Trolleys are near and dear to many Americans'
hearts, including mine. While I grew up just as the trolley era was coming
to a close, I can still remember the sign in the front of every
trolley--"Donít Talk to the Motorman." He wasn't the driver, but
the motorman, a title that seemed to give him a special place in people's
lives, the people that entrusted him to get them to work, school, and play on
This plus the clang of the bell, the grind of traction
motors and the clatter of wheels as they rolled over staggered rail joints
and through the complicated switch and crossing work prevailing at many
intersections endeared the trolley to several generations of riders.
During the great years of the era the trolley car was to
the average family what the automobile and the station wagon are today.
It carried the head of the household between home and work
six days of the week. Husband and wife rode it downtown every Saturday
afternoon on the weekly shopping tour. The whole family rode it to church
People used the trolley to visit relatives or just to go
for a ride. Children, particularly those in rural areas, rode the trolley to
school; and most companies sold weekly school passes good for a certain
number of rides at a substantial saving in fare.
Dad took the trolley to the ball park. Sunday school
classes went on trolley car picnics. Businesses held an annual trolley car
outing for their employees.
And, of course, the deceased went on that final ride to
the cemetery aboard one. By today's standards it was slow, but in its time
and place it provided a useful service and performed its job with amazing
convenience and economy.
By the turn of the century more than 30,000 trolleys
glided along15,000 miles of electrified track in the U.S.
So many trolley lines wound through the streets of
Brooklyn that the local baseball team became known as the Trolley Dodgers,
later shortened to Dodgers.
Next: The Early Years