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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Dubuque Herald, May 27, 1877
HILL STREET AND WEST DUBUQUE STEAM RAILWAY COMPANY (Eighth Street Line). The promoter of the idea, Julius K. GRAVES, joined with Solon LANGWORTHY, Edward LANGWORTHY, Henry B. GLOVER, and Robert Hutcheson COLLIER in April 1877, to discuss the construction of a railway up the bluffs by way of Hill Street. One of the selling points was its expected financial savings over horse-drawn cars. According to calculations made at the time, a steam car cost $5.51 to operate while a horse-drawn car cost $8.53. (1)

The Company was organized and articles of incorporation were filed on April 16, 1877. (2) This was followed by a petition filed with the City Council for an ordinance granting right-of-way. The road began at the corner of Main and Eighth STREETS before moving west on Eighth to Hill Street and then on to Third, Alpine, and finally to Julien Avenue and Broad Street which was the terminus until July 3, 1879 when an extension was completed to the Western Brewery.

Given a franchise by the city, the company, with its depot at Eighth and Main, laid its tracks down the middle of the street. The trial test of the operation was made on July 12, 1877. The initial reaction to the railway was very positive with 1,500 people being carried on the first Sunday of its operation and, according to the Dubuque Herald, the engine being able to climb the bluff without problem. (3) The first regular train started from Main Street two days later. On July 18, 1877 the Dubuque Herald was already reporting that a rumor suggested the street railway would be continued to Cascade. (4)

An unusual article appeared in Dubuque Herald in early August. It reported that a representative of the Baldwin Locomotive Works had returned to the company with news of the success of the engine for the Hill Street railway. The company reported being gratified and surprised thinking that the engine could not handle so steep a grade. (5) The Herald reported that on July 29th the railway had carried by actual count 1,580 passengers and made nineteen round trips. (6)

Its one engine, however, began having difficulty climbing the hills. On August 8, 1877 the engine stalled near the DIAMOND HOUSE while attempting the climb the hill. Less steam than usual was being because there was a light load. When the train began sliding backwards, the riders jumped off. After the rails were sanded, the engine was again able to resume its route. (7) It was later discovered that the slippage had been due to several "bad boys" who covered the rails with grease and oil "just for fun." (8) In the same month another engine and two enclosed cars for winter use were purchased in Philadelphia. (9)

In September 1877 a change of ownership and the formation of a stock company for the railway was announced. D. S. Cummins was the new president with F. I. Massey the secretary, superintendent, and treasurer. Massey sold a portion of his interest in the company and Julius K. GRAVES liquidated his entire share. The purchasers were Cummins, Robert Hutcheson COLLIER, H. M. Kingman, and a Mr. Bailey from Washington. (10)

Ground was broken on October 6, 1877 for the foundation of the car house for the railway. Located at the beginning of Julien Avenue, the building was constructed large enough to house two steam motors and four or five coaches. (11) At the end of October, the Dubuque Herald reported that F.I. Massey was so impressed with the work of Conductor Wakefield that he presented him with a silver plated lantern with his initials engraved on the glass. (12) The Dubuque Herald announced on December 21, 1877 that the line would operate until 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. (13)

After a snowfall of several inches, the performance of the railway was judged as good as it had been in August. "The motor is a perfect success.: (14) This was not the case after a snowfall on January 15, 1879 when no cars were operated in the evening. (15)

In May 1878 the Dubuque Herald commented on the new paint job given to the open street car of the line. The work was done locally and the engine would soon be getting its new colors. (16)

During a hot spell in June 1878 the Dubuque Herald offered the following editorial: (17)

                This street motor is the grandest development since
                Dubuque procured gas and water...It enables even the
                most indigent citizen and his family--including the
                dear little ones--to take an occasional pleasant, 
                joyous ride, away from our low lands to the bluffs,
                and from our comparatively humid air to a point three
                hundred above the common level of the city proper.
                Going up with the motor last evening, experiencing at
                every moment as the altitude increased, renewed
                healthfulness, we could not but realize the absolute
                benefit which the power of respiration, etc. received...

