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.

Monday, March 12, 2018

More on Extension of the Pelham Manor Trolley Line in 1910

Trolleys once were a principal means of transportation throughout our region.  By 1899, one could travel between the Battery in lower Manhattan and any of New Rochelle, Pelham, Mount Vernon or Yonkers for a single fare of eight cents. 

Early last century, one of those trolley lines in the Village of Pelham Manor inspired the creative genius of a man named Fontaine Talbot Fox (1884-1964).  He created one of the most popular comics in the United States – “Toonerville Folks.”  The cartoon centered around the quirky inhabitants of a town called “Toonerville” and its rickety and unpredictable trolley.  The operator of the trolley was “The Skipper.”  Fontaine Fox, as he stated a number of times in published interviews and letters, based the comic on his experience during a trolley ride on a visit to Pelham on August 8, 1909. 

“Toonerville Folks” ran in hundreds of newspapers from about 1913 to 1955 and brought national attention to Pelham.  When Fontaine Fox made his now-famous visit to Pelham on August 8, 1909, the trolley line that inspired him ran along today's Pelhamdale Avenue to a stop near the railroad bridge of the New Haven Branch Line above Pelhamdale not far from today's Grant Avenue and Manor Circle.  

Barely a year later, the Westchester Electric Railway extended the Pelham Manor trolley line along Pelhamdale Avenue to Shore Road near the New York Athletic Club. I have written about that extension of the Pelham Manor Trolley line once before.  See Tue., Jan. 06, 2015:  Extension of the Toonerville Trolley Line in Pelham Manor in 1910.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog provides additional detail regarding the process of extending to Shore Road the little trolley line that inspired Fontaine Fox. At the end of today's article, I have listed links to the many previous articles I have posted about trolleys and the Toonerville Trolley.

In the late 19th century, the little Pelham Manor trolley line shuttled back and forth between the Town of Pelham's two principal commuter railroad stations:  Pelham Station on the New Haven Main Line and the Pelham Manor Depot on the New Haven Branch Line.  The trolley "met all the trains" -- a fact that Fontaine Fox played up in his "Toonerville Folks" comic strip when referencing his famous Toonerville Trolley.  

Until Labor Day in 1910, the Pelham Manor trolley began each run from a spot on Wolfs Lane near Pelham Station in the Village of Pelham (today's Pelham Heights) about where the buildings housing, among other things, Kravitz Real Estate, are located at present.  The trolley ran along Wolf's Lane to Colonial Avenue where it turned eastward (left) and proceeded the short distance along Colonial Avenue to Pelhamdale Avenue.  There it turned southeastward (right) and proceeded along Pelhamdale Avenue with intermediate stops along the way such as stops at the intersection of Witherbee Avenue and at Red Church Corner (today's Four Corners).  

When the trolley reached a point on Pelhamdale Avenue in the Village of Pelham Manor about where the New Haven Branch Line railroad overpass crossed the roadway, the trolley operator had to exit the vehicle, reverse the overhead connection of the trolley car to the electric wires and then begin a return trip along the same route back to the Pelham Station, always paying mind to the arrival times of all trains on both the Main and Branch Lines so as to meet all such trains.

By 1910, it was apparent to the Westchester Electric Railway, operator of the Pelham Manor trolley at the time, that so many people used the New Haven Branch Line to get to and from the New York Athletic Club facility and Long Island Sound at the end of Pelhamdale Avenue where it met Shore Road that it warranted extending the trolley line from its terminus near the Pelham Manor Depot all the way to the end of Pelhamdale Avenue at Shore Road.

In about early July of that year, the Westchester Electric Railway began staging work along Pelhamdale Avenue to prepare for laying trolley tracks along the roadway.  Because laying the tracks would require closure of the road, the Village of Pelham Manor asked Westchester Electric Railway to delay the work for a time because the only other way then possible to move through that portion of Pelham Manor was via Split Rock Road which then ran from Shore Road all the way to Boston Post Road.  That roadway was "practically closed" for repairs in July, 1910, thus prompting Pelham Manor to request a delay in closing Pelhamdale Avenue to lay the trolley tracks for the extension.

Although laying the trolley tracks for the Pelhamdale Avenue extension was delayed for a short time, during the week of July 19, 1910, the poles necessary to carry the overhead wires for the trolley extension were erected along Pelhamdale Avenue. 

By August, work to lay the trolley tracks beneath the New Haven Branch Line railroad overpass and along Pelhamdale Avenue to Shore Road was underway in earnest.  There was, however, a bit of a problem.

The giant rocky outcropping at the end of Shore Road known as the "Haunted Cedar Knoll" made the roadway at the intersection with Pelhamdale Avenue a little too tight for the small Pelham Manor trolley car to be maneuvered to a stop to allow passengers to disembark.  Track laying crews had to blast out about 100 feet of rock on Shore Road to make way for the trolley extension.

On Thursday, September 1, 1910, Superintendent William B. Wheeler of Westchester Electric Railway announced that all necessary poles and overhead wires had been erected and that the laying of the tracks for the extension was "practically completed."  He further announced that blasting of the 100 feet of rock on Shore Road was about to begin and the last 200 feet of rails would then be laid.  He further revealed that trolley cars would begin running on the extension on Labor Day, Monday, September 5, 1910.

Detail from a Photograph in the Collections of the Westchester County
Historical Society Showing "Four Corners," the Intersection of
Pelhamdale Avenue and Boston Post Road Before 1937. The "H Line"
Trolley is Returning from Shore Road Toward the Intersection. At this
Intersection, Trolley Tracks Along Pelhamdale Avenue Split With Some
Tracks Turning Onto Boston Post Road Toward New Rochelle and Others
Continuing Along Pelhamdale Avenue. The Trolley in the Photograph is
The Little Pelham Manor Trolley (i.e., The Toonerville Trolley).
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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According to an announcement made Thursday morning by Superintendent Wheeler of the Westchester Electric Railway, the extension of the Pelham Manor trolley line from the old terminus at the foot of the hill on Pelhamdale avenue to the Shore Road, will be in operation on Labor Day.  Superintendent Wheeler expects to start the cars running on the extension on that day.  

It is not known how many cars will be operated, but Superintendent Wheeler said that it all depended upon the amount of traffic.

The construction is now practically completed.  There is about 100 feet of rock on the Shore Road that will have to be blasted out, and as soon as this work is done, 200 feet more of rails will be laid, and then the extension will be ready for operation.  The poles are all up and the wires have been strung.

It is believed that this extension will be a money maker, as many people will use the trolleys from Westchester County and various parts of New York in order to reach the Sound and the grounds of the New York Athletic Club."

Source:  TROLLEYS TO SHORE MONDAY, New Rochelle Pioneer, Sep. 3, 1910, Vol. 52, No. 23, p. 4, col. 3.

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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., Feb. 23, 2018:  Toonerville Trolley Accidents in Pelham Manor.

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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