What Ever Happened to the Newburgh Trolley?

Newburgh Ferry on Water St ©Detroit Publishing Company

Those of us who romanticize of the grander days of Newburgh often think about the Newburgh trolley. Many still romanticize about a restored Newburgh and restored trolley that could go around making stops around the neighborhood. Other Hudson River towns such as Kingston still find use for a trolley. So what ever happened to the Newburgh Trolley? Taking a look at the articleTrolley cars maintain their place in history” by Jean Yanarella gave a lot of insight. Another helpful article was “A backward look at safe, convenient transportation” by Don Herron.

©Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and Highlands

Trolley’s have been long gone in Newburgh. They stopped running between 1924-1926 and they began in 1886. They were first driven by horses which were extremely noisy, and then eight years later switched to electricity. This conversion made the trolley silent and odor free. Trolleys helped popularize Orange Lake, a close getaway for many locals. It was 25 cents for a round trip in 1908 on the trolley to Orange Lake, and you could get a dinner for 50 cents which, made Orange Lake very affordable. Visitors from NYC and beyond came to Newburgh via train or boat and often stayed at the Palatine Hotel. The trolley made it easy for vacationers to tour the Newburgh area.

©Dennis Collins via "Around Orange Lake" by Patricia A. Favata

Passengers boarding trolley on Newburgh Waterfront to go to the Orange Lake Amusement Park.

View in Wallkill Valley - Newburgh Electric Railway ©The Street railway journal, Volume 12

The Newburgh Electric Railway Company also connected Newburgh with Walden, a town in the Wallkill Valley. This connection allowed for the transportation of milk, grapes, and hay to NYC from the railroad connections in Newburgh.

Power Station Express and Freight Cars ©The Street railway journal, Volume 12

In the Street Railway Journal of February 1896, Newburgh had a formidable section boasting all of the Newburgh Electric Railway Company’s accomplishments. Their passenger cars were already being equipped with heaters, and were looking at making baggage, smoking, and lady compartments. The average number of car miles per day were 1200.

©Jordy Collection, Patricia A. Favata

The bus and automobile were the demise of the Newburgh trolley with more Newburghers owning their own vehicles, and the bus being heralded as a more economical and faster replacement to the trolley. “We can do so many things with the bus that we can not do with the trolley car,” mentioned Bus Transportation in 1922. B.B. Odell was cited as saying, “We held out against it as long as possible. Not that we lacked faith in the bus, but because we wished to be sure that it was going to be a permanent means of transportation, and not a novelty that was going to wear itself away in a few years.”

Corner of Broadway refitted as comfortable waiting quarters for bus and trolley passengers ©Bus Transportation, 1922

More territory could be covered, and a bus would be easier to handle in the snow than the trolley would. Trolley workers tried to hold demonstrations to show the need of their mode of transportation.

Bus information bureau at Newburgh ©Bus Transportation, 1922

City Manager of the time, William Johnston McKay said 70% of the buses entering into Newburgh looked like “gypsy caravans.” All resistance efforts were useless, the trolley was eventually phased out and the majority of it ended up in scrap metal.

©Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers, Portland, M.E.

Although the Newburgh trolley has been gone for over 80 years, many still like to reminisce of the old days. Today, the trolley makes an appearance in Newburgh sometimes during the summer months as a bus retrofitted with a trolley exterior to evoke the quaint trolley feel. Check out this facebook page that shows a lot of great old Newburgh photos, some of which include the trolley.

Trolley on Renwick St by Liberty Street School

10 Comment

  • My take is that the first picture at the top of this piece was not taken in Newburgh NY, but is from Boston MA. The tip-off is the large Boyle Brothers sign on the right in the picture, who presented it bast as “Boston’s Best Credit Clothiers.” That’s the way I see it, anyway.

    • According to the Library of Congress it’s Newburgh. I’m not an old timer to know if the buildings match.

    • That sure looks like the old Academy Theatre way in the background, just before the building with the steeple. Boyle Brothers could be a branch outlet just like bank branches are today.

    • I’m getting to be an old timer, ex-Newburgher, but too young to know the exact intersection as shown. I’d agree with Bob though that the shot might be Boston, since the adjacent sign to Boyle’s is for the Clifford Black and Co., which was a Malden, MA founded business. Seems unlikely the Newburgh waterfront would have showcased two Boston businesses in its building ad space. The Library of Congress is possibly mistaken in its caption.

  • Unfortunately, one of the last remaining track beds was recently destroyed when the Town of Newburgh widened Old South Plank Road at the intersection of Odell Circle. According to Town Supervisor Booth, the Homeowners’ Association wanted this done. Apparently, no notice was provided the owner of the property before work began and the trolley track bed was dug up and no longer exists.

  • One piece of the Newburgh Trolley Story that most people dont know is that several of the old cars were buried on the flats of state route 52 to help make the road bed in the swampy edges of Orange Lake iI do believe that the tracks are still visible in the parking lot of the old Muthig Bus Garage

  • The trolley in the final photo near Liberty Street School is not on Benkard Avenue, it is on Renwick Street. Liberty Street School was located on the corner of Renwick St and Liberty St. There were trolley tracks on Renwick Street, not on Benkard Ave.

  • Hi, Cher,
    The first picture in your blog segment on the Newburgh trolley is not a picture of Newburgh. I know it is listed as such in a few archives that share the old photo, but I think it is Middletown, NY – definitely not Newburgh.
    Also the 7th image is on Front Street not Broadway.

    Hope that helps your readers.

  • Thanks Mary! Ever so helpful!