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, February 23, 2018

Toonerville Trolley Accidents in Pelham Manor

To this day Pelhamites chuckle fondly when they reminisce about the tiny little Pelham Manor Trolley that met all the trains and that inspired cartoonist Fontaine Fox to create the "Toonerville Trolley" that also met all the trains as part of the long-running comic "Toonerville Folks."  Though the Pelham Manor trolley made its final run in 1937, more than eighty years later most residents of Pelham know of the trolley and the role it played in inspiring Fontaine Fox.

It seems quaint to think of a little rattle-trap of a trolley car bouncing along light rails down Pelhamdale Avenue on its way to the Pelham Manor Depot and, then, to Shore Road before it returned all the way back to the Pelham Train Station meeting all trains at both stations.  Truth be told, however, the trolley was a massive rail car plowing down the center of Wolfs Lane, Colonial Avenue, and Pelhamdale Avenue on dozens of trips a day with horse and buggy, pedestrian, and automobile traffic vying for parts of the same roadway and jockeying with the trolley for position.  Accidents were bound to happen -- and they did.

I have written about some such accidents before.  See, e.g., Fri., Jul. 24, 2015:  The Day the Brakes Failed on the Pelham Manor Trolley, Inspiration for the Toonerville Trolley.  As one might expect, there were other accidents involving the Pelham Manor Trolley including at least one additional accident involving failure of the trolley's brakes.  Today's Historic Pelham article provides information about such additional accidents.

One of the earliest serious accidents involving the Pelham Manor Trolley -- as opposed to trolleys that ran in North Pelham, on Fourth Street (today's Lincoln Avenue) between Mount Vernon and New Rochelle, and on Boston Post Road into New Rochelle -- was one that occurred on the evening of June 30, 1899.  The Pelham Manor Trolley was in its infancy.

The President of the Pelham School Board, John Beecroft, and his wife were returning from a school event at the Hutchinson School late in the evening in their horse-drawn carriage.  As they proceeded their horse shied and backed into the path of a Pelham Manor Trolley car approaching from the opposite direction.  The trolley struck the carriage and destroyed it, throwing the Beecrofts into the roadway.  Mr. Beecroft was knocked unconscious and received a severe cut to the head.  Mrs. Beecroft suffered a dislocated shoulder.

A few years later, on February 14, 1918, the little Pelham Manor Trolley was involved in another serious accident.  A large tank truck belonging to the "Texas Company," a predecessor to Texaco, collided with the trolley, shoving it off its tracks.  The truck was being driven by Charles McCarthy of New Rochelle.  It carried two passengers:  Morris Johnson of New Rochelle, agent for the Texas Company, and Bert Nelson, bookkeeper for the company.  The two passengers were injured, suffering lacerations and broken arms.  Miraculously, none of the passengers on the trolley car was hurt. 

On December 5, 1920, an odd "accident" involving Pelham's Toonerville Trolley occurred.  As the trolley proceeded on Wolfs Lane there was a loud crash.  Passengers were showered with broken glass.  The motorman stopped the trolley, jumped out and demanded to know who had thrown the rock that smashed a glass window of the trolley car.  Witnesses pointed to a man who had climbed aboard the trolley after the window was broken.  It turned out he was trying to catch up with a woman on the car and had been running alongside the car tapping on its windows, unbeknownst to the motorman.  The man finally grabbed a rock, said he would pay for the window and smashed the glass for attention, stopping the car.  Oddly, a news account suggests that once the unidentified man was identified by the motorman, all was forgiven and the trolley proceeded.

In mid-June, 1921, Pelham's Toonerville Trolley suffered yet another brake failure.  As the trolley car approached the end of its line where Pelhamdale Avenue intersects Shore Road, the motorman tried to apply the brakes to no avail.  Thankfully, a Pelham Manor police officer was on duty at the intersection and observed the car hurtling toward the intersection without slowing.  The officer, Officer Murphy, "saw the danger and held up autos approaching."  The trolley car left the tracks and missed one car "by six feet."  Two trolley car passengers, Mrs. and Mrs. Moran of 20 St. Joseph Street in New Rochelle, were "slightly shaken up," but apparently unhurt.

Barely a year later, on July 23, 1922, the Pelham Manor Trolley was involved in another crash.  Paul Deglinno of 10 South Sixth Avenue in Mount Vernon was driving a Ford Touring Car on Pelhamdale Avenue near Bolton Avenue.  A passenger, Camelia Strolle of 34 Fourth Avenue in Mount Vernon, was riding with him.

Deglinno was stuck behind the rattling trolley as it bounced along Pelhamdale Avenue.  He decided to pass the trolley being operated by motorman Edward Galzier.  Deglinno gunned the engine and tried to pass.  He misjudged the maneuver and struck the rear of the trolley car so violently that he launched his passenger through the glass windshield of the touring car, cutting her chin badly.  

The accident was witnessed by Pelham Manor police officer Philip Atkinson who assisted Deglinno to drive the injured woman to New Rochelle Hospital where she received stitches.  

There were other such accidents involving Pelham Manor's Toonerville Trolley during its forty-year span.  Those described today merely demonstrate a few of the many when trolleys once rattled along tracks in the streets of the tiny little Town of Pelham.

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A Wound on Head and a Dislocated Shoulder

North Pelham, N. Y., July 1st -- This village was the scene of another trolley accident last night which occurred on Fifth avenue near Fourth street only a few feet from where little Ray Godfrey was hit and severely injured three weeks ago.

