Stephen F. Austin State University

Mule-powered trolley served early Longview (May 2014)

Mule-powered trolley served early Longview
By Van Craddock

It was an exciting day in June 1883 when mass transit came to the little Gregg County town of Longview.

The mule-drawn streetcar operated between the Texas & Pacific's uptown depot and the International & Great Northern depot at the Junction just east of town. The little trolley line ran a distance of less than a mile, making it one of the nation's shortest.

The Longview and Junction Railway Company was the brainchild of local businessmen C.W. Booth, E.H. Carter, George Harrison, R.B. Levy, Dock Pegues, F.T. Rembert and F.L. Whaley.

Fare was a nickel to ride the trolley initially pulled by a single mule on a narrow gauge track. Later, along about 1896, a second larger car was ordered, requiring two mules to pull it. When the car stopped, the mules often would graze on the grass that grew beside the rails on the dirt street.

One car was an open-air vehicle used during the summer and spring. A fully enclosed car protected riders in fall and winter months. As many as 20 riders could ride in the cars.
From the T&P depot in the middle of downtown, the car would make the slow, plodding trip north along Fredonia Street to Methvin Street, then east to the depot at Sixth and Methvin streets in Longview Junction.

Once the car reached the end of the 3,300-foot line, the operator (for many years the driver was a colorful fellow called Uncle Isaac Smith) would unhitch the singletree with mules still attached. Then it was reattached to the car's opposite end so the car could begin the slow return trip to the T&P depot.

The driver had to keep the track greased as it turned onto Methvin to keep the car from jumping the track.

The mule-drawn car was popular from the beginning. There was plenty of business along the sometimes muddy, sometimes dusty road between the depots. For years the trolley was tourist attraction with folks coming downtown just to ride or watch the car.

Just going to Longview Junction was an adventure in itself. The settlement was a rowdy, unincorporated area just east of town. The fancy Mobberly Hotel opened there in 1884, along with a growing number of businesses, including railroad shops, restaurants, boarding houses, saloons and at least one gambling house. In 1904 the Junction was annexed into the city.

By 1912 Longview's mule-drawn system was replaced by an electric railway with a new 16-foot trolley built by the St. Louis Car Co. The mules made their final run on Sept. 25 that year. The new yellow electric trolley provided a much faster trip than the plodding mules.

The local newspaper, the Longview Times-Clarion, had this to say:

The only objection we have to the electric car system is that we were used to taking a nap on the mule car while coming to town. Now it is a case of get on, sit down, get up, get off. No time for a quiet forty winks. These modern improvements certainly do require the expenditure of an enormous amount of nervous energy.

In 1912 the owners announced plans to build a belt line of several miles around the city but that expansion never materialized.

The electric trolley continued to operate until 1922 when paved streets and the availability of automobiles made the enterprise obsolete.