to a committee to have the charter published in the Alton Telegraph.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 21, 1867
The directors of the Upper Alton horse railway held a meeting this morning and received reports from their committees appointed at a previous meeting, to locate the road, get estimate of cost, etc. They have engaged our city engineer to survey the route and estimate the cost of laying the track. He will begin his work on Monday next. The cost of iron and ties has been ascertained, and a call made upon the stockholders of 25 percent, monthly, which means that the work is to be prosecuted as rapidly as possible.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 29, 1867
We understand that the directors of the Horse Railway Company have decided to make the crossing on Second Street [Broadway], directly opposite the City Hall, the starting point of the road in this city. They also desire to secure a room in the City Hall building as an office. Such arrangements would be entirely satisfactory to our citizens, and would render the road much more popular than making the starting point at Alby Street. The directors design procuring the celebrated Birneyized ties for the road, to be obtained in St. Louis, and they are negotiating for the rails with parties in Pennsylvania.


Source: Alton Telegraph, August 30, 1867
The work on the horse railroad is progressing favorably. The rails are expected to arrive next week, when, the ties being already here, the work of laying the track will be immediately commenced. It is expected that the road will be in operation by the first of October.


Source: Alton Telegraph, September 20, 1867
Work upon the Alton and Upper Alton Horse Railroad has been delayed for some days by the non-arrival of the rails from the Fort Pitt Ironworks, Pittsburg. We are informed, however, by Mr. Swift, engineer of the road, that letters have been received from Pittsburg stating that the rails would be shipped from that city today. As the grading of the roadbed is completed already, but a short time will elapse after the arrival of the rails, until the road will be finished and in running order.


Source: Alton Telegraph, October 4, 1867
The long-expected rails for the horse railway arrived yesterday, and the work laying the track commenced this morning at Alby Street. The track will be laid for about the distance of three blocks today. By Monday, a force of between 75 and 100 hands will be employed. Captain Hall is superintending the work of construction, which is a sufficient guarantee of its being put through with the greatest possible dispatch.


Source: Alton Telegraph, November 1, 1867
The track of the horse railroad is now laid as far as the summit of the long hill [on Washington Avenuye] beyond “Bozzatown,” which is certainly rapid progress. It is said that the advent of railroad iron into Upper Alton, for the first time in its history, is making a profound sensation among the inhabitants. As an illustration of what such an enterprise as this will do towards increasing the value of real estate in a town, we will state that a prominent and well-posted citizen of Upper Alton informed us this morning that since the horse railroad was commenced, property in Upper Alton has advanced nearly one hundred percent in value. In view of this fact, who will say that investments in horse railways do not pay?


Source: Alton Telegraph, December 6, 1867
This morning, the cars upon the Alton and Upper Alton Horse Railroad commenced running. The first trip was made about nine o’clock. The cars in use are light and elegant, as well as comfortable and commodious. We will publish further particulars in regard to the timetable, etc., as soon as they are furnished us by the company.

Now that we have a horse railway in active operation, we shall, of course, be called upon to assume metropolitan aire. We, therefore, publish from an exchange the following hints on streetcar etiquette, which we hope will be faithfully observed.

Gentlemen should stand as thickly as possible on the rear platform, even if there is plenty of room inside. It leads strangers to think the cars are immensely patronized, and makes it so pleasant to ladies getting on board.

Don’t put out your cigar, but get on the front platform with it and stroke furiously, particularly if the doors are open and a strong draft blowing through. A pipe strong and old is an improvement on the cigar.

Crowd into a car that is full to overflowing, and then complain loudly of the railroad company for cramming their cars.

Look diligently out of the window when a woman enters with a baby in her arms. Someone will be weak enough to give her a seat. You aren’t.

Find fault with the conductor if the track is obstructed by a stone or wagon. Make him mad, and then threaten to report him if he talks back.

Talk politics in a loud voice, the ladies like it so much, and if any gentleman don’t, it is because he differs with you, which is evidence enough that he is of no account.

Blow up the conductor if you are asleep or busy talking and don’t hear him call the street. The conductor ought to know when you want to get off, even if you do not yourself.

If a conductor observes your signal and stops his car for you, don’t hurry any, even if you are a square or more away. The other passengers, whom you are delaying, will feel so pleasant towards you.

Never have the change ready for a pack of tickets, and abuse the conductor because he hasn’t. It teaches them their positions.

Ladies desiring to take a streetcar should wait for one that is most crowded. It draws attention to them, and practices men in patience and reference to the sex.

