Trial Runs Take Place for a New Streetcar System in Pennsylvania

August 6, 1891

In north-central Pennsylvania, trial runs were completed for the inaugural electric streetcars adopted for use in the city of Williamsport. These runs had been launched late the previous night. The first of those vehicles began its trial run at around 11:00 p.m. on August 5, leaving the streetcar depot at Edwin and Campbell Streets after a problem with the dynamo providing electrical power had been resolved. Approximately 35 passengers were on board as the streetcar traveled down Campbell Street and towards Third Street.

A large number of people were already on hand to witness the first electric streetcar to operate in the city known as the Lumber Capital of the World, and – thanks in large part to the vehicle’s bell being rung several times – many other residents were likewise alerted to the newest transit technology in their midst. “People in their homes, who heard the sound of the gong, imagined that there was a fire and they rushed out and looked with astonishment at the well lighted car as it passed by, the trolley and wheels occasionally emitting blue streaks,” reported the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

Soon after the trial runs took place were completed, electric streetcars became firmly established as an integral part of the city’s transportation network. The Sun-Gazette noted, “After over twenty-six years of slow going horse cars, rapid transit by electricity is an assured fact, and the people of Williamsport are happy.”

The streetcars were owned and operated by the Williamsport Company, which had been chartered in 1863. This company was purchased in 1890 by a syndicate headed by Williamsport resident Hiram C. Rhoads. As president of the company, Rhoads played the pivotal role in making an electrified streetcar system a full-fledged reality in his hometown.

The new streetcars in Williamsport reflected the ever-expanding presence and popularity of that more modern means of transit throughout Pennsylvania during the decade. The first electric streetcars in Pittsburgh had made their debut the previous year, for example, and Philadelphia introduced its own electric streetcars in 1892. That type of streetcar continued to operate in Williamsport until being phased out in 1933.

For more information on the history of streetcars in Williamsport, please check out https://www.ridervt.com/announcement/early-forms-of-transit-copy/

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