ABQ Street Car Advertisement, 1915

Albuquerque Morning Journal, October 18, 1915

In continuing to research history of Albuquerque’s electric trolley/street car 1905-1928, perhaps the biggest “aha” aside from the obvious “cars killed it” angle is the very, very non-public ownership of the street car. Above is a fairly typical ad of the street car period from the ad/newspaper-prolific George Roslington and folks from “City Electric.”

“City Electric” took over the street car from other private ventures unable to make it work through the decade of the 1900s. It’s interesting to consider whether the street car would have died slower or faster via public ownership a century ago, but there’s no doubt that Mr. Roslington and others sure tried like hell to make a killing on the street car, and eventually couldn’t.

In Roslington’s case, the losses were mitigated by his work/ownership at the Franciscan Hotel, Occidental Insurance Company, and various real estate ventures, including Monkbridge at 4th and Candelaria. This guy was into everything. Nevertheless, the British-born Roslington, referred to more than once as “capitalist” in local newspapers, didn’t come out too well on the street car or the Great Depression in general.

This famous ABQ building was designed after a trip George Roslington took to Venice. It burned “down” in the 1930s but the Venetian exterior survived.

Mr. Roslington wasn’t a big government guy, and had a tendency to call anything he didn’t agree with “Socialist.” But in terms of public transit thinking, he wasn’t alone. There’s nary a mention in any newspaper story, anywhere from 1905-1928, about the City taking over the street car venture. The thought is just never brought up. When the street car dies on January 1, 1928, it just dies. The same thing happened in communities across the country.

Moving forward to 2022, we probably won’t see quarter-page ads for ABQ Ride about how many folks it will haul to the State Fair, unlike the ad above in 1915 (when the State Fair hauling was done to “Traction Park” at Central and Rio Grande Blvd.). Don’t know if such ads would help ridership or perception of public transit today, but seeing ABQ Ride ads highlighting “No Accidents–Courteous Treatment” couldn’t hurt.

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