If you are a lady, and in feeble health, don’t fail to extend profoundest thanks to the hearty, strapping man who condescends to yield his seat to you. If you don’t, he may cry about it and be melancholy for days after.

By carefully observing the above rules, streetcar traveling will be rendered vastly more pleasant than at present.


Source: Alton Telegraph, December 13, 1867
The supper and festival at the Alton House last evening in honor of the completion of the Alton & Upper Alton Horse Railroad [horse-drawn streetcar], was largely attended by citizens of both places, and a most delightful season was enjoyed. The gathering was select. Many ladies, especially from Upper Alton, graced the occasion by their presence. Hon. Cyrus Edwards presided with his usual suavity, and Judge Billings acted as vice President. The banquet is spoken of in enthusiastic terms. It comprised every delicacy, in season and out of season, and was served in admirable style. The host of the Alton House certainly added to his laurels as a public caterer, on this occasion. The toasts proposed at the table and the responses thereto were equally felicitous, and added in no small degree to the pleasures and sociability of the evening. The following is a list of the toasts offered, as furnished us by the committee:

1. Motive and Locomotive Power: In celebrating the event that calls us together, let due credit be given to the gentlemen who exerted the motive power that caused the Alton & Upper Alton Horse Railway to be built - Messrs. Edwards and Clawson.

2. Horse Railway Carriages: Coaches for the people - in which the poor as well as the rich can ride at the same cost.

3. The Altons: May the union by bands of iron lend to a more perfect union under one city charter.

4. The Alton Sisters: Now unified by a cord of iron; may it be bound as impolitic to sever this union as it would the cord that connects the Siam brothers.

5. Railing Between the Altons: May it be so profitable to both places as to end all other unprofitable railing.

6. Our Stockholders: May the upper and nether Alton railway - like the upper and nether millstones - grind them out a good grist of dividends.

7. Railroads and the Magnetic Telegraph: The two greatest inventions for the increase of comfort and wealthy in this century.

8. The New Viaduct Between the Altons: The natural chasm having been spanned may the social one no longer exist.

9. Alton and Upper Alton: Now that they are united by a two-horse railway, let them no longer be named as one-horse places.

10. To the Board of Directors of the Alton and Upper Alton Horse Railroad: The citizens of both places tender their most grateful thanks.

11. The Horse Railway Charter: Let the "sp____" [unreadable] clause, which provides for extending the web of rails over both Alton's not be forgotten.


Source: Alton Telegraph, December 13, 1867
We this morning took our first trip to Upper Alton on the far-famed streetcars. As we rolled rapidly along, we entirely forgot that Alton was a city of only some 15,000 inhabitants, and imagined that it had attained the colossal proportions of its sister city St. Louis - so metropolitan appearance was given to everything from a real street car. The road-bed is as yet somewhat rough, but is daily becoming smoother and more settled. At Upper Alton station there is a side switch to enable cars to pass each other. The long hill at this point, which many supposed would be an almost insurmountable obstacle to the building of the road, is ascended without difficulty - and without the need of an extra horse. The cars stop at Hewit's store, but the track is being laid to the Post Office, which will be the terminus of the road. We advise any person who is skeptical in regard to the success of this road to take a trip to our neighboring town, and he will be convinced of his mistake. Two cars have been running all day. On our up-trip, the car was only comfortably full, but on returning there was hardly standing room for the passengers - there being about forty-five persons aboard. We learn that on one trip fifty-two persons were carried. The Upper Altonians have an abiding faith in the road, and are sustaining it nobly. It is certain to have an important influence in increasing the prosperity of both places. It needs only a hasty survey of the place to discern the rapid stride Upper Alton is making in wealth and importance. During the past year a great number of buildings have been erected - many of them being handsome and substantial edifices. The whole aspect of the place, indeed, is that of growth and prosperity. There was a large number of teams on the streets, and the merchants seemed to be doing a prosperous business, as doubtless is the case. Since the opening of the year, College Avenue has undergone quite a transformation - several new buildings having been erected upon it. The completion of the street railway has undoubtedly had much to do with this impetus to the growth ..... [unreadable] ...largely increased value of its property.


Source: Alton Telegraph, January 3, 1868
The streetcars now stop at the new terminus of the track opposite the City Hall. The office of the company, we understand, is in Mr. Gillespie’s Confectionery store, a convenient location directly opposite the stopping place of the cars.


Source: Alton Telegraph, January 10, 1868
The new timetable on the Horse Railroad, by which the cars leave for Upper Alton every three quarters of an hour, instead of every hour as formerly, adds to the convenience and popularity of the road. The cars now make fifteen trips per day, each way.


