Brand : Clinton William Lucas

A trolley honeymoon from Delaware to Maine

Dr. michael b. gehl |

A memory like no other from a time long forgotten

I noticed a reference to this remarkable and unique gem of a booklet while reading john r. stillgoe's extraordinary book "metropolitan corridor" (1983, yale university press). in chapter 11, simply entitled "trolley", he quoted from this book while describing a brief and largely forgotten period in american transportation history - namely, the era of interurban railroads, from about 1890 to 1930. before highways and automobiles literally pushed these rural trolley cars off the side of the road (where many of them had literally been built), for about a generation, many americans, especially in the northeast, the midwest and on the west coast, were able to experience a transportation system like no other before or since. often small rail vehicles, sometimes even having only four wheels, and sides that could be rolled up in pleasant or warm weather ("open cars"), these trolleys bumped along on often rather flimsily laid rails on top of light ballast, connecting towns and villages to each other. the distances were often short - 10-15 miles, and the cars would start out at a village square, rambling down "main street", then tearing off at a blazing 30 mph onto the sides of country roads and even on their own lightly ballasted roadbeds over the rivers and through the woods. passengers got on or off just about anywhere and could get on again after sightseeing or visiting; most rides costing 5 or 10 cents! while the traveling was slow by today's standards (as well as often dusty, wet, too hot or too cold), it was cheap, and allowed for sightseeing and utterly relaxed travel unknown to us today. i had the pleasure of growing up on one of the very last surviving suburban trolley lines, namely philadelphia - willow grove, pa, and therefore had had as a child a distant taste of what traveling by trolley might have been like in the young 20th century. this booklet (less than 50 pages) was written by a young couple who, in 1904, essayed a journey from wilmington, delaware to the beaches of maine, all by trolleys, over ten days and over a dozen individual trolley lines - a trip they could have taken by "steam" train in less than 24 hours! clearly, there have always been a few of us with esoteric tastes in transportation! their adventures in traveling, in the places they visited and the fellow passengers they met along their disjointed but enthralling trip are a unique tableau of a time and place in our history that is almost completely lost to us in the 21st century. for any with an interest in "forgotten" american history, transportation and especially electric railroading, this unique and fascinating look back in time is a treasure like no other. although the times, the travelers and the trolleys are all long gone, to any with a careful eye, you may find two segments of these young honeymooner's trip that can still be enjoyed today! that is has been reprinted is nothing short of a miracle! michael b. gehl, md