WIPING OUT A CAR LINE. ~ W. H. Winants Tells of Pioneer Movement in Electric Railways.

August 4, 1909

W. H. Winants Tells of Pioneer
Movement in Electric Railways.

Some idea of the complete way in which the street railway properties are wiped out may be gathered from the fate of the old Northeast electric line. It was only in an accidental way yesterday that the fact was developed that within the last twenty years there was built, operated and wiped out in this city an electric railway. The contractor who was speaking of the line could not recall particulars of it, but remembered that Colonel W. H. Winants, president of the Mercantile bank of this city, had been president of the old company. When Colonel Winants was asked about the road he told a story that was one of pioneering.

"Municipal transportation is a dangerous thing," said the Mercantile bank's president. "So many bright minds are bent upon perfecting the means of rapid transit that great discoveries are made, so great that they destroy all earlier methods. Eight men, including myself, found some twenty years ago that horse cars, dummy engines and cable railways would soon be obsolete and that electricity would be the moving power.

"We raised money for a line and took over the Northeast horse car line. That system ran from the Market square to Woodland avenue by way of Independence avenue. It took care of only that territory, and being a mule line, was not conducive to settlers going beyond. With electricity available we went further. We left Independence avenue and laid rails along the present route, though not so far east as the cars now go.

"When we went out there we went out alone. Our equipment was crude, being then newly invented, and the consequence was the service was not as good as it might be. It would not be accepted today. But we ran electric cars, the people saw how much faster they went than the old mules, and how much farther they could go without coming to a dead stop. Mules would go only so far.

"Poor as our service was, the line began to develop the country, and in an incredibly short space of time there were houses going up all along the route, and thus began the growth of the northeast part of Kansas City. The street cars did it."

Asked what became of the line, President Winants laughed and said that "modern inventions and other things made it necessary to get a bigger company, the Metropolitan, to take it over.

"I had the honor of being the president of the first electric line in Kansas City, and the only 'gravity system' we have had. One morning I arrived at the car line barns at Highland avenue, or near there, and found the trolley had got mixed up with the overhead rigging, and had been torn off the top of the car. It would not do to tie up the system. It was time for people to be getting down town. So I had the trolley pole laid at the curb, closed the doors, told the passengers there would be no stop made till we got to the end of the line, thus giving a chance to any who wanted to get off, and away we went.

"It was a downhill run all the way except past Shelley park, and we gathered enough momentum before reaching that level to carry us on to the next decline. We made the trip all right, and thus began and ended Kansas City's gravity line.

"Seriously speaking," resumed Colonel Winants, "there is a great risk in street car sureties. The lines have to spend vast sums of money pioneering. They do a tremendous amount of good to the city and a new invention may wipe them out."