Austit's Streetcar 8ra
A. T. JACKSON
ON JANUARY 6, 1875, after four years of planning, the
Austin City Railroad Company dispatched the first
mule-drawn streetcar on an inspection tour of its newly
completed transportation system. The moving spirit of the enter-
prise had been Colonel John M. Swisher, soldier, banker, and
early Texas settler, who came to Austin in January, 1868, to organ-
ize the undertaking. Uncertainty characterized the initial develop-
ment of the company; meetings of the organizers were irregular,
interspersed with extended periods of inactivity. At one meeting,
which epitomized the venture, the capital stock was set at $50,000,
with the authority to increase it to $500,000. Finally, however, on
September 7, 1874, the city council granted a franchise authorizing
the company to build and maintain a horse or mule railroad,
with permission to use any streets within the city, and work on
the project was begun.
The beginning of transportation service in 1875 took place
under even more inauspicious circumstances than those that had
marked the period of organization. At the corner of Eleventh
Street and Congress Avenue, just south of the entrance to the
Capitol, misfortune overtook the inaugural tour of inspection.
As the mule hitched to the small streetcar jogged around the
corner, the car left the tracks and turned over. No one sustained
injuries but the dignity of several company officials who had been
passengers was badly bruised. Eight days after the accident, on
January 14, a second inspection was made of the road to decide
whether to accept it from the contractor. Before the streetcar
completed its circuit the experience of the initial tour was repeated.
four times, and each time the derailment occurred on a curve.
Complaints were made and the difficulties quickly remedied.
The first paying passengers were hauled on January 15, 1875.
The returns were small as measured by the standards of today.
It must be recalled, however, that the population of Austin then
was only 7,500, and that the operating costs also were small.
A local newspaper, early in 1875, contained this news:
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 58, July 1954 - April, 1955. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101158/. Accessed March 14, 2014.