January 17, 1907




In the Darkness of the Eight Street Tunnel a
Free-for-All Fight Started When Tough
Youth Pulled an Old Man's Beard.

In the dark cavern of the Eight street tunnel, without light or heat, to all purposes a thousand miles from the Union depot, fifty passengers were held prisoners last night on an Independence avenue car. Outside were explosions too numerous to count, occurring with such force as to make the noise within the car almost deafening. Outside, well, outside no one ventured to look. The very air seemed to be exploding, and none knew but what a foot placed on the icy ground might mean instant electrocution. The explosions no one was able to explain, not even the motorman.

When the car rolled into the tunnel it carried fifty persons, each one anxious to reach the Union depot to board outgoing trains. As the car reached a point perhaps 500 feet from the exit to the tunnel, the car was plunged in darkness and in a moment there were twelve distinct and powerful explosions. With the reports came a fierce electrical display.

The car was brought to a stop and all was quiet for a moment, but at intervals the explosions continued. It was finally discovered that the trolley wire had broken in front of the car and had wound itself around the trolley wheel. Every time the end of the wire came in contact with the rail or any part of the car, there was a loud detonation.

Fortunately but three of the passengers were women. Some of them were panic stricken, but the fierce explosions and electrical display from the outside kept them inside the car. The flagman from Washington street station in the tunnel came running behind the car, his lantern giving the only light obtainable. He escaped death, which it was feared he would meet by electrocution.

It was decided to send a man back through the tunnel to notify headquarters and in the meantime a bright thought came to the flagman.

The car was stranded and the tunnel passage cut off, but if a connection in the broken wire was made, other cars along the line could move and there would be light and heat. Perhaps an hour was taken up in accomplishing a joining of the broken wires.

The cars to the rear were then started and more than four cars came down to join in the last hour's vigil in the tunnel. First came a Leavenworth car, sounding the whistle which gives notice that it has the right of way over everything on the track. But for once its authority was in dispute. The broken cable defied all published or unpublished rules of the road.

Next came the Grand View car well filled. It approached a near as possible and then began a weary wait.

On this car were a large number of women, but by some prank of fate they were mostly in the extreme front or rear of the car. There was something ominous in the air and before the car again saw the outside air there was excitement enough to suit the most blase.

Two boys of perhaps 15 years, en route to Kansas City, Kas., were on the car. The larger number of the passengers were somewhat afraid that something might happen, but the seriousness of it all never occurred to the boys.

One of them, to use a passenger's words, "was a typical tough of the city." The two first began ringing constantly the signal bell. This was annoying, but endured in silence for fifteen minutes and then the people in the car began to suffer. Profanity was hurled at the passengers and even addressed to the unescorted women. The conductor was outside looking over the situation.

Perhaps every man in the car wanted to treat the youngsters to a sound thrashing, but the tunnel removed from them all the help of the law and in the fear that the scene would be only more disgraceful, the passengers suffered in silence.

It remained for an old man, perhaps 75 or more, to lean forward from the seat behind and request the boys to desist. One of them, who is described as a typical tough, reached for the old man's whiskers and gave them a yank. No sooner than he did so was he met with a sharp cuff on the ears and a blow in the face from a man on an opposite seat, whose wife had been obliged to withstand the indignities offered to the passengers generally.

With that cuff there was something moving. One elderly gentleman who appeared to know the boy rushed to his rescue, proclaiming that nobody was going to hit a little boy while he was around Before he could reach the principles in the encounter he was assailed by a passenger near at hand and within three minutes nearly every man on the car was mixed up in the fight. The women were crowded to the ends and the fight was swift around the center of the car when the conductor and motorman came in and quelled the disturbance after much effort.

The boy had received in the interim, however, several sad knocks and the remainder of the wait was passed without a single word from him or his companion.

Finally help arrived, the cable was repaired and the tunnel blockade was lifted after nearly two hours' wait.