Relics found from Lititz’s last trolley Fittingly on display at historical location

By on October 3, 2012

By: CORY VAN BROOKHOVEN Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Trolleys have always fascinated me. What a treat it must have been to ride in one many years ago through the countryside. Unlike faster and more modern modes of transportation today — like buses, trains, or airplanes — trolleys served as a more pleasurable way to travel to places like Rocky Springs Park, downtown Lancaster, and several other nearby towns.

The story of how the trolley first came to Lititz is an interesting one. Originally, citizens met on Feb. 6, 1890 to discuss creating a trolley line that would run from Lancaster to Lititz. During the next year, in 1894, this idea became a reality when a charter was finally created that would make the dream possible.

It was decided that the Lancaster Traction Company would lease, for 999 years, the Lititz and Lancaster Turnpike so these two areas could be connected. Construction began, and by the end of April of 1895, track was successfully completed, stretching to Kissel Hill.

During the next month, permission was granted to lay track in the Borough of Lititz. However, it wasn’t until 1899 that this track was extended to the Reading and Columbia Railroad on Broad Street. In addition, a trolley waiting room was established inside Glassmyer’s Restaurant (now Tomato Pie Cafe, but more on this location later).

Lititz residents responded to this new mode of transportation in droves which made this unique and “modern” method of transportation affordable. Families could now visit one another with a little more ease and comfort.

Trolleys certainly had their imperfections, however. For instance, various stories have been documented of cars derailing due to snow drifts, especially in Kissel Hill. Often times, the women and children were left stranded in the cold as the men on board sought help from nearby families to shovel the trolley out of the snow. There were also occasional wrecks, with injuries.

Recently, Randy Miller of Lititz called me to his home to take a look at a few historical trolley items he had recently obtained. Having an interest in this method of transportation, I was very excited to see what he had in store for me.

When I arrived, he showed me two very interesting items and I was thrilled beyond belief to see them. While a friend of his was clearing out items that belonged to her father, she came across two items a trolley hand brake and a complete handle that was used to open a trolley door. I was ecstatic to view and hold these items in person.

As if this wasn’t enough, I was told that these particular artifacts came from the very last trolley to operate in Lititz!

These were donations from Randy’s friend who wanted to donate both items to the Lititz Historical Foundation. It was her late father’s idea to make a trip to Lititz to donate these items in person, however, he passed away in 2011 and did not have the chance to do so.

She has documentation that her grandfather William E. McCulloch (who at one time lived on Front Street) worked at the trolley barn in Lancaster. After the last Lititz trolley arrived at the barn, it was stored away. It was during this time that her grandfather removed these two items and gave them to his son Raymond, who tucked them away in his attic for several years.

Before his death, Raymond recalled to his daughter how large of an affair it was in town on the day that the last trolley left Lititz.

The year was 1938, and more modern methods of transportation were starting to take shape all around the county. He told her how numerous residents were disconnecting the pole from the line as the trolley made its last trip through Lititz, taking over an hour to leave the town limits. She recalled that he smiled widely as he thought back on this memory.

While examining these items, I too smiled widely as I imagined what it was like to use this form of transportation. To hold in my hand the very same handle that was used to open and close doors for hundreds of passengers as the trolley carried its guests from place to place was certainly a very special experience for me.

Arriving home that evening, I noticed that I had a small black smudge on my dress pants. My guess was that in all of my excitement, I had accidentally gotten some of the grease from the brake on me. I stopped and had to laugh for a moment as I deduced that I was probably the only person in Lititz in many many decades that had a grease smudge from a trolley part on his person. I assured myself that stains like this were certainly common on trolley operators and mechanics’ clothing. I felt fortunate to have this “souvenir” as a reminder of the hard work and dedication that it took to operate and maintain a trolley.

For a brief moment, I debated having this pair of pants framed to add to my collection of Lititz memorabilia. I am such a proud history nerd.

The hand brake and door handle that came from the very last trolley to leave Lititz are currently on display in the front window of the Tomato Pie Cafe for all to see. These items are fittingly placed there since this location not only served as a waiting room at one time, but was also in the vicinity of where the trolley stopped. It is a wonderful tribute to display these items in this temporary location for all to enjoy while passing by or stopping in for a meal.

Eventually, per the original request of the late Mr. McCulloch, these items will be housed at the Lititz Historical Foundation, where they will continue to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The Lititz trolley line may have ceased as we know it almost 75 years ago, but these items that survived the scrap yard will serve as a constant reminder of the glorious days when Lititz was a trolley town. More TROLLEY, page A19