Ever ride a real trolley car?
The ting-ting of the trolley bell, the growl of the gears, the ticka-ticka-ticka of the air compressor.
Take a step back in time to when many American towns and cities offered inexpensive and convenient transportation using electric trolleys.
Our collection has several operational trolleys, including an open car, high-speed interurban cars, fascinating maintenance-of-way cars, and two PCC Cars. Plus you’ll see more cars being restored in our shops by our talented volunteers.
You and your family can learn about trolleys and how generations before ours got around in America while enjoying a leisurely ride through the scenic countryside.
Your Trip Begins at the Meadow Street Platform
There are four locations where trolleys receive or discharge passengers. On regular operating days, scheduled trolleys depart from the Meadow Street Platform. Upon boarding, visitors will occasionally hear the pleasant chuga-chuga-chuga sound of the air compressor as it replenishes the air for the brakes. The conductor will sound two bells to depart and the motorman will sound two gongs. Riders will hear the rush of air as the brakes release and hear the characteristic hum of the electric motors.
The Brick Platform
Instead of waiting at Meadow Street, ticketed visitors may arrange with the dispatcher to board at the Brick Platform so that they may visit the Museum Store or other areas of the grounds until trolley departure. Trolleys will stop at the Brick Platform if waved down. Passengers can also arrange to disembark anywhere along the trolley line to take photographs and be picked up later by another car.
As the trolley departs the brick platform, it traverses the former Shade Gap Branch of the East Broad Top Railroad on standard (4 ft 8.5 in.) gauge. Visitors will get a short view of cars inside or in front of Carbarn 1. Next, the car passes a ball park and Carbarn 2. From this point on, the journey takes visitors through the nineteenth century realm of the Rockhill Iron Company that once operated here 24/7 with 700 employees. Shortly after passing Carbarn 2, the trolley will cross Cummins Road. Trolleys equipped with an air whistle will sound two longs, a short, and another long for the crossing; cars without a whistle will sound their gong.
As the car proceeds proceeds toward Altoff Siding, a trained eye will be able to spot the slag piles, but the average visitor will only see pleasant woodlands, meadows, and a small stream beside the track. Just as in the trolley era when the trolley industry was the 5th largest in the US and carried 15 billion passengers a year, there may be one or more trolleys waiting at the siding for our car to pass before they can enter the single track to return to Meadow Street. At Polar Bear Express, this will be the end of the ride and passengers will get off to enjoy a campfire and some goodies before returning.
After the siding, the car enters the narrows, where the woods are thicker and the mountain side steeper. There is a brief evidence of mine tailings where water pours out of one of the iron company’s now flooded mines but visitors are more likely to enjoy the view of the Blacklog Creek as it flows serenely to the left of the trolley track. As the car rounds the final curve, the Blacklog Narrows Platform appears ahead at the end of the track. There is a track on each side of the platform. Visitors may notice that the turnout from the switch to the siding is quite sharp; only a trolley can negotiate such a sharp turn (which was, in fact, designed and fabricated in our own shops). When the car comes to a stop, the motorman will give a brief history of the car and its significance in the trolley era.
Outside, the conductor will raise the front pole and then lower the rear pole. That is so the trolley can troll along on the overhead wire behind the car to pick up the 550 volt DC power on which the motors operate. Yes, the “trolley” is really the brass harp with the carbon insert at the end of the pole. Trolley cars got their name because they had a “Trolley”. Today many cities run buses with round ends and the word, “trolley”, painted on the side. None of them has a trolley nor does any of them feel remotely like a real trolley; now you know the difference. The motorman will reverse the direction of the seats (in some cars) and take the operating handles to the other end of the car. Most trolley cars operate from either end; the motorman determines which end is the front.
Rockhill Iron Company
After the car crosses Cummins Road on the return trip, the motorman may give a brief talk on the history of the Rockhill Iron Company as the car pauses next to the most visible of its remains. (Talks, pauses and tours may not occur during Special Events.) Shortly after, the motorman will stop to throw a switch so we can depart from the dual gauge track. The switch has a spring — it was not necessary to throw it when the car passed it on the outbound trip.
The trip usually ends at the Brick Platform but may instead end at the Carbarn 1 Lead steps or the Food Pavilion crosswalk. From here visitors may visit the Museum Store or gather for a tour of Carbarn 1 (except on Special Events days). If the group shows an interest, a guide may also show them through the restoration shop, which may also have cars from our collection parked outside. Carbarn 2 may also be toured, if we can find a volunteer guide. Passengers may also return on the car to Meadow Street.
Where is “the Museum?”
The answer is: as soon as you step out of your car, you’re in it! The museum is your trolley ride and all the things you’ll see throughout the grounds. Inside the Museum Store, there are a handful of pictures on display. These exhibits rotate periodically, but our collection of cars and equipment really is the heart of the exhibits.
The motorman or conductor may offer to take riders on a tour of the cars in Carbarn 1 at the conclusion of most excurions, but the best way to experience a trolley is by riding in it and seeing it come to life. While each car’s destination is the same, each ride is quite different. For this reason, tickets are good for unlimited rides on the day of purchase+. On many days there may only be enough qualified crew members to run one car at a time, but if visitors request to ride one of the other passenger cars that is out on display, the dispatcher will do his best to schedule it.
+On special days, like Pumpkin Patch or Ice Cream events, rides are unlimited (sorry, pumpkins, ice cream and other gifts included in event tickets are not). At Santa’s Trolley or Polar Bear Express, riders may only ride again if there are unsold seats.