1880's Edit

1886 Edit


July 3 -- San Diego Street Car Company, founded by (Hamilton Story and Elisa Babcock) begins service. An open air street car, drawn by two mules or horses, makes its way up Fifth Avenue at D Street (now Broadway) with a top speed of 5 miles per hour. The San Diego Street Car Company eventually has five lines in downtown running between H Street (now Market), F Street, D Street (now Broadway), First and Fifth Streets. The "system" is composed of six cars, 20 horses and costs five cents to ride.

San Diego & Old Town Street Railway Company and Electric Rapid Transit Company plan overhead wires to power new line.

San Diego experiences terrific growth in the mid to late 1880's. In 1880 the county's population is 8,600. By 1887 it has grown to over 40,000 creating a demand for public transportation.

1887 Edit


June 14 -- San Diego Land and Town Company begins suburban steam line, the National City and Otay Railway (NC&O) to shuttle buyers to new housing subdivisions. 550 passengers ride on the first day. National City: Building a Community and Preserving Its Transit Heritage (1,2) provides a brief history of this city's public transit heritage.

November 9 -- The first electric motor makes test run on new tracks up Broadway to Kettner and on to Old Town
November 19 -- Electric street car service inaugurated in San Diego; next day San Diego Union newspaper reports

" ..the electric motor commenced running through to Old Town and the residents along the line are no longer bothered with coal smoke and shrill tooting of the steam engine."

Two days later, another news story said,

" It starts, stops and moves promptly and smoothly. The passenger as he marvels at the mysterious power that propels him, marvels at its transmission in such strength through the medium of an overhead wire."

December 1 -- City told that the "Old Town Line is being dismantled and moved" but a new electric street car line will be built to serve the new University Heights neighborhood (now Normal Street) and that the lines on Fourth and Fifth Streets in downtown San Diego will be electrified.

1888 Edit

The Electric Rapid Transit Company puts an electric street car into regular operation in San Diego

1889 Edit

The Electric Rapid Transit Company collapses; steam and horse powered lines take over.

1890's Edit

1890 Edit

June -- San Diego Cable Car Company starts operation. These "Palaces on Wheels" are trimmed with rare woods and stained-glass windows. The metalwork was plated with nickel. The cars travel at eight to ten miles per hour. The population decreases to 16,000, causing some of the transportation companies to fail.

1891 Edit

November --John D. Spreckels incorporates the San Diego Electric Railway Company.

1892 Edit

January -- J. D. Spreckels purchases the San Diego Street Car Company for $115,000. Over the next few years, he also purchases the Park Belt Line, the San Diego Cable Company, Citizens Traction Company and the O.B. Railroad
Spreckels decides to make a complete conversion to electrically powered vehicles. This involves retrackng, double-tracking, installing overhead wiring, building a power plant, purchasing new cars, and rehabilitating old cars. He is quoted as saying, "I made those larger investments to protect the investments I had already made. It was just plain business sense. The city would not grow without an adequate street car facility. If San Diego did not grow, then my big investments would not pay."
The name and the system is changed to San Diego Electric Railway Company (SDER).
September -- There were 12 miles of electric railway open with two double decker and six single decker vehicles.
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