This story was originally published Feb. 25, 2016
This summer will mark 70 years since work crews dug up trolley tracks which traversed Penn Square. The local trolley system, which once served tens of thousands of Lancastrians daily, had come to an end.
-- When was the heyday of the Lancaster trolley system? About a century ago, when electric-traction systems linked the city with Ephrata, Columbia, Marietta, Millersville, Lititz, Manheim, Strasburg, Quarryville and beyond.
-- What were some popular destinations? Rocky Springs Park certainly was one of them. During the height of warm weather, 20 cars would be assigned to the line at one time to handle the crowds, according to RockySpringsPark.org. It was the last line to operate trolleys in Lancaster, abandoned on Sept. 21, 1947.
-- Did a lot of people ride the trolleys? Definitely. According to “Physical and Industrial Geography of Lancaster County,” written in 1916 by Henry Justin Roddy of Millersville State Normal School, “In 1914, the passengers carried by the Conestoga (Traction) Company alone numbered over 14,000,000.” Obviously, a lesser number of individuals making multiple trips, but still — absolutely crucial to transportation.
-- What happened? As early as the 1920s, trolley ridership slowly began to fade as automobile ownership increased.
-- Where did all the old cars go? According to “To Lancaster, by Trolley” by Kurt R. Bell, in September 1947 “the (Conestoga Traction Co.) took their remaining fleet of streetcars to Rocky Springs one by one, where they were turned over on their sides and systematically burned.”
-- Is there anywhere you still can experience a trolley ride in Lancaster? Manheim Historical Society owns a 1926 trolley car which used to be part of the larger Lancaster trolley system. It runs a short one-block route every Sunday from June through September when the station at 210 S. Charlotte St., Manheim, is open.