Pelham Manor Residents Complained of Awful Service on the Toonerville Trolley Line as Early as 1899
Barely a year after Fontaine Fox rode the rickety little Pelham Manor trolley, the Westchester Electric Railway extended the Pelham Manor trolley line along Pelhamdale Avenue to Shore Road near the New York Athletic Club. The history of the little trolley line is fascinating in its own right.
Since the founding of the little trolley line in 1896, the Pelham Manor trolley was expected to "meet all the trains" arriving at Pelham Station and Pelham Manor Station. Indeed, Fontaine Fox entitled many of the comics he published "The Toonerville Trolley That Meets All the Trains."
In 1896, the five-year-old Village of Pelham Manor granted the Union Railroad Company a franchise to operate trolley lines from the border with the Village of Pelham at Colonial Avenue along Pelhamdale Avenue to the railroad bridge near the Pelham Manor Station and along today's Boston Post Road from Pelhamdale Avenue to the border with New Rochelle. Embarrassingly, the Union Railroad Company failed to file a certificate of its franchise with the Office of the Secretary of State of the State of New York. In subsequent litigation, this failure prompted courts to rule the franchise to be illegal.
In 1899, the Union Railroad Company attempted to remedy its failure by seeking a "renewal" of its franchise from the Village of Pelham Manor. Showing chutzpah, however, the company sought more than a mere "renewal." Instead, it sought to expand the line to run it further along Pelhamdale Avenue to Shore Road and then along a tiny portion of Shore Road in Pelham Manor to the New Rochelle border where it would connect with a New Rochelle line.
Pelham Manor residents were unhappy with the proposal. The stretch of Pelhamdale Avenue east of the railroad bridge was a bucolic, beautiful, and still rural part of Pelham Manor. Additionally, the portion of Shore Road that would be affected was considered "a beautiful riding and driving thoroughfare skirting Pelham Bay Park."
During the week of January 23, 1899, a crescendo of local opposition to Union Railroad Company prompted the company to "withdraw" portions of its renewal request to limit it to a true "renewal" of the original franchise with no expansion of the line further along Pelhamdale Avenue and along Shore Road in Pelham Manor. Nevertheless, Pelham Manor residents were not satisfied.
On Tuesday, January 31, 1899, during a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham Manor, Pelham Manor residents appeared and "made it clear to the trustees that no trolley road would be tolerated, either on the Shore Road or on that part of Pelhamdale-ave. desired by the company."
Two days later, on Thursday, February 2, 1899, the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham Manor met again to consider whether to relieve Union Railroad Company "of its embarrassing position of running its cars without a legal right in the manor, by injecting new life into its defective franchise" with a simple renewal of the original franchise. Pelham resident and civil engineer John F. Fairchild appeared at the meeting on behalf of the Union Railroad Company. Fairchild served as engineer of the Union Railroad Company.
During the meeting, a long-time notable resident of Pelham Manor, Alfred L. Hammett, read a protest "against the miserable service being furnished by the company between Mount Vernon, Pelham Manor and New-Rochelle." Thereafter, Village President Ezra T. Gilliland piled on, giving his own account of recent miserable service. One report noted:
"President E. T. Gilliland, who was chairman of the meeting, related his own experience. He said that yesterday afternoon he came out to North Pelham on the 3 o'clock train from New-York, expecting to take a trolley-car for his home, in Pelham Manor. He waited at the railroad station for ten minutes in the frigid weather, and then, being unable to get a car, walked home a distance of nearly two miles, through the snow. 'On my way to Pelham Manor,' said Mr. Gilliland, 'I passed two or three cars going in the opposite direction, but none came along that were going my way.' This condition of affairs, he said, existed, notwithstanding the fact the company in its original franchise had promised to meet every train on the New-Haven Railroad until 1 o'clock each morning."
The Board of Trustees then considered the proposed renewal franchise "section by section." On behalf of the trolley line, John F. Fairchild promised that the failure of the trolley to meet all trains at Pelham Station as required by the original franchise "would be remedied." To ensure that the promise would be kept, the board "re-adopted" the franchise on the condition that the company post a bond of $25,000 to ensure that it carried out its "numerous promises."
It was not until 1910 that the Pelham Manor trolley line was expanded along Pelhamdale to Shore Road where it ended. Pelham Manor never agreed to permit the trolley company to expand the line along Shore Road to connect with New Rochelle.
What was really going on during this period in 1899? Actually, it is readily apparent. The Union Railroad Company never wanted to build the spur of the trolley line from Boston Post Road down Pelhamdale Avenue to the Pelham Manor Train Station because it never believed the spur would be profitable. The company was required to build the spur, however, by the Pelham Manor Board of Trustees in order to obtain the franchise that it really wanted between Colonial Avenue and onto Boston Post Road into New Rochelle to connect Mount Vernon, Pelham, and New Rochelle, a line that it felt confident would be profitable.