In August, 1878 the line was extended further west so that it reached SUMMIT HOUSE. (18) The round trip fare was ten cents.

In September 1878 residents along Julien Avenue petitioned the city council for action against the railway. Petitioners contended that the railroad had destroyed the street for traffic other than the railroad. Other concerns included that the train climbed the hill at about twenty rather than four miles per hour, the sparks coming from the engine were dangerous, costs associated with the railway had raised taxes, and peddlers could not longer access homes with produce to sell. Representatives of the company stated that track had been laid on an old gutter and not the street and that at least 50 feet existed between the track and the sidewalk. Mayor Knight supported the railway and the issue was given to the police committee for study. (19)

In February 1879 Mathias TSCHIRGI, Jacob SCHWIND and John D. BUSH purchased an interest in the railroad. Plans were also announced to extend the line to the brewery and "in other directions." (20)

In December, potential problems with the railway were mentioned in the Dubuque Herald. The only comment was "the motor is disappointing a large number of people residing on the bluffs." (21) Repairs were apparently the issue, because the railway tested the repairs with a short trip from the SUMMIT HOUSE to WESTERN BREWERY on Christmas Day, 1879. (22) In late February, 1880 the cars were draped in black as the company employees mourned the passing of the firm's president, D. D. Cummings. (23)

Threatened with the suspension of their charter, the Company attempted improvements without result. In 1890 the line was challenged to sell tickets as cheaply as those offered by the Rhomberg or Allen & Swiney companies which sold six tickets for twenty-five cents. (24)

Under foreclosure, the Eighth Street line was sold on June 22, 1892 for $25,000 to J. R. Doane of Cincinnati. The future of the business was unclear. Doane suggested the possibility of another stock company with management by local officials or a merger with the Rhomberg line. Local realty officials estimated that if the tracks were removed the the business closed the property values in the areas served would decrease thirty percent. (25)

In September 1892, meeting as a committee of the whole, council members discussed canceling the taxes due the city by the Eighth Street company and that the taxes for the following five years be remitted. In exchange, the line could make needed improvement and extend their line to West Dubuque within fifteen days. (26) This plan was approved by the council at its October 4th meeting giving the company thirty days to extend the line to West Dubuque. One important exception was that if, at any time, the income from the railroad exceeded the operating expenses, the taxes would be reinstated. (27) On October 11, 1892, however, Mayor Saunders vetoed the idea.



1. "The Hill Street and West Dubuque Railway," Dubuque Herald, May 27, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770527&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, April 17, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770417&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, July 17, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770717&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, July 18, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770718&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, August 1, 1877. p. 4, Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770801&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

6. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, July 19, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770718&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

7. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, August 9, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770809&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, August 10, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770810&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

9. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, August 18, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770818&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

10. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, September 9, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770909&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

11. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, October 3, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18771006&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

12. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, November 1, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18771101&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

13. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, December 21, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18771221&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

14. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, November 6, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18771106&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

15. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, January 16, 1879. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18790116&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

16. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, May 2, 1878, p. 4.

17. "The Hill Street Motor," Dubuque Herald, June 21, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18780621&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

18. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, August 10, 1878, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18780810&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

19. "City Matters," Dubuque Herald, September 24, 1878, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18780924&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

20. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, February 18, 1879, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18790218&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

21. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, December 19, 1879, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18791219&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

22. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, December 27, 1879, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18791227&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

23. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, February 24, 1880, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18800224&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

24. "News in Brief," Dubuque Daily Herald, September 19, 1890, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18900919&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

25. "The Eighth Street Line," Dubuque Daily Herald, June 23, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18920623&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

26. "The Eighth Street Line," Dubuque Daily Herald, September 24, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18920924&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

27. "Exempted from Taxation," Dubuque Daily Herald, October 5, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18921005&printsec=frontpage&hl=en