Build the Trolley and They Will Come

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, October 06, 2017 9:43 PM

It seems as a kid in the New York area in the 50s, I watched as much of independent channel 5, 9, 11, and 13, as the network channels.

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Posted by 54light15 on Saturday, October 07, 2017 9:53 AM

Yeah, me too. My mother had the kitchen radio permanently tuned to WOR with Rambling with John Gambling. They would have school closing annnouncments on that station. Heavy dew? Half the schools in New Jersey would be closed. Major blizzard? Nope, on Long Island you've got to go to school! 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, October 07, 2017 10:08 AM

Hey! Watch that "Heavy dew? Half the schools in NJ would be closed" stuff!

We was tough in the Jersey 'burbs!  Walked ten miles to school in the snow, uphill in both directions, in MAY!

Seriously, the Paramus NJ school system (Which Lady Firestorm and I attended) was served by an independant school bus company at the time. (1960's)  Their criterion was if a school bus could get up the Century Road hill in the snow, schools opened.  If it couldn't, no school.

Very rarely were schools closed for snow.  Now, down here in the Richmond VA area where we live now they close the schools for a heavy frost!

Oh, and I remember "Rambling With Gambling" very well indeed!  Very enjoyable radio show, and I really enjoyed it when John Gambling's father, John B, who originated the show in 1925 used to fill in for his son.  John B. had a very charming British accent and was a World War One veteran.

Talk about triggering a memory, on one show where John B. filled in for his son he played a song called "A Scottish Soldier" that I never forgot and I didn't hear again for nearly forty years.  Heard it at a Scottish festival here in Richmond, stopped me dead in my tracks when I heard it, and found it on You Tube not too long ago.  Here it is, and any veterans out there will appreciate it, if you've ever worn a uniform you'll "get it."  Very moving.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OSOKUmyTUY

Really drifting away from trolleys at this point!

OK, getting us back to trolleys...

Found a really neat video of Public Service trolleys in Union City NJ in 1949.  Priceless, both for the trolleys AND the automobiles!  And remember, these trolleys were probably the last of the last, aside from the Newark subway trolleys which survive today, although they certainly don't look like these cars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5COMjqDULX4

Pretty good, huh?  Want some more?  OK, I'm eager to please!  Here's some more Public Service action, from Union City NJ to Weehawken, to Newark, to Caldwell, and points all 'round.  In addition to the trolleys look for the "All Service Vehicles" and the PCC's, plus some Public Service buses. Thank goodness for those who had the foresight to capture these scenes on film!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZraaMXh3WS8

Fascinating for me since I have no memories of these things at all, except the buses.

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Posted by Miningman on Saturday, October 07, 2017 2:10 PM

Very very nice Firelock76. Thanks for finding and posting these.

The song is terrific...now that requires some talent to pull that off.

The NJ transit systems films are enough to bring a tear to the eyes of even Dave K. Love that scene as they go by a New York Central service facility with steam locos on the ready. Who's the guy on a horse? Must be the police. 

They are an excellent little video to show to new generations as to what we have lost. Those streetcars could turn on a dime literally and the films really do demonstrate that several times. 

They cut the cars in half, even with the poles still up, to prevent re-use.....good grief. That is the kind of stuff that stabs us old softies right in the gut. 

Clean, efficient, reliable mass transit the way it's supposed to be. 

 

 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, October 07, 2017 2:22 PM

You're welcome Miningman, I hope everyone gets to see and enjoy them.

I'm scratching my head at "...cut in half to prevent re-use..."  Re-use by whom?  Scrapping is scrapping, and if some-one else was interested in purchasing the cars for re-use what would Public Service care, as long as they made money on it?  I guess we'll never know.  It's a bit of a puzzler.

I found the shots of the New York Central's Weehawken terminal very interesting, it was the terminus for the West Shore Line, now CSX's River Subdivision, although CSX doesn't go there anymore, the River Sub terminates in a yard in North Bergen NJ now, that Weehawken facility's long gone.

You know, my second-oldest memory is of a steam locomotive on the West Shore, I can close my eyes and still see it,  the NYC ran steam there as late as 1956 from what I've read, which would have made me three years old at the time.

My oldest memory?  That's of a very beautiful young woman at the kitchen sink, and then a very handsome young man with a brown-bag lunch coming in and kissing her goodbye, as he was leaving for work.

OK now, everybody say  "Awwwwwww..."

As the great Sir Winston Churchill said in the brilliant opening of his autobiography, "Who is it can say when memory begins?"

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Posted by Paul of Covington on Saturday, October 07, 2017 2:33 PM

   Back in the '50's, in New Orleans, we lived a few blocks from the car barn.   They were removing several streetcar lines, and we'd see a flat bed truck trailer go by with half a streetcar on it, then a little later we'd see the other half go by.   It was sad--it looked like they were brutally torn apart.  Many years later, I read that it had been observed in other parts of the country that scrapped cars were littering the countryside, used as sheds or whatever, and they wanted to avoid the unsightly scene.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, October 07, 2017 9:13 PM

NJ built a lot of diner style restaurants.  Maybe they didn't want people using old trolleys a a cheap substitute.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, October 07, 2017 10:34 PM

MidlandMike

NJ built a lot of diner style restaurants.  Maybe they didn't want people using old trolleys a a cheap substitute.