It turns out that as the Union Railroad Company feared, the tiny little spur of the Pelham Manor trolley line from Boston Post Road to Pelham Manor Station was not profitable. The company hoped to extend the line from the Pelham Manor Station along Pelhamdale Avenue to Shore Road to capture the many, many thousands per year who rode the branch line to Pelham Manor Station, then hopped off and walked to Shore Road to get to the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island. Moreover, by extending that portion of the line along Shore Road onto Pelham Road in New Rochelle to connect with New Rochelle, the company hoped to attract additional riders on the little spur traveling to the Sound Shore region of New Rochelle. Pelham Manor residents, in contrast, did not want hordes of people passing through the quiet and bucolic section of Pelham Manor along Pelhamdale Avenue and Shore Road just to get to and from New Rochelle.
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"NO EXTENSIONS GRANTED.
PELHAM MANOR TRUSTEES RENEW THE UNION TROLLEY FRANCHISE.
MISERABLE SERVICE TOLD OF BY CITIZENS AT THE MEETING LAST EVENING -- COMPANY UNDER A $25,000 BOND.
The trustees of Pelham Manor held a second meeting last night to consider the application of the Union Railroad Company for a renewal of its franchise. The company is already operating a streetcar system which connects the Manor with Mount Vernon and New-Rochelle by virtue of a franchise given it in 1896, but which has since been held by the courts to be illegal, owing to the failure by the company to deposit with the Secretary of State a certificate of the right given to it by the authorities of the Manor. The new charter applied for included a request for several additional streets not mentioned in the invalid franchise, among them Pelhamdale-ave., from the New-York, New-Haven and Hartford Suburban Road station to the Shore Road, a beautiful riding and driving thoroughfare skirting Pelham Bay Park, and connecting Pelham Manor with New-Rochelle, City Island and West Chester, and from a point near the gates of the country home of the New-York Athletic Club along the Shore Road to New-Rochelle and Glen Island.
At a public meeting on Tuesday night of this week the citizens made it clear to the trustees that no trolley road would be tolerated, either on the Shore Road or on that part of Pelhamdale-ave. desired by the company.
In view of the overwhelming opposition to its plans the company last week withdrew those sections of its application, and the trustees have relieved it of its embarrassing position of running its cars without a legal right in the manor, by injecting new life into its defective franchise.
At the meeting, last evening a protest was read from A. L. Hammett, a prominent citizen, against the miserable service being furnished by the company between Mount Vernon, Pelham Manor and New-Rochelle, President E. T. Gilliland, who was chairman of the meeting, related his own experience. He said that yesterday afternoon he came out to North Pelham on the 3 o'clock train from New-York, expecting to take a trolley-car for his home, in Pelham Manor. He waited at the railroad station for ten minutes in the frigid weather, and then, being unable to get a car, walked home a distance of nearly two miles, through the snow.
'On my way to Pelham Manor,' said Mr. Gilliland, 'I passed two or three cars going in the opposite direction, but none came along that were going my way.' This condition of affairs, he said, existed, notwithstanding the fact the company in its original franchise had promised to meet every train on the New-Haven Railroad until 1 o'clock each morning.
John F. Fairchild, engineer of the company, who was present in its behalf, said that this condition would be remedied, but that the company must first get some additional rights on the highway, in order to build switches and turnouts. The trustees in re-adopting the franchise took it up section by section, and held the trolley corporation down to a bond of $25,000 to carry out its numerous promises.
One of the trustees in speaking of the franchise said: 'We have simply given the company what it has already, and declined to allow it to make any more extensions for the present.'
The company operates lines in Pelham Manor, as follow: From the junction of Pelhamdale-ave. to the bridge of the Harlem River branch of the New-Haven Railroad. The meeting did not adjourn until nearly midnight.
A hearing on the application of the Tarrytown, White Plains and Mamaroneck Road for a franchise from White Plains to Mount Vernon will be held in Scarsdale before the Highway Commissioner to-day."
Source: NO EXTENSIONS GRANTED -- PELHAM MANOR TRUSTEES RENEW THE UNION TROLLEY FRANCHISE -- MISERABLE SERVICE TOLD OF BY CITIZENS AT THE MEETING LAST EVENING -- COMPANY UNDER A $25,000 BOND, New-York Tribune, Feb. 3, 1899, p. 2, col. 2 (Note: Paid subscription required to access via this link).
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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.
Fri., May 27, 2016: Was Max "Maxie" Martin the Man Who Was the Skipper on the Pelham Manor Trolley the Day Fontaine Fox Rode the Line and Was Inspired?
Mon., Oct. 19, 2015: Rioting Strikers Attacked Pelham Trolley Passengers and Fought With Pelham Police in the Great Streetcar Strike of 1916.
Thu., Sep. 10, 2015: Pelham Manor Citizens Voted to Reject Bus Service and Keep Their Toonerville Trolley in 1936.
Fri., Jul. 24, 2015: The Day the Brakes Failed on the Pelham Manor Trolley, Inspiration for the Toonerville Trolley.
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.