When the Trolleys Ran in Tarrytown

Can you imagine taking a trip from Tarrytown’s Depot Plaza to White Plains in an electric trolley that made no noise, except for the sound of its bell, and did not pollute the environment with foul smelling diesel exhaust?


Neperan Road Trolley

Well, electric trolleys served Tarrytown for many years.

When I was a boy, the trolleys were no longer running, but the tracks were still there on Main Street. When riding bicycles down Main Street to Orchard Street and then to the train station, we had to be careful that our front tire did not get caught in those trolley tracks, because if they did, we would go flying over the handlebars.

For many years people traveled from White Plains to Tarrytown by the Overland Stage. But, with the power of electricity, trolleys were soon to follow. On January 11, 1896, the Tarrytown Electric Company proposed laying trolley tracks through the streets of Tarrytown. Many different routes were suggested, and local businessmen, residents, and the Tarrytown Board of Trustees squabbled about the route. The proposed route was changed three times before it was agreed that the trolley would run from Depot Plaza, up Main Street (note photo of the trolley and electric lines above it), cross over Broadway and proceed up Neperan Road to Altamont, to Rose Hill, to Bendedict Avenue, and then on to White Plains. This is very similar to the bus route of today.

In June 1897, a trolley was running between White Plains and Glenville. A new company, the New York, Elmsford and White Plains Railroad, continued the line from Glenville along Benedict Avenue and down to Depot Plaza. On Saturday night, October 23, 1897 shortly after 6 p.m., the first trolley made it down to Depot Plaza to the enthusiastic cheers of a large crowd. The first trolleys were small, yellow, side-seating cars, soon to be followed by red cars numbered 550, 552, 554, 555, and 556.

On summer weekends the trolleys were often used for more than transportation. A nickel would get you to White Plains, and twenty cents could get you a two-hour ride to Mount Vernon, into the Bronx, Manhattan and down to Battery Park as you enjoyed the ride and cool breezes through the open cars. Helen Gould, daughter of railroad magnate Jay Gould, would often bring disadvantaged children from New York City by train to Tarrytown. From there she would transport them to her picnic grounds near Glennville with six trolley cars she had hired. There was not enough power to get all six cars up the hill, so they would go up the hill one at a time to Altamont Avenue where they would continue together to their destination.

Travel by trolley was not always free from danger, we have records of them jumping the track at times to the amazement of motormen and passengers. One night, the trolley jumped the track on lower Main Street near White Street, and went crashing into a building. Some of these early motormen were Al Scofield, James Weeks, William Sellick, George Carpenter, Harry Dillman, and Al Lent.

Finally, after 32 years, the days of the trolleys were over. Switches had to be thrown to let trolleys pass each other, and it was proven that buses could travel between Tarrytown and White Plains in half the time. As a result, at 11:40 p.m. on November 16, 1929 the days of the trolley were over as the last trolley ran through Tarrytown.

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About the Author: Richard Miller