End of the Line
Bonham Daily Favorite, May 28, 1995
At the December, 1891 meeting of the Fannin County Commissioners Court, permission was granted to the Bonham Rapid Transit Railway for "right-of-way over any streets or alleys now crossed by or along which the line of its road now runs and may hereafter run over, or cross with full rights, but subject to the same restrictions and limitations and requirements as to county roads and the crossings over the same as is embraced in the franchise and right of way granted by the City of Bonham over the streets and alleys of Bonham." This resolution passed by the Commissioners climaxed the attempt by a group of Bonham investors to bring to town the newest and most up-to-date system of public transportation. In essence, agreeing with a similar resolution by the aldermen of the City of Bonham, this new transportation now had permission to construct a railway system over any public right of way in the county.
Chartered in 1890 by investors John Russell, James Russell, Ernest White, J.R. Rainey, and John Arledge, the Bonham Rapid Transit system almost instantly made its mark on the citizens of Bonham. The automobile was still many years away and all forms of transportation were of a private nature in either individually owned buggies and carriages or by way of similar conveyances which could be rented by the hour or day from any of the several livery stables in town.
The investment company entered into a contract with Louis Burg and Associates, who had built the San Antonio Street Railway, to construct a two and one half mile system in Bonham. The system was completed in October of 1891 at a cost of $8,000.
The northern terminus of the line and also the location of the storage facility for the cars was in the Russell Heights addition in northwest Bonham. This location allowed Bonham citizens to have dependable transportation to such points as the recreation area at Lake St. Clair, the Fair grounds, the race track, and Bonham's baseball park. The power plant for the Bonham Electric Company was also located at the site.
The southern terminus was located on Main Street at the Texas and Pacific Railway depot. At this time Center Street terminated just north of Powder Creek so the Main Street location was chosen to connect with the only road leading from town to the south.
The route chosen for the line, from the northern terminus, was down Cedar Street to Tenth Street. There the line turned to the east and continued to the intersection of Tenth and Center. Turning south the line continued down Center, across the east side of the square, passed the Post office until it reached the intersection of of Center and First Streets. At this point it turn to the west, continued for one block along First Street until it turned south again on Main Street. The stopping point was just opposite the brick walkway leading from Main Street along side the Texas and Pacific Depot to the point where the trains were boarded.
The first method of propulsion utilized a steam "dummy" locomotive. This was simply a street car with one end partitioned off and a boiler located behind the partition. This arrangement was designed to prevent the frightening of horses still very much in evidence along the streets of Bonham. The first engineer for the dummy was Bob Bohannon .
A later engineer named Moody had his own style of operating the rail system and seemingly no one ever complained. Moody lived on West Tenth Street. Everyday his wife would have the midday meal prepared by noon. When Mr. Moody reached his home he stopped the car and went in for his lunch. If there were passengers on the car they simply waited until Moody was finished and returned to complete the run.
In 1896 the line was electrified and the company was changed to the Bonham Electric Railway, Light and Power Company. At this time the original small open car was retired, except for special occasions, and two closed electric cars were purchased. The fares were considered to be reasonable. One way fares were a nickle, ten cents for round trip. Monthly passes were also available for school children at $1.25 each. Adults who wished to purchased similar passes paid $2.50.
Around the turn of the century the route was changed. When the cars reached the intersection of Tenth and Main Streets a turn was made to the south on Main. The cars then continued south until reaching the southern terminus at the depot.
One spectacular accident occured during the history of the line. In 1902 a train of the Denison, Bonham, and New Orleans railroad collided with a streetcar where the two lines intersected on north Cedar near the present location of the Bonham Golf Club. The streetcar was knocked from the tracks and two passengers were seriously injured. Both later recovered from their injuries.
The officers of the company listed in their 1913 annual report were J.F. Arledge, president, E.F. White, vice president, J.W. Russell, secretary, and J.B. Russell, treasure. Power at the old Russell Heights powerplant was no longer furnishing the power for the line's operation. Instead the company was purchasing its power from the newly established Texas Power and Light Company.
As more and more automobiles took to the streets of Bonham, revenues on the line began to decline. After two or so years of losses, the company board voted to discontinue operations and on February 1, 1915 the Bonham Rapid Transit Railway was no more. Local electrician Len Morgan was hired to take down the lines and poles. Some of the track at the northern end was taken up soon after the shutdown and other sections were removed over the ensuing years. Many Bonham citizens will remember during the 1940's when a large section of track along Main Street and the west side of the square was dug up and donated to a scrap metal drive for support of the U.S. Armed Forces. Occasionally along Main Street as pot holes appear some section of the track are still to be seen just below the surface of the asphalt paving.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas