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.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Day the Brakes Failed on the Pelham Manor Trolley, Inspiration for the Toonerville Trolley

On a lazy, warm Sunday morning during the summer of 1923, Pelham Manor trolley operator Edward Glazier was operating the Pelham Manor trolley -- the very trolley that inspired internationally-renowned cartoonist Fontaine Fox to create his comic strip "Toonerville Folks" that centered around the dilapidated trolley known as the "Toonerville Trolley."  The little trolley car was "laden with passengers" headed for Travers Island and Hunter's Island seeking relief from the summer heat.  The trolley likely rang its bell joyously as it proceeded along its tracks.  As the trolley bounced and rolled past today's Four Corners (then, "Red Church Corner") along Pelhamdale Avenue toward Shore Road, trouble was brewing.  

Unbeknownst to Glazier, the brake rod that extended beneath the trolley car snapped.  The rod may have snapped, but its break was silent -- no noise accompanied the failure of the rod.  As the trolley approached its next scheduled stop at Terrace Avenue near the old Pelham Manor Station (both later razed to make way for I-95), Glazier gently pulled the brake handle to slow the car.

Not only did the trolley car not stop, but it also reached the little decline that carried traffic beneath the bridge of the New Haven Branch Line above Pelhamdale Avenue.  The car gained momentum.  Glazier must have been frantic, ringing the trolley bell and searching for traffic turning into or out of Manor Circle ahead of the trolley.

Glazier threw the trolley car motor into reverse.  The wheels were grinding and slipping as they changed directions and screeched on the tracks laid along Pelhamdale Avenue.  The trolley slowed to a halt at Manor Circle, missing its scheduled stop by a few hundred feet.

In a testament to "times were different back then," with no brakes, Glazier continued to operate the little car as slowly as he could to the end of the line where Pelhamdale Avenue meets Shore Road near the New York Athletic Club in a successful bid to get his passengers to their destination.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes the text of a brief news article that described the events of that day.  It is followed by a citation, and link, to its source.

Trolley car that ran from Pelham Station along
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.

"Brakes Fail, Operator Averts Serious Accident
Passengers Of 'Toonerville' Unaware Of Danger Through Presence Of Mind Of 'Skipper'

The presence of mind of Edward Glazier, operator of the Pelham Manor trolley, averted a possible serious accident Sunday morning.  The brake beam of the 'Toonerville' snapped when the car was laden with passengers intent on seeking relief from the heat at Hunter's and Travers Islands.  The operator acted quickly and the passengers were not aware of the danger until they had been safely deposited at the end of the line.

The accident occurred on Pelhamdale Avenue, between Black Street and Pelhamdale.  There was no noise accompanying the snap in the brake rod, so the operator did not know of the danger until he sought to apply the brake at Terrace Avenue.  The car did not stop, but gained momentum on the incline under the branch line of the New Haven Railroad.

Quickly Glazier threw the motor into reverse and the wheels slide around in the opposite direction.  The momentum of the heavy car carried it to Manor Circle before it could be brought to a stop.  The rest of the distance to the Shore Road was made at a slow rate of speed, and the passengers were discharged.  Another car took up the 'Toonerville' service that afternoon."

Source:   Brakes Fail, Operator Averts Serious Accident -- Passengers Of "Toonerville" Unaware Of Danger Through Presence Of Mind Of "Skipper," The Pelham Sun, Jul. 20, 1923, p. 1, col. 7.  

Example of "Toonerville Folks" Comic
Featuring the Toonerville Trolley.
Source: The Pelham Sun, Vol. 22, No. 39,
Dec. 18, 1931, Section 2, p. 1, col. 2.

*     *     *     *     *

Below is a bibliography including links to a few of my many previous postings dealing with the topics of the "Toonerville Trolley," horse-drawn railroad cars, electric trolleys and other trolley-related information pertinent to Pelham, New York.

Bell, Blake A., Pelham and the Toonerville Trolley, 82(4) The Westchester Historian, pp. 96-111 (Fall 2006).

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

Wed., Mar. 19, 2014:  Another Confirmation the Famous "Toonerville Trolley" was Inspired by the Pelham Manor Trolley in 1909.

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

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.  

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.

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.

Wed., Mar. 05, 2014:  Trolleys Come to Pelham in the 1890s.

Tue., Jan. 06, 2015:  Extension of the Toonerville Trolley Line in Pelham Manor in 1910.

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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