APTA Streetcar and
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Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum


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Our three case studies, plus the many other examples of streetcar lines in operation or under construction across the country, offer a wide variety of models other cities and towns can emulate. One size does not fit all, but there is a right size for everyone. Your city or town, too, can do it.

And it should. That is the most important point of this study: regardless of who you are, how big you are (or how small), or where you are, a streetcar line (or larger streetcar system) would do you good. It would bring more people downtown, and people are the lifeblood of a downtown. It would both spur and channel development. It would make it easy for tourists to get around, without a car. It would help your town or city recover its own distinctive character, a character people can identify with and even love.

As conservatives, we find America’s past attractive. America in the streetcar era, from around 1890 to about 1950, was a great place. Many Americans who are not conservatives know that too. Who has not wished that they could visit (and ride the streetcars) of their grandmother or great-grandmother’s day?

Sadly, no one has yet invented a time machine. But people across the country are doing the next best thing: they are recovering good things from our past and bringing them to life again in the present.  Historic preservation and restoration of historic buildings is going on everywhere. “Retro” automobiles such as the new Volkswagen Beetle and the Chrysler PT Cruiser are selling well. Gentlemen are even starting to wear hats again.

Of all the things the past has to offer us, nothing could serve the present better than streetcars. We have no doubt that, if we could ask them, our ancestors would tell us so. In fact, we can ask a couple of them what joys the trolley car brought to their lives. In the early years of the twentieth century, two newlyweds decided that, for their honeymoon, they would journey from Delaware to Maine, all by trolley. When they got home again, they wrote a book about it. Here's what trolley riding was like back then—when the cars ran through the countryside as well as in town:

If William Penn founded the Quaker city, God made its suburbs—a fair countryside that now passed before us in dissolving views, as our car at quickened speed plunged on to Willow Grove:

“Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures

As the Land skip round it measures.”

We trolleyed past lawns and meadows, stately villas and trim gardens, old wayside inns and ivy-covered churches lodged under the spreading trees; here a classic gateway with Ionic peristyle; there an ancient mansion half-hidden behind high walls of solid masonry; a wide stretch of green fields in the foreground; a background of woodland; winding country lanes deep in shade; and last but not least a valley sweeping northward and disclosing in far perspective green hills with a bluish haze…

“A shady road with a grassy track;

A car that follows free;

A Summer's scene at early morn;

A nickel for a fee.”36

Yes, we can go home again—by streetcar.

Photo: W.S. Lind

A shady road with a grassy track; A car that follows free.




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