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 article “Trolley 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.
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.
Passengers boarding trolley on Newburgh Waterfront to go to the Orange Lake Amusement Park.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.