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All Aboard at Six mph


This article appeared in the Journal Herald on January 11, 1977
All aboard at six mph
By Roz Young
     Public transportation began in Dayton in 1876.
     The Dayton Street Railway was the first line; it ran three and three-fourths miles the length of Third Street. The fare was six cents or 20 for $1.  At the west end of the line, the cars connected with an omnibus terminal, which took passengers to the Soldiers’ Home for 50 cents a round trip.
     Horse-cars generally carried from 24 to 30 passengers.  The driver and conductor rode at the front and rear on open platforms separated from the car by doors. 
     At first seats extended the length of the car, and the floor was covered with straw.  Small windows in the roof let in air by trickles; blasts came in through the doors when they opened.  Hard coal stoves provided heat in winter and coal oil lanterns gave what light there was.
     Dayton horse-cars had not been operating a week before the Journal began publishing complaining letters to the editor.  The driver of car six was rude.  The men who laid the tracks had left the street a sea of mud.  Some drivers refused to pick up passengers for fear the horse would not start again.  Women with market baskets took up too much room.
     OTHER STREET RAILWAYS followed shortly.  The Dayton View and Oakwood companies began in 1871; Wayne and Fifth, more frequently called the Water Works and Asylum line, began in 1872; Fifth Street in 1881 and a branch, called the Green Line, opened in 1890.
     Employes of the lines were never exceptionally happy.  They had to buy their uniforms, registers, watches, wood or coal for the stoves, matches, lamp chimneys, badges, account books, shovels and pokers.   They had to keep their cars clean inside and out.  What is more they had to report for duty 10 minutes early and use $9.40 of their own money for change.  For all this they worked 16hours a day and received $10 a week.
     The drivers struck in 1886 for a reduction to 12 hours a day and a raise to $12.25 a week.
     Management offered to reduce the hours to 11½ with three half days off in eight to increase the hourly rate by 2 1/2 cents.  When the drivers figured the offer out, they found their salaries would be reduced to $9.93 per week.
     MANAGEMENT TRIED to keep the cars running during the strike. When a superintendent for the line tried to dive a car out of the barn, he was met by 2,000 shouting citizens who would not get out of the way.  The sheriff arrived, read the Riot Act and ordered the crowd to disperse.  Next a squad of police with billy clubs tried to force an opening through the crowd so that the car could move.
     The result was broken windows in the car and four policemen knocked out.  The public was without transportation for two weeks before the drivers and management finally settled.
     The 1880s were the great years for the horse-cars.  At one time country-wide 18,000 horse cars pulled by 100,000 horses ran on 3,000 miles of track.  In New York, Noah Brooks, a regular horse-car rider, read the posted rules for the conductors to register fares on different colored strips and wrote a jingle about it that Mark Twain later made famous:
     Conductor, when you receive a fare,
     Punch in the presence of the passenjare.
     A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
     A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
     A pink trip slip for a five-cent fare,
     Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
     Punch, brother, punch with care,
     Punch in the presence of the passenjare!