Dakota Datebook

Bismarck Capitol Trolly

Friday, October 19, 2012

 

On this date in 1931, the residents of Bismarck laid a special pioneer to rest. This pioneer had no name and never lived: it was a trolley car, placed into service around 1905, originally intended to haul coal up the hill to the Capitol building. The trolley was reportedly the first streetcar in the state, and the first and only trolley line to be owned and run by any state in the country.

Michael “Mickey” O’Connor was the first motorman. Mickey was born and raised in Bismarck, and was the superintendent of transportation. He saw great changes “from the days when he drove the horses” for the Capital Bus, carrying state officials and mail back and forth, to “the days of the trolley car.”

The trolley car was more powerful and fast than needed for the track. He related this tale: that Judge Morgan of Bismarck, “who although crippled, was a speed maniac,” used to wait downtown so that he and Mickey could travel alone together to the Capitol as fast as possible. Mickey said their best time was two and a half minutes.

Mickey briefly went into politics, however, and the car was put away, replaced with a smaller, less powerful car. About 1922, the original car was donated to the State Historical Society of North Dakota. There wasn’t enough space to display it, so it was stored away. But in the end, “the car was dragged from its shed behind the power house where it had lain” for eight years. It was placed on the hill behind the Capitol, becoming a picnic shelter and a resting place for visitors.

Today, all that remains of the trolley is the throttle lever, on display in Bismarck at the Carriage House at the Former Governors’ Mansion State Historic Site. Thus was the end of the line for the first trolley in the state.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

Sources:

Willow City Eagle, Oct. 22, 1931

1919 Blue Book

 

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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