The 130th anniversary of the first electric trolley car operation in Erie, Pennsylvania will be the subject of a lecture given by rail transportation author Ken Springirth on July 30 at 7 p.m. at the Blasco Memorial Library Admiral Room, 160 E. Front St., in Erie.
After Erie’s first electric trolley car began operation on June 25, 1889, within a short time, trolley lines connected Erie with Meadville, Conneaut and Buffalo. Just as the coming of the railroad made a dramatic improvement in the movement of goods and people across the United States, the electric trolley car made a transformational change in local transportation.
The farmer could get his or her produce to the urban market. The factory worker no longer had to live next to the factory, and could live out in the country and commute to work by trolley car.
Between 1906 and 1922, it was possible to make a 1,082-mile trip by trolley car from Oneonta in central New York via Buffalo, Erie, and Cleveland to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin by trolley car.
There were 20 connections to be made, and if they were all made, the trip would have taken four days.
With the coming of the automobile, trolley lines began to disappear. In 1922, the Conneaut & Erie line which connected Erie via Fairview, Girard, Lake City to Conneaut was abandoned. The Buffalo & Erie Railway which connected Erie via North East, and Westfield to Buffalo ended service in 1933. Trolley service in Erie ended in 1935.
By 1970, there were only seven trolley car systems left in the United States. There has been a slow revival of new trolley/light rail systems with 36 now in the United States.
Springirth is the author of 40 books on trolleys and trains. The lecture is free and open to the public.