Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Efforts by the Pelham Park Horse Railroad to Expand and Develop a Trolley Car Line on Shore Road in 1897

I have written fairly extensively regarding the little horse railroad that once ran from Bartow Station on the New Haven Branch Line to the tip of City Island.  For examples of such previous postings, see the links at the end of this posting.

The horse railroad once consisted of two lines that met at Marshall's Corners on the mainland near the City Island Bridge:  the line owned by the Pelham Park Railroad Company and the line owned by the City Island Railroad Company.  In 1897, the Pelham Park Railroad Company attempted an expansion bid to operate an electric trolley line along Shore road and across the Pelham Bridge.  The article quoted below appeared in the December 1, 1897 issue of the New-York Daily Tribune.


The Board of Aldermen yesterday voted to grant the application of the Pelham Park Railroad Company for a franchise for a railroad through Pelham Bay Park along the Shore road and across the long and narrow Pelham bridge.  As told in The Tribune yesterday, it was upon that application the Railroad Committee of the Aldermen gave a public hearing on Monday when property-owners and their representatives appeared to protest against the granting of such a franchise.  It was explained then that a trolley road as shown in the plans accompanying the application would ruin the only fine drive in the Pelham Bay Park and obstruct travel on the Pelham bridge.  Yesterday other objections to the trolley plan were presented, but a majority of the Railroad Committee had signed a favorable report, and the resolution to grant the franchise was passed by a vote of twenty-five in the affirmative to three in the negative.  Later, after being amended, the resolution was passed again, only four Aldermen voting against it.

The action of the Board of Aldermen, however, does not mean that the trolley company will get the franchise to spoil the Shore road in the Park.  It is probable that the Mayor will veto the resolution and that the present Board of Aldermen will go out of power before they can take action to override the veto.  There is a question as to the legal right of the Aldermen to grant the franchise in the way they voted to grant it.  The consent of the Park's Commissioners, it is believed, would have to be obtained before the trolley road could go through the Park, franchise or no franchise, and the Park Commissioners are strongly opposed to having a fine drive which cost about $60,000 spoiled by a trolley road.


When the report of the Railroad Committee was read to the Aldermen yesterday it was noticed that Aldermen Hall and Goodman, members of the Committee, had not signed the report.  Alderman Hall moved to have the report laid over for a week and printed.  He pointed out some errors in the resolution to grant the franchise, and said that the Aldermen were restrained by an injunction of the Supreme Court to act on the Kingsbridge extension franchise on a question that might apply to the Pelham Park Railroad Company's application.  Alderman Goodman wanted to know if the Aldermen had the right, under recent decisions of the courts, to grant a franchise for a term of twenty-five years, as proposed in the resolution to grant the franchise.  President Jeroloman said he had taken the advice of some of the best lawyers in the city, and they all were agreed that the Aldermen, as the law stood, did not have the right to grant a franchise for a limited term before the Greater New-York charter went into full effect on January 1.  Mr. Goodman also raised the point that the consent of the Park Commissioners would have to be obtained before the franchise, if granted by the Aldermen, would be of any value to the trolley company. 

The motion to lay the report over was voted down, and the resolution to grant the franchise was adopted, President Jeroloman, Alderman Hall and Alderman Goodman alone voting against it.  After the vote was announced there was some more discussion as to the power of the Aldermen to grant the franchise for a limited time.  The resolution had been adopted in the following form:

Resolved, That the consent of the Common Council is hereby given to the Pelham Park Railroad Company to extend, build, construct, maintain and operate a railroad for public use and conveyance of persons and properties in cars for compensation over, along and through the following streets, avenues and highways:  Commencing at the junction of the road from Bartow to City Island with the road known as the Shore Road, or road to Pelham, north along said Shore Road or road to Pelham, to the city line at Pelham Manor.


Resolved, That this consent is granted upon the following conditions:

First--That the right, franchise and privilege of using the streets and avenues as so specified shall be sold at public auction, as provided by law.  That the corporation operating said road shall not charge any passenger more than five cents for any continuous ride from any point point [sic] on its road, or on any road, line or branch operated by it or under its control.

Second--That the company receiving the franchise and operating said railroad shall at all times keep the street between its tracks and two feet beyond the outer rail on each side of of the street clean and free from dirt or snow, and shall pave the street along the route between the rails of its tracks and two feet on either side of the tracks, and conform in all respects with the character of the pavement laid down on said street or streets, and keep the same in repair.  If not so done, the Commissioner of Street Improvements of the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Wards, or any other officer designated by law to perform the work of said Commissioner shall have it done at the expense of said railroad company, the amount to be collected by the Controller under due process of law.

Third--That at the end of twenty-five years the said company, after a revaluation, shall have the privilege of acquiring the same rights by paying the additional valuation; or, that in case the city or some other corporation shall procure the same, then the Pelham Park Railroad Company shall be reimbursed the amount of the cost of building said railroad.


Alderman O'Brien thought that some provision should be inserted to protect the trolley comapny in case the courts decided against the right of the Aldermen to grant a franchise in perpetuity.  He offered the following, to be tacked on to the third provision:

But in the event of the courts' decreeing that under the provision of the charter of Greater New-York, the Board has not the power to grant to the said railroad company the consent in perpetuity, then, that the consent so given by the Common Council shall exist, obtain and be vested in same company for the period of twenty-five years.

Despite the suggestion of Alderman Goodman that the addition was superfluous, it was passed.

