Jacksonville's first effort at a street railway, was right after the 1870 census, which counted some 7,000 persons in the City. By 1875, the Jacksonville Horse Railroad Company was busy laying tracks, but due to financial difficulties, the company never went into operation.
The City had attracted the attention of railroad builder Henry Bradley Plant, who, with his associates, formed the Jacksonville Street Railway Company December 3, 1879. The City Council granted a charter on January 14, 1880. Work began down Bay Street from La Villa to Fairfield. A loop went up Hogan to Beaver to Clay and back to Bay. The patrons were happy to escape the sandy roadways and board the "Hay-Burner" as the cars were called.
Within a short time other companies joined in. The Pine Street Railway, was formed by B. Upton and built a line up Pine (Main Street) to 8Th Street. In 1884 the company was leased to G.A.Blackstone, who constructed a popular resort, skating rink, dinner hall and restaurant. The project fell short of paying for the improvements and the transit line so the property was sold to S. B Hubbard. Hubbard extended the street railway East on 8Th to Walnut, South on Walnut to First and West on First back to Pine. When the namesake "Pine Street" became "Main Street," the company changed it's name to "The Main Street Railway."
Yet another company the Jacksonville and La Villa Street Railway, opened it's doors on January 24, 1885 to a huge celebration. The company had only been organized in April of 1884, and must have been one of the quickest streetcar projects in history. From Bay and Newnan, they ran North on Newnan to Adams and hence to Broad Street at about the intersection of the current Adams and Myrtle Streets. Only a year later the Plant interests bought out the company, abandoned most of the tracks East of Broad Street, then laid a new track up Broad from Bay to Monroe. Thus it was merged into the larger system.
A fourth company The Jacksonville and Suburban Railway, started building right after their charter of July 1, 1884. From Bay and Ocean, they ran to Duval and Union, passing the old City cemetery, ending at the new Campbell's Addition.
Also by the end of 1886, the City had expanded so rapidly, that the Jacksonville Street Railway, extended their own lines South over McCoys creek, down to the end of May Street. The line ended at a small Swamp and a picnic grounds was built far out in the woods (present day "5-Points").
A STREETCAR ELECTRIC
When news of Spague's experiment with electric powered trolleys in Richmond, Virginia, swept across the land. Jacksonville was caught up in "electric fever." The Main Street Railway, was first to string electric wire and bring in the new era of clean transport to Jacksonville. On February 24, 1893, the first electric streetcar rolled up Main Street from Bay to the Water Works at 1St. By March, the entire Main Street Railway was ready for electric service, and the cars were running up Main and around the Walnut Street loop on 10 minute headway's.
The success of the electric trolleys brought an immediate attack from the Jacksonville Humane Society, for the others to quit using mules for Transit use. The large Jacksonville Street Railway, and it's powerful financial backers had been upstaged by the modernist on Main Street. By February of 1895 a train load of new electric streetcars had arrived and were delivered to the Jacksonville Street Railway. On the night of February 28, 1895, the cars were test run up and back to make sure everything worked according to plan. Early the next morning nine new electric cars clattered out of the barn for the streets of Jacksonville.
Four plied the Riverside-Fairfield line, two more on the Market Street - Depot line, two also ran on the La Villa - Oakland route, and one covered Hogan Street schedules. By May, the final Mule or Horse Car made its trip into Jacksonville History.
For the next few years, H. B. Plant and Associates, busied themselves with buying up the independent car lines in Jacksonville and consolidating them into the Jacksonville Street Railway. An oddity in the American South is that the railroads were usually built to 5 foot or 5' 2" gauge, whereas standard gauge track is 4' 81/2". The Main Street line was the only standard gauge operation in the City and when the Plant Company finally bought control it was re-gauged from standard to the Jacksonville Street Railways own 5' gauge, a project that was completed in early 1901.
MORE COMING SOON!