Waiting for the Trolley

Another awesome thing in this picture is the trolley car. In 1910, when it had finally become clear the the Rice Board of Trustees was actually going to build a school, the Houston Electric Co. authorized the construction (at a cost of $75,000) of an extension of its South End line to serve the Institute. There weren’t a lot of automobiles around then and even if there had been, this picture below shows what Main Street looked like (towards downtown) when it wasn’t raining. When it was raining, it was close to impassable. For Rice students who didn’t live on campus and for dorm residents who wanted to go to the movies or shopping downtown, this trolley became their usual form of transportation.

The picture above was taken a guy who was hanging around waiting for a train back to town. (Again, I know this because of outstanding scrapbook labeling technique). Rice students spent a lot of time hanging around waiting for trains, at both the Institute stop and at the stop on Eagle Avenue where you had transfer to the line that went to campus (and then on to Bellaire). The Eagle Avenue stop was roughly where the Sears is today.

The kids seemed to sort of enjoy themselves while they were waiting for the trolley, at least as long as the weather was reasonably nice. Here’s a gang of them waiting at Eagle Avenue for a ride to campus:

Things were no fancier at the other end. Here’s a 1918 picture of the trolley shed at the Rice stop. This might be the shed that’s just to the right of Autry House in the 1921 photo, but I’m not certain.

And here’s another gang waiting right in the middle of the tracks, which actually ran down Fannin, to go back to Houston:


This was a very big part of what it meant to be a Rice student back in those days. It seems like everywhere I look there are references to the trolley, to the drivers that the students came to know well, and to the small daily rituals of ridership. And it all just ended one day, in the late 1920s, when they shut them down. I’ll stop for now with this little throw-away drawing, used to fill up space in the 1916 Campanile. There’s whole world in this little drawing.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Waiting for the Trolley

  1. Michael Joe Thannisch says:

    I find the trolley interesting. It seems that one of the conductors, Spencer, was also a Rice Student. The only reason I know this is because his daughter, Alicia Weekley, also a Rice student told me about it. Alicia if I recall correctly was at Baker and graduated in 1978 or 1979.

  2. “For Whites Only” again on the trolley shelter.

    • I guess I was naive growing up, but I remember all restaurants had the sign, “we reserve the right to refuse service to anybody,” which seemed like a reasonable statement to me. It was not until I was a teenager watching Giant that I really understood what that meant.

  3. Randy Newell says:

    I would like to see either an electrified or self propelled “period” trolley line where it originally was in the Heights; this would be a great addition to this area.

  4. Pingback: Not with a bang but a whimper | Rice History Corner

Leave a Reply