March 1890
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Month March 1890

THE BEAUTY OF RAPID TRANSIT.

THE CONSTITUTION: ATLANTA, GA. SUNDAY, MARCH 9, 1890.

Travelers on the Whitehall and West End rapid transit line yesterday were surprised to see a street car standing in the middle of the wagon road that is a continuation of Peters and Whitehall street. The car was deserted. It had a lonesome appearance, and yet it was not without dignity. It was one of the brand new cars imported by Colonel Richard Peters in June, 1851, and placed on Marietta street. It has recently been overhauled at the company’s shops, and is now a hand-painted gem, and yesterday, as it loomed up in the road some distance from the line, it lit up the landscape like a huge piece of bric-a-brac. Its mellow outlines filled what would have otherwise been an aching void, and its rich coloring gave tone and variety to the surroundings. In the middle panel of the car on the outside, in the shape of a delicately conceived aquarelle, a gastly white moon shone on a blood-red Arabian sea, and added interest to the native and ordinary landscape.

The passengers coming into the city wondered what the new departure could mean. At least some of them did. On the quarter-to-eight car from West End, which is the one that usually brings in the colonel, the major, the sad passenger, and others whose conversations have been given in these columns—on this particular car there was no surmising. One of the passengers gave a detailed description of the events that left the new and beautifully painted car (of vintage of 1857) high and dry, as it were. It was the sad passenger who told the story.

“We were going along at our usual gait,” he said, rubbing his brow thoughtfully, “as contented as you please. The bumps on the track seemed no higher than usual, and we were holding converse sweet as friends, comrades and brothers are wont to do. The colonel and the major were cussing each other out in a friendly way about the water and sewer bonds, and everything seemed to be serene. There were no ladies on board and all hands were gay.

“At the middle turnout,” the sad passenger continued, taking out his pocket-handkerchief, “the car became ambitious and left the track, and before it could be got on again, the passengers were compelled to get out in the rain and help the driver put it on again. This is such a common occurrence that nothing was thought of it. There was hardly a break in the festivities of the evening. You know how giddy a car load of West End passengers can be, and how their antics have driven me to consort with melancholy. Well, they were even more hilarious than usual, but I regarded the accident as somewhat ominous. I am not superstitious, but experience has taught me to be cautious and conservative.

“We were bowling along at a rapid rate. The driver was trying to make up for the time lost in the accident at the middle turn-out. I remember now, as in a dream, that the lights in Colonel George Adair’s windows flung hospitable gleams of light along the wet grass of his lawn. I had but a faint glimpse of this, for the mules were whirling the car along at the rate of four miles an hour. Just beyond Colonel Adair’s gate there is a pretty heavy down grade, and at the end of it, where Peters street melts into the old East Point road, there is a sharp curve. The car was going so rapidly that it disdained to enter the curve. It left the track and claimed the right of way over a series of square granite stepping-stones that protrude from the earth a half a foot or more. The concussion was tremendous. The most dignified man in the car flew into the air as lightly as a brown leghorn hen after a bug, and dropped flat in the aisle. As he went up I thought he was very light, but he came down with a thud that convinced me he weighed at least two hundred pounds.

“I think,” the sad passenger continued with a sigh “that he must have bruised the seat of his pantaloons. There were other casualties. Wiley Pope had his feelings hurt, and John Tye had his sensibilities wounded. As for me, I shall not undertake to describe my feelings or to expose my scars. Suffice it to say they are of a tender nature.”

“I think,” said the major somewhat grimly; “that the wrecked car must be the one on which I came out to dinner yesterday. It was raining and the passengers on the car were compelled to sit with their umbrellas hoisted.”

“Yes,” said the sad passenger, “I saw the little gathering as it passed along the street. It made a most engaging spectacle. Many people went so far as to laugh, but as it is given to me to see only the gloomy side of things, I merely smiled behind my cuff button.”

“Yes,” exclaimed the major viciously, “I dare say we were a beautiful sight—grown men sitting on the inside of a street car with their umbrellas hoisted to keep from getting wet. If any strangers saw it they must have regarded it as one of the symptoms of Atlanta’s progress.”