John R. Beecroft, President of the Board of Education, was returning to his home in Pelham Manor, with his wife, from the closing exercises at the North Pelham school over which he presided.  It was shortly after ten o'clock and as the carriage reached Third street on the way up Fifth avenue the horse shied and backed into a Pelham Manor trolley car coming from the opposite direction.  Mr. and Mrs. Beecroft were thrown out and the carriage completely wrecked.  

Mr. Beecroft was unconscious but escaped with a cut on his head and several bruises.  Mrs. Beecroft had her shoulder dislocated.

They were taken to the home of John Case and Drs. Fleming and Washburn summoned who set Mrs. Beecroft's shoulder and dressed her husband's wounds.  The motorman was arrested but later released."

Source:  EXTRA -- TROLLEY ACCIDENT AT PELHAM -- JOHN BEECROFT AND WIFE INJURED -- A Wound on Head and a Dislocated Shoulder, Mount Vernon Daily Argus, Jul. 1, 1899, Vol. XXIX, No. 2,227, p. 1, col. 4.

"Pelham Manor
Accident Case Adjourned.

The case of Charles McCarthy, of New Rochelle, the chauffeur who drove the big tank motor truck of the Texas company, Thursday morning, when it collided with and pushed a Pelham Manor trolley car off the track on Pelhamdale avenue near Bolton avenue, came up yesterday morning before Justice of the Peace Ralph Rogers in the local court and was promptly adjourned until next Wednesday evening at 8 o'clock.  The two men who rode with McCarthy at the time of the accident Morris Johnson of New Rochelle, agent for the Texas company and Bert Nelson, the bookkeeper for the concern, are at the New Rochelle hospital where they were taken following the accident.  Their condition is reported as much improved and as no internal injuries of consequence have developed their condition is not serious.  The injuries are lacerations of the heads and each have a broken arm.  They will be able to leave the hospital in a few days.  None of the passengers who were in the trolley car have as yet reported injuries."

Source:  Pelham Manor -- Accident Case Adjourned, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Feb. 15, 1918, p. 9, col. 5.

"North Pelham. . . . 

The Pelham Manor trolley car had just left the Pelham station and was headed for the Manor at 7:15 o'clock last evening, when in front of Jeker's garage, there was a crash and a shower of falling glass.  The car stopped in front of the Pelham police headquarters and the motorman jumped off and asked who threw the stone through the window.  All rushed to the spot where two autos filled with people stood and asked the question there.  The autoists leaned forward and said:  'Do you see that man and woman who got on the car after it stopped?  Well, that man ran alongside the car and was tapping on the window.  The motorman did not hear or see him, so he said he would stop him and threw a stone through the glass, remarking at the time that he would pay for the window.'  There wass a stretching of necks to see who the man was, a chorus of 'Oh's' and the motorman remarked 'It's all right, never mind,' and the car was off."

Source:  North Pelham, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 6, 1920, p. 7, col. 5.

"Pelham Manor. . . .

The brakes on the Pelham Manor trolley car failed to work just as it was approaching the end of the line at the shore road, and ran across the shore road to the approach to the New York Athletic club.  Officer Murphy, who was on duty there at the time, saw the danger and held up autos approaching.  The car missed one auto by six feet.  Mr. and Mrs. Moran of 20 St. Joseph street, New Rochelle, were on the car and slightly shaken up. . . ."

Source:  Pelham Manor, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 18, 1921, p. 10, col. 4.  

"Woman Badly Cut When Auto Strikes Trolley
Is Thrown Through Windshield By Impact.  Eight Stitches Taken In Chin At Hospital

Thrown through the windshield of a Ford touring car, when it collided with the Pelham Manor trolley car.  Sunday afternoon, Miss Camelia Strolle, of No. 34 Fourth Avenue, Mount Vernon, received a deep gash in her chin, in which eight stitches had to be taken, by a surgenon at New Rochelle Hospital.

Miss Strolle was riding in the touring car which was operated by Paul Deglinno, of No. 10 South Sixth Avenue, Mount Vernon.  The couple in the automobile were going south on Pelhamdale Avenue, behind the trolley car, which was operated by Edward Galzier, Deglinno tried to pass the trolley car, but misjudged the clearance and crashed into it.

The force of the impact threw Miss Strolle forward, and her head struck the windshield, breaking it, and as her head passed through the broken pane of glass the jagged edge cut a deep gash in her chin.

Officer Philip Atkinson, of the Pelham Manor police department, witnessed the accident, and with Deglinno, drove the injured woman to New Rochelle Hospital.  There she received treatement and was removed to her home later.  There was no one else injured in the accident.  There was no damage done to the automobile than the broken windshield."

Source:  Woman Badly Cut When Auto Strikes Trolley -- Is Thrown Through Windshield By Impact.  Eight Stitches Taken In Chin At Hospital, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 28, 1922, Vol. 13, No. 22, p. 1, col. 5.

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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.

Thu., Feb. 22, 2018:  More on the 1916 Trolley Strike That Brought Violence to Pelham.

Fri., Jan. 06, 2017:  Has One of the Most Enduring Pelham History Mysteries Been Solved? The Mystery of Charles A. Voight!

Thu., Sep. 15, 2016:  Pelham Manor Residents Complained of Awful Service on the Toonerville Trolley Line as Early as 1899.

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?

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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