The report on the Westchester branch of the road was the same, excepting, as to the route.  This branch is to begin 'at the junction of the road from Bartow to City Island and the road known as the Shore Road, to Pelham; thence southerly along the Shore Road or road to Pelham to Pelham [sic] Bridge, over said Pelham bridge, continuing south on the road to Pelham to the junction of said road with the Eastern Boulevard, and continuing over said Pelham or Shore Road to the road to Fort Schuyler and Main-st., West Chester.

Later Alderman Oakley had the vote on the franchise resolution reconsidered to permit him to introduce an amendment to make the franchise one in perpetuity in case the courts decided that the Board still had the power to grant a perpetual franchise.  The amendment was passed, as follows: 

'But should said courts decide that the power of the Board has not been limited by the provisions of the charter, then the same consent shall be in perpetuity.'

This was a chance for a new opposition by Alderman Hall.

'How about municipal ownership?' he asked of Alderman Oakley, with a laugh?

'As Judge Jeroloman says, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it,' was the answer.

'The Board is now taking the position that it will give away the franchise if it can,' declared Alderman Hall.

'The intent of the amendment is to provide in case the courts decide in such a way that the twenty-five-year limit is illegal,' replied Mr. Oakley.

'How do you reconcile this with your platform about municipal ownership?' again demanded Alderman Hall. 

'That's easy enough to answer,' interrupted Alderman Goodman before Alderman Oakley could answer.  'The election is over.'

'You bet the election is over.  You fellows on the other side ought to know that,' was the answering sally of Alderman Noonan. 

The resolutions granting the franchise for the first branch, so amended, were passed, Alderman Ware voting 'aye,' although the franchise was to be in perpetuity, if posssible.  Alderman Hall and Goodman and President Jeroloman were the only votes against it.  On the vote for the second branch of the road, Alderman Ware voted 'no.'


President Jeroloman said, after the meeting, that he did not think the trolley company would get the franchise.  'The Mayor,' he said, 'probably will be advised by the Corporation Counsel that the action of the Aldermen was in conflict with the law.  Then the Mayor may hold the resolution for fourteen days, and send it back with a veto.  Under the rules the resolution will have to lie over for fifteen days longer before it could be passed over the Mayor's veto.  By that time it would be too late for the present Board of Aldermen to act.'

Edward Mitchell, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the death of Park Commissioner W. A. Stiles, when seen at his office yesterday by a Tribune reporter, expressed himself strongly as opposed to the granting of a franchise to the Pelham Park Railway Company. 

'I am unalterably opposed to the granting of such a franchise,' said Mr. Mitchell, 'and especially opposed to granting such a franchise for the use of the Shore Road just completed by the city.  It would have been just as monstrous to have granted franchises for street cars to run along the [parkways] of Central Park when that was laid out in 1865.  There is no demand for such a road, in the first place, and the projectors of the scheme merely want to prepare themselves for a time when the population in that district will be much greater than it is now.  The building of such a road along that beautiful  driveway would be a blot on the park system.  One of the most attractive features of our park system is that tone may drive or ride a horse or a bicycle through Central Park or Riverside Drive through the entire park system over good roads, without being inconvenienced by the incursions of street cars of any kind.  The building of a trolley line on the Shore Road would mar the system.  No, you [can say] that I am unalterably opposed to any such plan.'"

Source:  The Franchise Granted, New-York Daily Tribune, Dec. 1, 1897, p. 8, col. 3.

Tue., April 27, 2010:  New York City's Interborough Rapid Transit Company Sued to Foreclose a Mortgage on the Horse Railroad in 1911.

Mon., April 26, 2010:  Public Service Commission Couldn't Find Marshall's Corners in 1909.

Fri., March 5, 2010:  Construction of the City Island Horse Railroad in 1887.

Thu., March 4, 2010:  Beginnings of Horse Railroad - News from Pelham and City Island Published in 1884.

Wed., March 3, 2010:  1879 Advertisement for Robert J. Vickery's City Island Stage Line, A Predecessor to the City Island Horse Railroad.

Tue., March 2, 2010:  1901 Report Indicated that The Flynn Syndicate Planned to Buy the Pelham Bay Park & City Island Horse Car Line.

Mon., March 1, 2010:  Flynn Syndicate Buys the City Island Horse Car Line in 1907 to Incorporate It Into Electric Trolley Line.

Fri., February 26, 2010:  1913 Decision of Public Service Commission to Allow Reorganization of City Island Horse Railroad for Electrification.

Thu., February 25, 2010:  Photograph of Patrick Byrnes and Article About His Retirement of the City Island Horse Car in 1914.

Wed., February 24, 2010:  Attempted Suicide of City Island's Long-Time Horse Car Driver

Wed., February 3, 2010:  Early Information Published in 1885 About the Organization of the "City Island Railroad", a Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to City Island

Tue., February 2, 2010:  Information About the Pelham Park Railroad at its Outset

Fri., January 22, 2010:  1884 Account of Early Origins of Horse Railroad Between Bartow Station and City Island

Tue., September 1, 2009:  Pelham News on February 29, 1884 Including Talk of Constructing a New Horse Railroad from Bartow to City Island

Wed., December 2, 2009:  Accident on Horse-Car of the Pelham Park Railroad Line in 1889

 Thu., December 31, 2009:  1887 Election of the Board of Directors of The City Island and Pelham Park Horse Railroad Company

Mon., January 4, 2010:  1888 Local News Account Describes Altercation on the Horse Railroad Running from Bartow Station to City Island

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