The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933
Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Days of the Trolley Car
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Car for Rorick's Glen - Corner Main & Water Streets
Article: Days of the Trolley Car
Township: Town of Elmira 
Article by Helen Mac Dougall Samson (1909-1995) 1976
Sent in by Walt Samson
Retyped by Debbie Hansen
Postcards from Joyce's Collection
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Chemung Valley Reporter, Thursday, April 22, 1976



A part of life in the days from 1871 until the last car ran in 1939 was "catching the car" to go to work, for a shopping trip or an evening out. One could go to most sections of Elmira, ride a double decker to Roricks to see the play or just to work. It might involve a short hike to the place where the streetcar stopped for passengers but they were a great convenience.

The line from Elmira to Horseheads started in a very small way. One horse pulled the little car over the rails. The horse was replaced by a steam engine but this innovation lasted only a short time as it was dirty and the noise frightened the horses along the way. The line was electrified in 1839.

The West Water Street Railway had been organized in 1890 and was leased to the Elmira and Horseheads line. In 1900 and 1901 the city lines were consolidated as the Elmira Water and Railway Company. Five years before this, the Watkins and Havana (Montour Falls) line was organized as an electric inter-urban line. The powerhouse, still standing south of Millport, furnished the power. On Sundays, whole families complete with picnic baskets and small children waited for the car and boarded it to go to Watkins.

There they could select a trip through the glen or an excursion to Geneva and back on one of the lake steamers. It would be a great day!

Farm folks seldom drove the team or buggy horse all the way to Elmira. Those living near Horseheads could drive in and leave the horses in John Cowell’s livery stable and walk over to wait for the trolley on the Platt House porch where benches were provided. After a long day of shopping, they could wait with quite a crowd in front of the building on the corner of Water and Lake for their car to pull up for loading. The destination was on a roller sign high on the front of each car. The late afternoon trip was a busy one for the conductor as he must throw off bundled copies of the Star-Gazette for the waiting paperboys along the route. A familiar sound as Horseheads was neared was the clanging of the seats as the conductor reversed the backs in preparation for the return trip. It was the motorman’s duty to reverse the wheel that traveled along the overhead wire which furnished the power.

As use of the automobile grew, the car lines were shortened. The longer runs were the first to suffer. The Watkins run was replaced by a bus in 1923. Finally, the last car to run over the rails was retired with some ceremony in 1936 on March 11th.

Dated 1910, this card of the Glen Route Car between Watkins Glen and Elmira was sent in by a site guest.

The old 501 was selected to make the run and the current was finally turned off by Fred Reynolds who had also witnessed the ceremony when the line was electrified almost 48 years before. The old car had its sign turned to "Home for the Aged" and was crowded with dignitaries and anyone else who could crowd aboard. The great American ceremony of souvenir collecting began and the seat handles were easily removed with a knife or even a dime turning the screws. One enterprising fellow climbed on the roof and tried to remove the power assembly. He was not successful but wasn’t injured, either. The horses fastened to the front of the car, purely as a reminder of the first days of the horse car, were soon removed and the motorman started for the car barns and the end of an era. He found on the first grade, that his brakes had also been removed for a keepsake and the trip was very unpleasant as he had to reverse on each dip in the route to slow the car. It was to resemble a ride behind a balky mule with the sudden jerks and starts.

The cars were sold and some rusted away in a field somewhere when the new owner found he didn’t have much use for it after all. Others were used as chicken houses and a few as vacation homes. They live on in the memories of the people who once rode them.

Trolley Cars fill the street at corner of Lake and Water in Elmira
First Added to the Site  on 19DEC 2002
By Joyce M. Tice

You are the  visitor since the counter was installed on 19 DEC  2002

The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933