|A San Francisco invention, the "balloon cars" of the Sutter Street Railroad could be rotated on their own chassis, allowing them to turn around more easily. Unfortunately they could also be easily run off the rails, as the story below indicates. (Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library).|
San Francisco Chronicle, December 23, 1877
HOW THEY HATE THE LARKIN-STREET BALLOON CARS
“Our Boys” residing in the vicinity of Hayes and Market streets
have organized and harmonized themselves without distinction of
creed, color or previous condition of servitude into an important
party, the shibboleth of which is underlying enmity to the drivers of
the balloon cars of the Sutter-street railway running along Larkin
The boys appear to divide themselves into regular strata of “pure
cussedness.” At the corner of Hayes, Ninth, and Market streets they
modestly content themselves with having so artfully laid a train of
misleading rocks from the legitimate track that the driver is never
awakened to his responsibilities till he drives his steeds half into
the front balcony where a Larkin-street young lady is entertaining
her young man.
Having backed out with profuse apologies he continues
his frequently interrupted course to the corner of Grove street.
There the boys change the programme by pelting him with stones. The
only objection that can be made to the boys at this corner is that
they are remarkably bad shots, and that every rock, well intended to
do for the driver, shivers a window and scatters shattered glass
rather promiscuously and dangerously among the passengers.
At Fulton street a low whitewashing investigating committee of three
usually jumps aboard, and when the attention of the driver is
distracted by some one of his numerous duties, one of the Committee
rings the bell and they then all jump off and laugh at the driver for
stopping to let off a supposed passenger.
The drivers have done all in their power to counteract this evil.
They have laden the fronts of their conveyances with cobbles till
they looked like Trojan war chariots, and they fired the said cobbles
at the hoodlums with remarkable wickedness, it is true, but with
distinguished ill success.
Individual drivers have been so enthused
with the war as to leave horse, car and passengers on the track, and
start out for a several blocks’ chase of supposed culprit. They
have invariably returned with some good little boy who was just going
home from an adjacent letter-box, or a contiguous grocery, whither he
had been sent on an important errand, and being bound to let all these
go, the assistance of the police is respectfully asked.