THE EAST HERKIMER TROLLEY BRIDGE
By Betsey Voorhees
Trolley Bridge, Herkimer, N.Y.
On April 11, 1902, a franchise was granted to construct a trolley line to Utica to the Mohawk Valley Railway. In 1903 the East Herkimer Trolley Bridge was completed by a bridge-builder named Beckwith Quackenbush (1833-1903) of Mohawk, who became a carpenter at age 12. He joined the California mining Gold Rush and then was in Australia from 1849-1856. On his return, he was a heavy construction contractor. He built a section of the West Shore Railroad, sewers in the Boston area and also sewerage systems in New York, and the Washington, D.C. water system as well as parts of the electric railway system. With his expertise in constructing the trolley bridge over the West Canada Creek, the first trolley from Utica heading to Little Falls travelled through Herkimer on April 29, 1903.
A trolley (streetcar) resembled a bus except that it had a trolley device which connected to overhead wires and traveled on rails. The streetcar was operational when on rails and a connection was made with the overhead wires. The trolley connection to the wires could be tilted over, thus the streetcar was able to travel in the opposite direction without changing tracks just by maneuvering the trolley to the other end of the trolley car.
Herkimer, N.Y., Trolley Bridge
It was around the year of 1903 that some plank roads were paved with rocks. The base of the trolley rails were filled in with smaller rocks to help keep the dust down.
The trolley line was a great convenience and enabled local people to work in the upper valley towns, especially during World War I. Freight was also carried by the trolley line. People who were accustomed to having transportation provided by horse and wagon were enthralled to be able to board the trolley car traveling to their destination in comfort. In our area competition from automobiles and fixed fares caused the trolley line to discontinue operations on July 1, 1933.
Copyright © 2000 Betsy Voorhees
Postcards Courtesy of Betsy Voorhees
All Rights Reserved.