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Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Trolleys of Brandywine Springs -- The Kennett Trolley

A Kennett trolley passing by Lake Washington
at Brandywine Springs Amusement Park
In the last post, we looked at the Peoples Railway Company, formed by Brandywine Springs Amusement Park manager Richard W. Crook with the main objective of providing the residents of Wilmington and beyond with easy, cheap, quick access to the park. It did a fine job of that, and allowed the park to flourish during its decade and a half heyday from about 1901-1915. That being said, it actually barely made its way into Mill Creek Hundred, with the exception of the Marshallton spur, and even that was barely in the hundred. There was, however, another trolley line built to service the park, and this one had well over five miles of track in MCH.

In May 1899, the West Chester, Kennett, and Wilmington Electric Railway Company (WCK&W) was chartered with ambitions not quite as grand as its name, and a future that would be even less so. It never ended up getting anywhere near West Chester, and only made it to Wilmington for a very short time and with the help of the Peoples Railway. The original plan was to connect to the Peoples Trolley at Brandywine Springs, build a line northward through Kennett Square to Unionville, and connect with a proposed extension of the West Chester Street Railway. Only part of that plan actually happened.

The WCK&W first had to wait for the Peoples Railway to be built, and as we saw in the last post that did take a few years. Once they knew it was "on", the first proposal was to build a line from Kennett Square through Avondale and West Grove, terminating in Oxford. Long story short, by 1906 the line had extended to West Grove, but never made it any further west, and never got anywhere near Oxford. The line that interests us was completed in 1903, with service first being available from Kennett Square to Yorklyn in May 1903. By August, trolleys were running from Brandywine Springs all the way to Toughkenamon. In contrast to the Peoples Trolley's 5 cent fare, the ride from Kennett to the park would cost you 20 cents.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Trolleys of Brandywine Springs -- The Peoples Trolley

Doing its job advertising the park
Of the three trolley lines that once made their way into Mill Creek Hundred, two of them were created primarily to shuttle passengers and park-goers to and from the Brandywine Springs Amusement Park. It would be hard to talk about the two lines independently, and pointless to discuss them with out also including the park. We've discussed the park before -- how it started as a resort hotel in the late 1820's, then operated mid-century as a smaller hotel. In 1886, Richard W. Crook took over the hotel and slowly changed the property from a hotel to an amusement park. In the waning years of the 19th Century, he realized what his park needed to thrive into the 20th -- a trolley line that would make it easier for the city-dwelling folk to visit his park out in the country. This would turn Brandywine Springs into what amounted to a trolley park in reverse.

Trolley parks were ubiquitous in the late 1800's and early 1900's, with well over a thousand dotting the national landscape in the early part of the last century. They were built by the local trolley companies, out at the end of their lines usually on some sort of water (a lake, river, or creek), to serve a couple of purposes. First, in an age when the trolley was many people's primary transportation to and from work and school, the parks helped to boost ridership on the weekends. The second purpose had to do with that great advancement of the age, electricity.

While many started out horse-drawn, by the 1880's trolleys were electrically-powered. The trolley companies either paid a flat rate for their electricity, or more commonly, generated it themselves. The power cost them money either way, so they might as well have the trolleys running as much as possible. Plus, in the days when electrification was still an ongoing concern, the trolley parks would be lit-up as much as possible, dazzling their guests with the modern miracle of electricity. For example, the Brandywine Springs' entrance archway was covered in lights, and lit at night was probably the most lights that most guests had ever seen in one place before. So whereas in a traditional trolley park the line existed first and then the park was built, at Brandywine Springs the opposite was true.