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, March 05, 2014

Trolleys Come to Pelham in the 1890s

The time seems ripe to undertake an effort that, admittedly, I have avoided for years because of the difficulties and complexities of the issue.  It is time to try to piece together the history of the development of the trolley system that once criss-crossed the Town of Pelham and connected it with a transportation system that eventually stretched throughout large portions of the northeast.

I have written before about horse-drawn railroad cars and trolleys in Pelham.  Indeed, I have written extensively about the Pelham "trolley that met all the trains," which internationally-renowned comic strip artist Fontaine Fox repeatedly described as the inspiration for his comic strip "Toonerville Folks."  That comic strip was nationally syndicated and ran in hundreds of newspapers for about fifty years.  Yet, I have never tried to combine all of my research notes into a coherent story of the rise and decline of the trolley system that once crossed Pelham.  

Trolley car from the "H-Line" that ran from Mt. Vernon to New Rochelle through Pelham along Fifth Avenue and Wolf's Lane with a short stint on Colonial Avenue then along the length of Pelhamdale to Shore Road where it turned around and repeated the trip.  The two trolley operators standing in front of the car were Skippers Dan and Louie.  They were successors to James A. Bailey, the blue-eyed skipper of the H-Line trolley the day cartoonist Fontaine Fox took his historic ride on the trolley that inspired "The Toonerville Trolley that Met All the Trains". 

At the end of this posting are many, many links to earlier postings I have made regarding horse-drawn railroad cars and electric trolleys in and around Pelham, as well as links to information about the famous "Toonerville Trolley" and its ties to Pelham.

For now I will begin supplementing the research I have previously shared with important information about the development of the trolley transportation system in Pelham.  Today's posting transcribes a public notice printed in a local newspaper in 1893 regarding an application to build, maintain and operate an electric trolley from the intersection of today's Colonial Avenue and Highbrook Avenue, then proceeding easterly along today's Colonial Avenue to the New Rochelle border.


Notice is hereby given that the Westchester Electric Railway Company, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York, has made application in pursuance of law, for the privilege of constructing, maintaining and operating a street surface railroad is, over and upon the Old Boston Post Road in the Town of Pelham, commencing at the intersection of Highbrook avenue and the Old Boston Post Road, as shown on a certain map entitled 'Map of Pelham Heights,' Town of Pelham, Westchester County, N.Y.' made by John F. Fairchild, Engineer, dated the 1st day of January, 1891; thence easterly along said Old Boston Post Road to the dividing line between the Towns of Pelham and New Rochelle, together with necessary switchings, sidings and turnouts, for the convenient working of said road, said road to be operated by electric traction by the overhead or trolley system.

NOTICE is Further Given, that the Town Board of the Town of Pelham will meet at the Court House in Pelhamville, in said Town, on the Twentieth Day of June, 1893, at Seven o'clock in the afternoon, for the purpose of first hearing said application and taking action thereon.



Source:  ELECTRIC RAILWAY NOTICE, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], Jun. 14, 1893, p. 3, col. 6.

Below are a few of my many previous postings that touch on the topics of horse-drawn railroad cars, electric trolleys and Fontaine Fox's "Toonerville Trolley" comic strip inspired by a Pelham trolley.

Bell, Blake A., Pelham and the Toonerville Trolley, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 11, Mar. 12, 2004, p. 10, col. 1.

Tue., Apr. 19, 2005:   Pelham Manor Residents Fight Construction of the Toonerville Trolley Line

Fri., Jun. 17, 2005:  "Skipper Louie" of Pelham Manor's Toonerville Trolley

Tue., Sep. 20, 2005:  Pelham's "Toonerville Trolley" Goes to War

Tue., Oct. 11, 2005:  The Toonerville Trolley Pays Its Bills -- Late!

Thu., Mar. 09, 2006:  Photographs of the H Line and A Line Trolleys on and Near Pelhamdale Avenue.

Thu., Jul. 06, 2006:  Who Was the Skipper on the Pelham Manor Trolley the Day Fontaine Fox Rode the Line and Was Inspired?

Wed., Aug. 9, 2006:  The Saddest Day in the History of Pelham Manor's "Toonerville Trolley"

Tue., Sep. 19, 2006:  Toonerville Trolley Cartoons Available For Free Viewing Online.  

Wed., Nov.15, 2006:  Another Letter by Fontaine Fox Describing How the Pelham Manor Trolley Inspired Him to Create the Toonerville Trolley.
Mon., Mar. 05, 2007:  An Ode to the Toonerville Trolley and its Skipper Published in 1921.

Mon., May 28, 2007:  Brief Biography of Henry De Witt Carey, 19th Century Pelham Justice of the Peace.

Wed., Mar. 25, 2009:   Another Brief Account by Fontaine Fox Describing Trolley in Pelham Manor as Inspiration for Toonerville Trolley Comic Strip.

Thu., Jul. 30, 2009:  Pelham-Related Trolley Franchises Granted in 1897.

Mon., Aug. 17, 2009:  Efforts by Pelham Landowners in 1900 to Halt Construction of a Trolley Line on Shore Road.

Thu., Aug. 27, 2009:  October 19, 1898 Report that the Tracks of the Toonerville Trolley Line Had Been Laid in Pelham.  

Wed., Dec. 23, 2009:  Attack on the Toonerville Trolley Line by Strikers in 1916

Wed., Dec. 30, 2009:  Opening of the Extension of the Pelham Manor Trolley Line in 1910 -- The Toonerville Trolley Line.

Tue., Jan. 05, 2010:  More on the Extension of the Pelham Manor Trolley Line in 1910 -- The Toonerville Trolley Line.

Below are materials I have posted in the past relating to the development and operation of horse-drawn rail cars in Pelham.  

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

Tue., Dec. 01, 2009:  Brief History of City Island Published in 1901.

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

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

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

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

Tue., Jan. 26, 2010:  1887 Election of the Board of Directors of The City Island and Pelham Park Horse Railroad Company.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed., Mar. 10, 2010:  1899 Article About City Island's New Bridge Describes History of Area and Includes Wonderful Images.

Fri., Apr. 02, 2010:  More on the So-Called "Horse Railroad" that Once Ran from Bartow Station to City Island.

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

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

Wed., Apr. 28, 2010:  Efforts by the Pelham Park Horse Railroad to Expand and Develop a Trolley Car Line on Shore Road in 1897.  

Thu., Apr. 29, 2010:  City Islanders Complain and Force the Operators of Their Horse Railroad to Agree to Replace Antiquated Cars in 1908.

Fri., Apr. 30, 2010:  "Truly, An Illuminating Little Passage in the History of New-York!" - Efforts to Develop Shore Road Trolley Line in 1897.

Mon., May 3, 2010:  Efforts To Reorganize the Operators of the City Island Horse Railroad and Monorail in 1914.

Tue., May 4, 2010:  Questions Regarding the Trolley Franchise from Bartow Station to the Tip of City Island Arose in 1915.

Thu., May 13, 2010:  More on the Early History of the Pelham and City Island Railroad.

Mon., Jul. 18, 2011:  City Island Horse Railroad Temporarily Shut Down in 1892 Over Cruelty Concerns

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