A look back at Tustinís early public transportation
The first street car arrived in November 1886.

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

ALL ABOARD: The horse-drawn street car waits for passengers in front of the Bank of Tustin at the corner of Main and D (El Camino Real) in the late 1800s. The large building in back is the Tustin Hotel. The Utt family home is seen in the lower right hand corner.

Itís been more than 100 years since the residents of Tustin City could jump on a street car and travel to Orange or Santa Ana. Granted, the trip was slow based on the speed of the mule or horse pulling the conveyance, but it was public transportation.

Three Tustin residents, David Hewes, Noah Palmer and Nelson Vanderlip, along with C. E. French, postmaster of Santa Ana, incorporated the Santa Ana, Orange and Tustin Street Railway back in January 1886.

Records show that 500 shares of capital stock were issued at $10 each. Hewes was named president of the company with Palmer as vice president, Vanderlip, treasurer, and French secretary.

It was July before work was started on the installation of the steel rails with wood ties necessary for the street car tracks. Four months later on Nov. 23, 1886, the first street car pulled into Tustin City. The cars had been especially built, two open-air and one enclosed. Each open car cost $1,350. The closed car cost a little more than $700.

Cars bound for Tustin City began their run at the corner of Fourth and Main in Santa Ana. Once passengers were aboard, the conveyance traveled south on Main to First Street where it turned east. At Lyon, the route jogged south and after a short distance turned east onto Tustinís Main Street which it followed into town.

The journey to Tustin City was originally planned to end at the Tustin Hotel, a 40-room Victorian structure on Third Street between D (El Camino Real) and Prospect, but because of delays in completing construction of the hotel, passengers boarded and disembarked in front of the Bank of Tustin (later First National Bank of Tustin) at Main and D until the hotel opened in 1888.

Before waiting passengers could board the car for the return trip to Santa Ana, the horse had to be switched from one end to the other and the seat backs flipped. In Santa Ana, a turntable at the corner of Fourth and Main was used to turn the cars around. A Mr. Beebe drove the horse and collected fares.

Signs indicating the destination, Tustin, Orange, or Santa Ana, were attached to the roof on both sides of each car. When not in use, horses and equipment were housed in a barn on West Fourth Street in Santa Ana.

The car was popular especially with the ladies who could use it when they wanted to shop or attend a meeting in Santa Ana, but when the economy slowed down in 1895, the line to Tustin was discontinued.

Roy Smith started running jitney buses from Tustin to Santa Ana about 1916. The vehicles, which were Model T Ford cars with the body lengthened to accommodate an extra seat, took about half an hour for a round trip. Fare was 5 cents.

Percy Lusk bought this business about 1920. Millard Foster and his half brother Scott Prather acquired the company next and gradually added bigger buses.

The Orange County Transportation Authority now serves Tustin.

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