Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Trolley Comes to Stanton

Since the picture at the right seems to have generated a good bit of interest, I thought I'd share a few quick notes on the trolley shown travelling down Main Street (today's Route 4). This image is one of only two I know of showing the trolley in Stanton (if I ever find the other one again, I'll post it). There were, at one time, three different trolley lines serving various parts of Mill Creek Hundred. Two were somewhat related, but we'll focus here on the third, and southernmost, line in the hundred.

The first two trolley lines to be run into MCH -- the West Chester, Kennett and Wilmington (AKA, the Kennett Trolley) and the Peoples Trolley -- were both created more or less from scratch to serve the Brandywine Springs Amusement Park. The third line, which just barely made it into the southeastern portion of the hundred, can trace its lineage back to the early 1890's, when the Wilmington City Railway Co. built a new route that included part of Maryland Avenue. At first it went only as far as Linden St. (where I-95 now passes overhead), but within a year it was extended to Beech, and then as far as 6th Ave. It wasn't until 10 years later, in 1901, that the line would be extended out of the city.

On September 16, 1901, regular service began to Newport on the Maryland Ave. line, with every third car continuing down Maryland Ave./Route 4 to Newport. The other cars terminated at 9th Ave, at the Wilmington city line. The line did very well (it would be the Wilmington City Railway's only successful suburban line), and was soon separated from the Maryland Ave. line. Over the the next few months, the line would be slowly extended westward -- to the middle of Newport by October 29, and to the far end of town by November 19. The next extension -- to Red Clay Creek east of Stanton -- opened for business on December 23, 1901.

What would turn out to be the final extension of the line -- through Stanton -- saw its regular service commence on April 18 or 19, 1902. The track continued westward along the Wilmington and Christiana Turnpike (Rt 4)  from the Red Clay Creek bridge, along Main Street through Stanton, and finally terminated at Telegraph Road. In the spring of 1902 there were rumors that the line would be extended to Newark, but that was never done. By this point, cars were running out to Stanton from 4th and Market Streets in Wilmington, taking about 30 minutes to complete the trip.

In late 1910, this line also began servicing the new neighborhood of Richardson Park, located at Maryland Ave. and Dupont Road. 10-minute service was provided from Richardson Park to Wilmington, with every third car continuing to Stanton. 10-minute service was extended to Newport by 1915, at least during rush hours. This particular suburban trolley line was fairly profitable in its day, but the days of the suburban trolleys were numbered. By the 1920's, trolley companies knew that they would not be able to keep expanding suburban and interurban lines.

I have been unable to find an exact date for the termination of trolley service from Wilmington to Stanton. Service was discontinued between Newport and Silview (just west of Newport) in 1932 or 1933, but the implication is that service further west was already stopped by that point. It may be that service to Stanton was terminated around the same time that the Wilmington and Philadelphia Traction Co (now the owner of the trolley line) organized the Delaware Bus Co. as a subsidiary. The first bus line, running from Wilmington to Newark, began service on May 1, 1925. It's quite possible that this bus route took over the furthest reaches of the trolley line since, even though I can't find its exact route, it probably would have run through Stanton.


Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • The trolley cars that operated on the line to Stanton, at least for the first few years, were equipped with two headlights to try to avoid hitting wayward cows on the tracks during dark hours.
  • At the time the picture above was likely taken, the trolley car probably would have had some sort of an orange/yellow/cream color scheme.
  • With a hat tip to Donna Peters, here is an ad placed by the Delaware Coach Company in the December 3, 1944 edition of The Sunday Morning Star (Wilmington). It gives a brief history of public transportation in Wilmington from 1864 to 1944. The Delaware Coach Co. was the descendant of the Wilmington City Railway Co. and the Wilmington and Philadelphia Traction Co. It was formed in the 1930's when the trolley companies were forced by FDR's New Deal legislation to divest themselves from their power holdings. Before that, because the trolleys were electric, many trolley comapnies also produced electricity.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the follow up. Now every time I ride down Main Street, I will wonder if I am driving on top of paved-over trolley tracks.

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  2. Thank you for a great blog. When I was six years old, we moved to Silview on Lindbergh Avenue. The year was 1954. I rode to St. Matthew's School for my second half of first grade on the trolley with the wires sparking at the grand student ticket price of ten cents in each direction. :)

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