In the Creation of the Class 1s



John D. Spreckels was a catalyst for much of San Diego's phenomenal growth from 1887 until his death in 1926. Among his widespread investments in San Diego's future was the Southern California Mountain Water Company, which assured San Diego of a regular supply of potable water. In anticipation of San Diego becoming a deep water terminus after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, in 1906 he organized the San Diego and Arizona Railway (SD&ARy). Dubbed "The Impossible Railroad" due to the immense logistical and engineering challenges along its route, it eventually reached the Southern Pacific Railroad's transcontinental line at El Centro, Imperial County via northern Baja California. With its 1919 completion, the SD&ARy opened the Imperial Valley and the rest of the American Southerwest to San Diego's deepwater seaport.

Spreckels' announcement of the information of the SD&ARy helped spark a $6 million increase in new construction and improvements between 1906 and 1915. This resulted in the construction of many new, multistory downtown office buildings, built primarily by Spreckels, along with major shipping and warehouse facilities along the waterfront. Concurrent was the beginning of San Diego's development into a major naval facility as the U.S. government established several refueling, repair, air, and supply facilities. All of this private and military construction activity brought scores of investors, workers, and new residents into the area. Seeking to advertise San Diego's potential for growth, Spreckels became owner and publisher of both the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune newspapers. From 1909 to 1915 the papers promoted the upcoming celebration of the Panama California Exposition in Balboa Park. Supported, in part, by a generous donation by Spreckels, the Exposition would celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal by highlighting San Diego's potential as a major shipping center. One result of San Diego's economic growth during this period was the continued expansion of SDERy into San Diego's suburban communities. As real estate in downtown San Diego raised steadily in value, investors and retailers looked toward the cheaper suburbs to develop. However, as had been during the land boom of the late 1880s, the development of San Diego's suburban communities would be in direct proportion to their accessibility by the electric street railway system. A firm believer that "transportation determines the flow of population", in 1906 Spreckels "set to work to develop....a street railway system which would reach out to even the outlying section of the city".

-Excerpt from a report by Alexander Bevil



The task of implementing Spreckels' plan went to SDERy's vice-president and managing director, William Clayton. Like Spreckels, he too played an important role in the development of San Diego's streetcar system. Before coming to San Diego in 1901, Clayton served as general manager of the San Mateo Railway, an electric line owned by the Spreckels interests. Three years later he was vice president and managing director of all Southern California Spreckels-owned companies. As an executive of the Spreckels interests in San Diego, Clayton was close to John D. Spreckels. Both men worked to promote several important developments that they regarded as essential to the growth of San Diego. Among these was the development of the Southern California Mountain Water Company, the San Diego & Arizona Railway, and the First National Bank of San Diego. As a former park commissioner, he took an active part in promoting, and later in the building of the 1915 Panama California Exposition in Balboa Park. Clayton aslo served as a delegate sent by the Pacific Coast Chamber of Commerce on a goodwill tour of Japan. He remained associated with the Spreckels interests in San Diego for the rest of his life, serving as chairman of the board until his death in 1934. As manager of the SDERy, between 1909 and the opening of the 1915 Exposition, Clayton undertook an ambitious project to give San Diego "an entirely new, thoroughly up-to-date, and splendidly equipped system of street railways.

Civic leaders as well as businessmen, Clayton and Spreckels realized that electric streetcars permitted the distribution of urban and suburban populations over a much wider area that the former horse-drawn cars. Quick, reliable electric trolley cars enabled people to commute to jobs in the urban core, while living in more affordable homes in the less crowded suburbs. Like other street railway operators across the nation, they also knew that, no matter how desirable the location, if people could not get from here to there "quickly, comfortably and above all, cheaply" the city would never develop to its fullest potential. They also knew that their company's "growth" could not expand without suburban growth. Acting as a catalyst for growth, a new trolley line or extension of an existing line invariably increased real estate values along the proposed route. The extension of a trolley line out into the suburbs produced a cascade effect. As these new lines opened raw land to development, the influx of new residents generated still more traffic. Invariably, the increase in traffic stimulated further commercial investment and residential growth. The result was an increase in the attractiveness of the suburbs, which continued the cycle of suburban growth. Under Clayton and Spreckels' guidance and direction, from 1906 to 1910, SDERy improved and extended over fifty miles of electric railway into outlying suburbs. Referred to as "additions" or "extensions" at the time, they developed into some of San Diego's historic "streetcar suburbs". The present communities of Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Normal Heights, North Park, and Burlingame all owe their existence to SDERy streetcar lines that linked them to San Diego's urban core.

-Excerpt from a report by Alexander Bevil



Superintendent of motive power, Homer MacNutt was responsible for designing the installation of the car's trucks, and the necessary operating controls. A long-time employee, MacNutt joined the company during its early horse-drawn days, and worked at SDERy until his death in 1937.

-Excerpt from a report by Alexander Bevil



A native of England, Butterworth had come to San Diego sometime around 1908. A carpenter by trade, the 53-year-old Butterworth became the foreman of SDERy's car repair shop in 1910. Besides working on the Class 1 car design, he also contributed to other SDERy streetcar designs, especially the next generation "Class II Cars", which Butterworth designed in 1913. Butterworth continued working for SDERy until his retirement sometime in the late 1920s.

In 1912, Butterworth was sent out to St. Louis to see how the construction of the Class 1s was coming along.

-Excerpt from a report by Alexander Bevil


Minard J. Perrin's association with San Diego's historic street railway system goes back even further than his co-workers, Butterworth and MacNutt. In fact, it predates even William Clayton or John D. Spreckels' involvement. A Wisconsin native, Perrin, like thousands of others, came to San Diego in 1887, during the real estate boom. His first job was as a track gang spiker on the Coronado Beach Railway. After the line nearly went bankrupt as the boom collapsed, Perrin, instead of quitting, voluntarily turned over his entire life savings - all $200 - to the railroad to help pay its debts. Placed in receivership, its manager promoted Perrin to track foreman, and then superintendent of operations. When the Spreckels' interests purchased the company at a receiver's sale in 1891, the line became part of the SDERy. Perrin was reduced to working as a horse car driver for 18 cents an hour. Well-liked by his fellow workers and management, he regained his supervisor position in 1911, this time of both the SDERy and the Spreckels-owned Coronado Ferry Company, becoming assistant general manager in 1922. Despite a busy work schedule, he found time to involve himself in community affairs, serving for twelve years on the City Board of Supervisors and then the Board of Alderman. A past director of the local Kiwanis Club, he was also a member of the local Cuyamaca Club, which gave him the honorary title of "Major". Perrin also served on the Board of Directors of the Manufacturer's and Employer's Association, and as secretary and treasurer of the San Diego Bay Board of Pilot Commissioners. At the time of his death in 1930, Perrin was the oldest employee in years of service at SDERy, having seen and been a part of its development from horse cars to modern electric-powered trolleys.

-Excerpt from a report by Alexander Bevil





John D. Spreckels

William Clayton

Homer MacNutt

Abel A. Butterworth

Minard J. Perrin