Ride Trolley Ride – Those Street Car Days


By Bob Boldman



Boneyfiddle’s Market Square has been transformed into a winter lollapalooza this holiday season, with ice skating, oodles of lights, snow games, carriage rides, vendor huts, a gift shop, children’s museum, and more surprises to bring out the kid in all of us. What grabbed my attention was the horse and carriage and the magnificent steed’s pulling the festive carriage throughout Boneyfiddle. The carriage roved Second Street, Front Street and past the floodwall murals, giving those who sat in the comfy seats a glimpse of a time gone bye. While trotting down Front Street the mural of a trolley car with two smartly uniformed Street Car Conductors in the foreground brings to light those Trolley Car days. I went to sleep that night and dreamed of a time that was slower paced and a simpler life. In my dream that Trolley kept popping up and there I was back in the days of the Trolley.

When, where and how did it begin? “In the United States, the very first streetcar appeared Nov. 26, 1832, on the New York and Harlem Railroad in New York City. The cars were designed by John Stephenson of New Rochelle, New York, and constructed at his company in New York City. The earliest streetcars used horses and sometimes mules, usually two as a team, to haul the cars. Rarely, other animals were tried, including humans in emergency circumstances. By the mid-1880s, there were 415 street railway companies in the USA operating over 6,000 miles (9,700 km) of track and carrying 188 million passengers per year using horsecars. By 1890 New Yorkers took 297 horsecar rides per capita per year. The average street car horse had a life expectancy of about two years of trolleys, gas lights, quaint dining, and of course the horse-drawn carriage.” (Wikipedia)

Portsmouth’s Trolley’s or Street Cars were up and running about 1877, give or take. They were the horse-drawn trolley’s in the beginning and done without a conductor. Passengers were expected to walk to the front and deposit the fare in a box and the driver would ring a bell which served as a receipt. The trolley or car line extended from “Pig-Iron” corner, (Front and Jefferson Street’s in Portsmouth.) East on Front Street and out Market Street (north,) on to Sixth Street, Chillicothe Street, Ninth Street and Offnere Street. It also would travel east on Second Street to Union Street.

Col. S.E. Varner was one of the pioneers in the enterprise and Frank Varner served as Superintendent. Later a new company secured control and the line was extended north beyond Ninth on Chillicothe Street to the Scioto Valley Depot and was constructed in 1881. The entire extent of track being about four and one-half miles and four cars running regularly, making passage each way every 15 minutes. From the Scioto Valley Depot – to Greenlawn Cemetery entrance, with an extra horse being attached to the car going up the hill. Families living above Offnere Street paid fifty- dollars annually and as many of the family could ride as often as necessary, or desired. The car-barns or stables were first located at 621 Second Street but were later moved to 10th and Offnere Streets. The line remained in service for 18 years with the last horse car being used July 21, 1891.”

Then came the electric trolley, things would and could happen. Of course the horse and buggy was still a main mode of transportation in the city and from time to time accidents would occur. On May 13, 1895 – “Street Car Wreck, Street Car Smashes a Buggy” – “Sunday afternoon about 6 o’clock a streetcar in charge of Motorman – [sic] Mr. Haupt collided with a carriage at the corner of Eighth and Chillicothe streets but beyond a smashed double tree no damage was done. Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Fezzle the occupants of the carriage were dumped out but not injured. Mr. Fezzel drove out Eighth Street onto Chillicothe Street directly in front of the car, not seeing it. The streetcar men were not to blame.” It goes to show that the past could and would inevitably collide with the future.

If given the opportunity – take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy the clip-clop of the hoof’s pounding the pavement. Shut your eyes, imagine back to the days of, Ride-Trolley-Ride.

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By Bob Boldman

Reach Bob Boldman at g.boldman5@gmail.com

© 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights

Reach Bob Boldman at g.boldman5@gmail.com

© 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights