Throwback Thursday: The day buses replaced streetcars in Winona

Throwback Thursday: The day buses replaced streetcars in Winona

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This story originally appeared in the Winona Republican-Herald July 22 and 23, 1938.

Clang, clang, clang

Car 11 at the north end of the Lake Lon on Center at Third Street. Conductor is changing the trolley. Building at the left in the background is the Post Office Bulding built in 1871. Choat Building is at the right. Circa 1915.

Soon after midnight last night, a workman of the Mississippi Valley Public Service Company threw a switch which marked death for the 55-year-old streetcar transportation system in Winona.

Joe McCormick, 271 West Mill St., a streetcar motorman for 12 ½ years, was driving a shiny new bus today, but he missed old No. 10, the streetcar on which he finished Friday night. It was the last streetcar run in Winona and closed the final chapter in the 55-year history of that form of transportation in the city.

“I felt kind of lonesome all night,” Joe said, “not meeting any other streetcars. My car was the only electric one left in service, and it seemed like the buses didn’t belong in the same company.”

Joe has a special feeling about No. 10, for it was on this same car that he made the last trip for the Mississippi Valley Public Service Company over the old east Sanborn Street run. After Joe took No. 10 around the loop on East Third Street across on High Forest and west on Sanborn to Center, north on Center to Third street and thence to the car barn the night of Oct. 20, 1933, the company started its first bus route on the Lake line and stopped East Sanborn street electric car service at Laird Street.

Many other Winonans shared his feeling about No. 10, or probably felt sentimental about the passing of “just all the streetcars,” said Joe, for more than the normal number of passengers were carried last night.

“I could see quite a few waiting through the night to let the buses pass and get on my car. Lots of people got on downtown and rode out and back, just for their last ride.”

A delegation of Junior Chamber of Commerce members made the “last trip” with Joe and No. 10, and Joe posed for a goodbye picture at the end of the run at 11:30 p.m.

This. morning “all bus” operation starts in a $200,000 change-over.

The company has prepared for it through the summer by scrapping old streetcar property, purchasing new buses and converting the old streetcar barn on Johnson Street between Front and Second to a modern garage and shop for seven new and two old buses and about 20 other trucks and automobiles owned by the company.

Still to be done in the changeover is removal of tracks, trolleys and poles of the streetcar system, which has 6.3 miles of tracks.

Power company crews will be working at this job soon, and within about 30 days, said R. M. Howard, vice-president and general manager of the company, the tracks in the dirt streets, the trolley wires and their supporting poles will have been removed.

The streetcar system is closely bound to the boom time history of Winona. It was begun May 22, 1883, when T. T. Hayden, John A. Mathews, Royal D. Cone, O.H. Porter, Charles Norton and their associates were granted the first franchise, and the system has been in continuous operation with few changes since that time.

Changing times and conditions have outmoded the system, declared Mr. Howard today, and despite some regret at the passing of the streetcars because of sentimental reasons he feels, he said, that the change to be complete Saturday is a distinct improvement in transportation for the city.

Speed limited

He pointed to a provision in the first franchise which limited the speed of streetcars in Winona to 12 miles an hour, except that on Third Street from Johnson to Kansas Street the speed limit was six miles an hour.

Five of the company’s fleet of new buses will be operated in regular service and two new buses and two old buses will be held in reserve and for service in special trips or at rush times.

The new buses cost $3,800 each and weigh 6,600 pounds, compared to the 12,500-pound weight of the old-style buses. They will run approximately 80,000 miles per year on the regular runs.

Passengers carried on the four buses already in operation, declared Mr. Howard, are well pleased with the appearance, convenience and comfort of the new units.

He thought radio reception in the city would he improved somewhat as a result of elimination of trolley wires and said that curb loading of the buses, as compared with street loading of streetcars, is unquestionably safer for passengers. Bus stops will be marked along the routes soon, he said, and there will be two bus stop spaces in each block, one on each side of the street along the routes.

Few changes

Few changes had been made in the streetcar routes of the city during the time Mr. Howard has been connected with the company, since 1911.

When he came here, he said, the company was operating streetcars occasionally over a wood piling bridge across Lake Winona at Dacota Street, taking passengers to a big dance pavilion on the south side of the lake. He considered the bridge unsafe, he said, and ordered this line discontinued and the bridge torn down.

The company once also gave “fair day” and “race day” service to the present site of the Westfleld golf course, where the fairgrounds were located, running cars on a track along the west side of the new Jefferson School. Traces of the old dirt track can still be seen on the golf course.

The latest change, except for complete scrapping of the streetcar system, was the experimental bus line operated over the Lake line since July 2, 1933.

Some of the tracks and ties imbedded in improved streets, will not be taken out, but the rail openings will be covered over and the streets made smooth. Where improved streets are rough, as along a stretch of Johnston Street, declared Mr. Howard, the tracks and ties may be taken out.

New equipment and other costs for the change to bus operation amounted to $35,000, and the company charged off $171,000 worth of street railway property. Most of the old equipment sold as junk, and only about $2,000 was realized from its sale, Mr. Howard said.

The new buses have many safety features, Mr. Howard said, such as safety glass throughout, an emergency rear exit door, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, and steel and aluminum alloy body construction. Comfort features are Scotch plaid mohair covering of rubber cushion seats and backs, and hot water heating for winter use. The overall length of the buses is 21 feet and total width 83 inches.

In the transfer from streetcar to bus operation, said R.M. Howard, vice-president and general manager, motormen were switched over to bus driving duties without anyone losing his job or any new men being hired.


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