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No Traction for this Trolley
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2020-05-13

            It was 1901 and most people around here were still making their long trips on the back of a horse or on a buggy staring into the back of a horse.

If the Perkiomen Valley Street Railway would have been

successful with their plans, trolleys like this one, would

have been a common sight along Main Street through

East Greenville, Pennsburg, and Red Hill.

            Folks couldn't afford an expensive automobile and Henry Ford was still a few years away from mass-producing Model-T's making cars more affordable to the masses.

            There were trains but passenger schedules and convenience took a back seat to the more lucrative freight the iron horses carried.  In addition, people were drawn to the electric mode of transportation because it was cleaner than the smoke creators.

            So it was no wonder that many people were excited when they learned that a trolley line would soon be available to carry them from East Greenville to Collegeville, where they could connect to Norristown and Philadelphia.

            Talks about a proposed trolley line went quickly as residents were enthusiastic about it.  By June of 1901, right-of-ways were secured for the line from Collegeville to Gratersford.  The next step was to secure the line's path from Gratersford to Zieglersville.

             By August a charter had been granted to the Perkiomen Valley Street Railway

News item, from the August 13, 1901 edition of the

Allentown Leader, announcing the newly formed

Perkiomen Valley Street Railway Company.

Company with the ambitious goal of extending the proposed trolley line from Collegeville to Allentown.  Corporate members named on the charter were George F. Coffin of Easton; Col. H. C. Trexler, John H. Pascor, J. M. Wright and Hon. Hugh Crilly of Allentown.

            The investors felt that a trolley line would be of great convenience giving residents and other travelers "exceptionally rapid transit."   They felt it would be a paying institution because the towns were built closely together and were manufacturing centers employing a large number of people. 

            According to an article in the Allentown Leader, the trolley would run from the Lehigh Valley Traction line near "Emaus (spelled Emmaus today), through Vera Cruz, pass near Shimersville, Old Zionsville, the Hosensack Valley, and from there through the thickly settled and rich farming section to East Greenville, Pennsburg, Green Lane, Sumneytown, Salford, Schwenksville and Collegeville.

            From Collegeville it would connect with the Schuylkill Valley Traction Company's line to Philadelphia and other points.

            News began spreading of the intentions of other traction companies to expand lines to new areas in Berks, Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery Counties.  If completed, it would have been quite a network of tracks.

            People patiently waited for word that construction would begin and finally, in March of 1902 officials of the Lehigh Valley Traction Company announced they would begin seeking the right-of-ways needed to begin in Pennsburg.  A Town and Country article reported that: "It will only be a matter of a few months until the whirl of a trolley will be heard along our quiet streets."  It was expected to be finished by the summer of 1902.

            Near the end of the summer, in August of 1902, it was announced that the Perkiomen Valley Traction Company was just about ready to commence operations to build the line.  It was asserted that a power house would be erected in Green Lane but, if a free site of 3-acres in the vicinity and along the Macoby Creek were available it would be an inducement to build it there.

            By October of 1902 right-of-ways were secured from Collegeville to Red Hill. 

            However, Pennsburg Burgess John F. Weyand, expressed concerns about the trolley line traversing Main Street in Pennsburg.  Along with Weyand, other borough officials and many residents and business owners along Main Street were also opposed to it.  Many property owners vowed to do everything in their power to prevent it.

            That didn't bode well for the future of a trolley line through the boroughs. It's hard to connect the chain when there's a missing link.

            The newest proposal for the line had it coming up Perkiomen Turnpike from Collegeville to Perkiomenville, then stay on the west side of the Perkiomen Railroad and just touch Green Lane at the depot.  By doing this, they noted that they would bypass two dangerous railroad intersections. 

            From the Green Lane train depot, they might cut over to Hoppenville then back to Red Hill and north through the boroughs.

            Representatives of the Perkiomen Street Railway Company made a promise to the communities that if they didn't begin operations on the line in 18-months, they would forfeit all of the right-of-ways they obtained.

            A year later talk of a trolley line from Allentown to Collegeville, and through the Upper Perkiomen Valley, waned as talk of freeing the "turnpike" from Collegeville to Berks County (today known as Gravel Pike and Route 29) increased.

            The Perkiomen Valley Street Railway Company passed into history without laying a track here.  Other efforts by other companies tried and failed in our area over the next dozen or so years as automobiles became more available and affordable and other nearby locations became more attractive to the traction companies.  


 

 

 

 

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