CHAPTER VIII. LINES OF TRAVEL.

In a city so vast as New York, one of the greatest considerations is to provide ample means for rapid and sure passage from one part of the corporate limits to another. Persons who live at the upper end of the island cannot think of walking to their places of business or labor. To say nothing of the loss of time they would incur, the fatigue of such a walk would unfit nine out of ten for the duties of the day. For this reason all the lines of travel in the City are more or less crowded every day. The means of transportation now at the command of the people are the street railways and the omnibusses, or stages; as they are called.

                     THE STREET CARS.

The majority of the street railways centre at the Astor House and City Hall. From these points one can always find a car to almost any place in the city. The fare is six cents to any part of the City below 62nd Street, and seven to any point above that and below 130th Street. The cars are all more or less crowded. With the exception of a few lines, they are dirty. An insufficient number are provided, and one half of the passengers are compelled to stand. The conductors and drivers are often rude and sometimes brutal in their treatment of passengers. One meets all sorts of people in these cars. The majority of them are rough and dirty and contact with them keeps a person in constant dread of an attack of the itch, or some kindred disease. Crowded cars are a great resort for pickpockets, and many valuable articles and much money are annually stolen by the light-fingered gentry in these vehicles.

The wages paid to employees by the various companies are not large, and the drivers and conductors make up the deficiency by appropriating a part of the fares to their own use. Some are very expert at this, but many are detected, discharged from the service of the company, and handed over to the police. The companies exert themselves vigorously to stop such practices, but thus far they have not been successful. Spies, or "Spotters," as the road men term them, are kept constantly travelling over the lines to watch the conductors. These note the number of passengers transported during the trip, and when the conductors' reports are handed in at the receiver's office, they examine them, and point out any inaccuracies in them. They soon become known to the men. They are cordially hated, and sometimes fare badly at the hands of parties whose evil doings they have exposed. As all the money paid for fares is received by the conductor, he alone can abstract the "plunder." He is compelled to share it with the driver, however, in order to purchase his silence. In this way, the companies lose large sums of money annually.

There is either a car or stage route on all the principal streets running North and South. There are, besides these, several "cross town" lines, or lines running across the City. East and West, from river to river. The fare on these is five cents. They cross all the other railways, and their termini are at certain ferries on the North and East Rivers.

                     THE STAGES.

The stages of New York are a feature of the great city which must be seen to be appreciated. They are fine, handsome coaches, with seats running lengthways, and capable of seating from twelve to fourteen persons. They are drawn by two horses, and have all the lightness and comfort of a fine spring wagon. Their routes begin at the various ferries on the East river, from which they reach Broadway by the nearest ways. They pass up Broadway for over a mile, and turn off from it to other sections of the city at various points between Bleecker and Twenty-third streets. The fare in these vehicles is ten cents, and is paid to the driver, who communicates with the passenger by means of a hole in the upper and front end of the coach. The checkstring passes from the door through this hole, and is fastened to the driver's foot. By means of this, a passenger can at any moment stop the stage. In order that the driver may distinguish between a signal to stop the coach and one to receive the passenger's fare, a small gong, worked by means of a spring, is fastened at the side of the hole. By striking this the passenger at once commands the driver's attention.

The stage drivers are entirely exposed to the weather, and suffer greatly from the extremes of heat and cold. They can not leave their seats, and are oftentimes terribly frozen in the winter, before reaching the ends of their routes. They are constantly on the watch for passengers, and it is amusing to watch the means to which they resort to fill their coaches. In the early morning, and towards the close of the day, they have no need to solicit custom, for then both stages and cars are crowded to their utmost capacity. During the rest of the day, however, they exert themselves to fill their coaches. They are called upon to exercise no little skill in driving. Broadway, and the cross streets along their routes, are always crowded with vehicles, and it requires more dexterity than one would at first suppose, to avoid accidents.

Good drivers are always in demand. Their wages are fair, and they are allowed the greater part of Saturday, or some other day in the week, and as the stages do not run on Sunday, they are always sure of two "off-days" out of the seven. Like the street railway men, they consider it perfectly legitimate to fill their own pockets at the expense of the owners of the vehicles. The writer of these pages once had a long conversation upon this subject with the driver of a stage. Jehu endeavored to justify the practice of robbing his employers by a number of very ingenious arguments, and finally closed with the remark:

"Well, you see, Mr. Martin, where the boss is a sensible man, he don't object to a driver's making a few dollars for himself, for he knows that a man who can make a plenty of stamps for himself will always make a plenty for the boss, to keep from being found out; and it is a fact, sir, that them as makes most for themselves always makes the biggest returns to the office."

The drivers are frequently in trouble with the police. They have a holy horror of falling into the hands of these limbs of the law, and this feeling renders them more careful in their driving, and general conduct while on duty.

Owing to the high rate of fare demanded by the stages, the rougher and dirtier portion of the community are seldom met in them. The passengers are generally of the better class, and one meets with more courtesy and good breeding here than in the street cars. Ladies, unaccompanied by gentlemen, prefer the stages to the cars. They are cleaner, and females are less liable to annoyance.

Like the cars, however, they are the favorite resorts of pickpockets. At night they are patronized to such an extent by streetwalkers seeking custom, that the city press has styled them "perambulating assignation houses."

                     THE FERRIES.

Including the Harlem and Staten Island lines, there are twenty-three lines of ferries plying between New York and the adjacent shores. Of these, nine are in the North or Hudson river, and fourteen in the East river. The boats are large side-wheel vessels, capable of carrying both foot-passengers, horses, and vehicles. Early in the morning they are crowded with persons and teams coming into the city, and in the afternoon the travel is equally great away from the city. On some of the lines the boats ply every five minutes; on others the intervals are longer. The Harlem and Staten Island boats start hourly - the fare on these lines is ten cents. On the East river lines it is two cents, on the North river three cents.

The boats are large and handsome. Nearly all of them are lighted with gas, and at least a score of them are seen in the stream at the same moment. At night, with their many colored lights, they give to the river quite a gala appearance. The travel on them is immense. Over fifty millions of persons are annually transported by them. Many often carry from 800 to 1000 passengers at a single trip.

During the summer it is pleasant enough to cross either of the rivers which encircle the island; but in the winter such travelling is very dangerous. Storms of snow, fogs, and floating ice interfere greatly with the running of the boats, and render accidents imminent. Collisions are frequent during rough or thick weather, and the ice sometimes carries the boats for miles out of their course. The East river is always more or less crowded with vessels of all kinds, either in motion or at anchor, and even in fair weather it is only by the exercise of the greatest skill on the part of the pilot that collisions can be avoided. The following incident from one of the city journals for November 14, 1868, will show how terrible these accidents are:

"Early this morning, when the Brooklyn boats are most crowded, chiefly with workmen and girls coming to the city just before working hours, a frightful collision took place as one of the Fulton ferry boats was entering the New York slip, resulting in the wounding of probably twenty persons, many of them fatally. At that hour four boats are run on the Fulton ferry, the Union and Columbia running on a line, as also the Hamilton and Clinton. The Clinton being slightly detained on the New York side, the Hamilton, waiting for her, remained longer than usual at the Brooklyn slip, and received therefore an immense load of passengers, probably over a thousand. At this time in the morning, it being flood tide, a strong current sets up the East river from Governor's Island, which is just now further strengthened by the freshet on the Hudson. The Hamilton, therefore, after being carried up on the Brooklyn side, and turning in the centre of the river, steamed down some distance below the New York slip, as usual, in order not to be carried beyond by the upward tide. Turning, she then came up to the slip, where the Union was laying, chained up, at the southern or lower ferry-way. Close in by the piers an eddy from the main current which strikes New York about Beekman street, sets strongly down stream. As the Hamilton came into the slip from below, aiming at the upper ferry-way, her bow was caught by this eddy and swung around with great force toward the end of the Union. The Hamilton having a full load and the Union having just discharged hers, the former was much the lower in the water. The projecting guard of the Union therefore entered the front part of the ladies' cabin at about the height of the seats, and also smashed the rails on the outer deck. This particular part of the boat was, of course, the most densely crowded, and the consequences of the shock were frightful. One boy, George Brewer, who was said to have been outside the chain, was caught by the foot and instantly killed, his head and a good part of the body being mashed to a jelly. Several had their feet cut off below the knee, and a dozen others were seriously injured. The following is the list of those known to be hurt. It is probable that several cases have not yet been discovered, and one or two may have fallen overboard and not yet been missed. People looking anxiously for missing friends, supposed to have been on the fated boat, have been calling in great numbers during the morning at the ferry-house and the police station."

Efforts have been made to span the East river with a bridge, for the purpose of affording sure and safe communication between this city and Brooklyn, but the plan has always met with the sternest and most uncompromising hostility from the ferry companies, who wish to retain their present enormous business.