Street Cars in the City of Gadsden


On Aug. 8, 1889, Obal Christopher, J. S. Stewart and T. W. Gilmore of Attalla filed incorporation papers for the Alabama Street Car Company with an authorized capitalization of $25,000.

On the same date, the Attalla Board of Aldermen granted the company the right to lay its tracks through the streets.

The plan was to connect with the steam dummy’s line that was in operation in Gadsden, thus connecting the two towns together. 

Hard times befell the owners of the existing dummy line in Gadsden and on Feb. 11, 1890, the company was sold to Capt. J. M. Elliott, Jr. who was considered one of the pioneer mining developers of Etowah County during the post Civil War period.

He was president of both the Round Mountain Coal & Iron Company and the Elliott Pig Iron Company, and later opened the Elliott Car Works in Gadsden for the manufacture of railroad cars.

One stipulation of the sale of the dummy line was the promise from Capt. Elliott that he extend the dummy line to Attalla, and also to Bellevue Highlands and falls on Lookout Mountain.

On March 8, 1890, the Gadsden & Attalla Union Railway Company was organized by Mr. Elliott, who held $13,000 in stock, and Christopher, Stewart and Gilmore of Attalla, who each held $1,000 in stock.

In 1872, Major W.P. Hollingsworth and Col. R.B. Kyle had begun to build the Tennessee & Coosa River Railroad from Gadsden via Attalla to Guntersville.

The lines were in place to Attalla but had not been extended to Guntersville.

The existing track to Attalla was unused, and the new company was given permission to use this track.

So in 1890 the steam dummies were put into operation to run the five-mile distance.

By 1893, however, the Tennessee & Coosa River line was completed into Guntersville, and the trunk line railroad informed Capt. Elliott that his dummy line would have to vacate the former’s right-of-way, which by this time had become the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. 

Mr. Elliott went to the Alabama State Legislature and soon obtained the go-ahead to build his own line west from Gadsden via Alabama City.

Tracks were laid along Gardner Street from Ninth Street across the old T&CR westward through Alabama City and Kyle Avenue and ended in Attalla at the side of the famous Attalla Hotel on Fifth Avenue.

Besides meeting all Alabama Great Southern passenger trains, the steam dummy also carried the mail between Attalla and Gadsden.

In the early years, on nearly every trip, the dummy had to stop to clear the track of cattle and the like. Early engineers on the line included June and Bart Curry from an old pioneer family of Gadsden, while conductors included Dan Aderhold, Lee Alexander and Ab Paschal.

In November of 1898, the Gadsden City Council announced that it had granted a franchise to the Alabama Light & Power Company to build an electric power plant just off Twelfth Street in Gadsden, directly behind the offices of the Elliott Car Works. It was announced at that time that Capt. Elliott was desirous of electrifying his Gadsden & Attalla Union Railway.

To this end, Elliott had signed a contract with the new power company to supply him with the necessary 600 volts D.C. current at a cost of $10,000.

Elliott stated that he had already bought 750 poles to begin stringing of trolley wire and hoped to have the line in operation by January of 1899.

The trolley tracks came down Hughes Avenue, crossed the AGS Railroad, proceeded down Fifth Avenue to Fourth Street, then down Fourth Street to Brown Lake (later Walker Lake), where they circled over to the depot.

The final run took place on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 1934.

The next morning at 5 a.m., Crescent Motors, Inc., which had been operating the local bus system in Anniston since the demise of trolley service, began to operate five buses.

The company had been granted a 25-year franchise by the Gadsden City Council.

By agreement, Alabama Power Company immediately began to take up the tracks or to bury the rails in asphalt. 

Today, only fond memories remain of there having ever existed a steam dummy line and electric trolley operation in the Attalla area.


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