Source: Alton Telegraph, January 17, 1868
It will be seen by reference to a notice in another column, that the Directors of this company have resolved that on and after Monday next, January 13, the uniform rate of fare to all points on the road, will be ten cents. We regard this as a very great blunder, and are satisfied the Directors will find it out before they try it very long. It may be true that their old rates were too low, we know nothing about that, but admitting they were, it is still most manifest that the Directors have acted very unwisely in charging the same price for riding a square that they do for carrying passengers two miles and a half. There is neither reason nor justice in any such a course, and besides, we are satisfied it will prove a most suicidal policy for the stock holders. The practical working of the system will be that three-fourths of all the persons heretofore riding from the business part of the city to Bozzatown, or between these two points, will hereafter walk, and of course, the change will not have the slightest tendency to increase the number of through passengers, and the company, therefore, will lose way passengers while adding nothing to their revenue in any other way.

We feel no personal interest in this matter, and do not feel disposed to interfere with the management of the company in the slightest degree, but still, it would give us great pleasure to have the road pay a dividend to the stockholders, and at the same time, prove a source of convenience to the public. But if those interested directly in its management are satisfied with this obviously unreasonable, and as we are satisfied, unprofitable change for the stockholders, we shall not complain.


Source: Alton Telegraph, January 31, 1868
The street cars are doing a good business, in spite of the increased tariff in the city. The object of the directors is not to charge anything more than living rates, and this rule will be strictly adhered to. The cars are extremely well conducted in every respect, and it is a pleasant, as well as a convenience to patronize them.


Source: Alton Telegraph, May 8, 1868
There is talk of extending the horse railway track from its present terminus at the city hall. The proposition is to continue the track down through Second Street [Broadway] to State, and up State to Third. We hope the extension will be made.


Source: Alton Telegraph, May 22, 1868
Mr. N. C. Hatheway has purchased more than half the stock of the Alton and Upper Alton horse railroad, and hence owns a controlling interest in the road.


Source: Alton Telegraph, May 29, 1868
Subscriptions are being taken in Upper Alton to secure the extension of the Horse Railway from its present terminus to the eastern end of the college grounds. The movement is one of much importance, and the friends of the college will doubtless see that it is successful. The rails on the railway forming the awkward curve near Mr. Homeyer’s residence have been taken up and laid down in a larger arc, in order to admit of the new car’s rounding the curve.


Source: Alton Telegraph, September 18, 1868
The track of the street railway in Upper Alton is to be continued at once, from its present terminus to the college grounds. The rails and ballast, for the extension, are already on the ground. This continuation of the track will be a great convenience both to the public and those connected with the college.


Source: Alton Telegraph, January 10, 1873
The Rock Island & St. Louis Railroad received a good share of Upper Alton patronage during the prevalence of the horse disease, which prevented the street cars making connections with the trains of the other roads at Bozzatown. The street railroad is again in operation, and cars are making regular trips. The horses have almost all recovered from the epizootic. The public will appreciate the restoration of regular communication between Alton and Upper Alton.


Source: Alton Telegraph, May 16, 1873
Upper Alton patronage of the horse cars has decreased somewhat since the opening of the smallpox season in Hunterstown. Whether the foot line is any safer is for those to say who have tried it.






Source: Alton Telegraph, April 28, 1896
Work on the North Alton electric line is being pushed vigorously by President Porter. The men who struck are still working peaceably enough and are making rapid progress with the work. To comply with the terms upon which the bonus is given, the line must be in operation on the first day of June. The completion of the road on time will require fast work, but it is thought that cars will be running by the specified time. President Porter stated yesterday every rail will be spiked on the entire line to Fourth street by Saturday night. Mr. Porter also stated that nothing had been done in regard to changing the route from Third and Piasa street, and that he expected to go along with the work on that route. A force of men began setting the poles on Third street this morning for the trolley wire.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 12, 1899
During the last few days, an electric car on the Middletown system has developed shocking propensities that made it quite a dangerous conveyance. In some way a connection became established between the brass handle used by passengers to assist them in mounting, and the trolley wire above the car. A light shock was complained of by a number of passengers as they took hold of the handle, but today the full viciousness of the depraved car became apparent. As "Dad" Scovell was mounting the steps with two buckets of sand in his hands, he was shocked by the current that charged the iron steps under him. He dropped the buckets and was almost thrown to the ground. Other persons had similar experiences, and it was decided that the car should be retired until an investigation could be made and the fault corrected.


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