 

Ummm, maybe.  It's as good a guess as any.  New Jersey had a number of diner manufacturers, Kullman, Tierney, and O'Mahoney spring to mind, but collusion between them and Public Service to keep old trolleys out of the hands of those who'd convert them to eaterys seems a bit unlikely. 

But hey, who knows?  It would take quite a bit of work and a total gut job of an old trolley to turn it into a serviceable diner, however.  Might have been cheaper to buy a new purpose-built diner, they did come in all sizes and the financing usually was quite reasonable.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, October 08, 2017 3:42 AM

I think he means

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, October 08, 2017 3:46 AM

I think he means that local governments or citizens didn’t want their neighborhoods dotted with shabby streetcars, the prewar equivalent of roach coaches.  Not that manufacturers of diners colluded with Public Service or scrapyards to see the cars ‘halved’ or burned to increase their potential market share...

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, October 08, 2017 9:15 AM

That's a good point too Overmod.  I'll say this much though, I've had some pretty good snacks n' stuff out of roach coaches over the years.

And of course, Mr. Magoo's old alma mater Rutgers has it's "Grease Truck" tradition!

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Posted by 54light15 on Sunday, October 08, 2017 9:34 AM

If you like old diners, "lunch wagons" and the like, go to Worcerster, Massachusetts. That seems to be the place where it's a major cult and I think where it all started. There's some awesome historic diners there. As I understand it, diners were made to look like trolley cars but were never actual transit vehicles but some must have been. The key thing that designates it as a proper diner is that it was built in a factory and trucked to the site. There is or was a diner newsletter called "Roadside" that you could pick up in diners. It's got articles about restorations, manufacturers, recipes and all kinds of info. Similar to a magazine that we all read. 

In Red Hook, New York is the Red Hook Diner on Route 9, a 1927 Kullman that is on the National Register. Best home fries I ever ate! There's several at exits on the Taconic Parkway such as the Chief Taghkanic at the Route 23 exit to Hillsdale, New York. It's like stepping back in time in that place. 

 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, October 08, 2017 10:12 AM

54Light, you pretty much hit the high points concerning diners. 

"Roadside" magazine as we knew it, Lady F and I were subscribers once, doesn't exist anymore, however for fans of the magazine there is a website...

www.roadsidefans.com

"Roadside Fans" trys to pick up where the old mag left off concerning diner culture, and it's well worth a look.

I'll tell you, Lady F and I, along with our friend Shotgun Charlie, would rather go to a good, solid, reliable diner than any fancy restaurant around.  When we're hungry, we want food, and plenty of it, not atmosphere.

Unfortunately, where we live in Virginia now there's no diners in the conventional sense, we have to go back to New Jersey for them.

There's another website, www.njdiners.com which is fun, but it looks like it hasn't been updated for several years.

For a real treat, check this site out, www.johnbaeder.com

John Baeder's an artist of the "Photo-Realist" school, and one of his favorite subjects is diners.  Go to the "Oil" and "Watercolor" sections of his site to see them.  Who knows, you may find a favorite diner you've been to!

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Posted by 54light15 on Sunday, October 08, 2017 11:03 AM

Great websites, Firelock, thanks for posting. We don't have diners here in Canada but the equivalent would be the souvlaki and burger joints in every town. Usually storefronts, sometimes free standing buildings. Go in and ask for a cheeseburger with onions and lettuce. The guy will interrupt you and say, "Chizbooger!" (really) then he will cook it and then say, "What you like?"  Every single one of these places works just this way.  I eat at these places all the time. 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 6:08 PM

Now I know this thread's supposed to be about trolleys, and not the stinky, smelly, smoke-belching diesel buses that replaced them, but the following  old radio commercial's too good to pass up, especially if you remember it like I do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjVF0IKKlZc

Sometimes you can get nostalgic for buses too.

 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, October 19, 2017 8:41 PM

'Bout time we kicked some life back into this thread!

I found this old, old bit of footage, shot by Edison in 1903.  It's a trolley ride through the streets of Boston as it was at the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGBN8_9aGmY

Take a deep breath before you click the link, because when you do for the next eight minutes you will be in the company of ghosts.

A fascinating film clip, but a bit eerie as well.

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Posted by Miningman on Thursday, October 19, 2017 11:27 PM

Ghosts is right..man those sidewalks were packed with people. 

Really be something of an experience to spend an afternoon there at that time. Have to buy a top hat first though. 

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Posted by 54light15 on Friday, October 20, 2017 9:29 AM

Top hat, sure. And spats. Maybe some high boots to deal with the horse manure. But make sure you have your polio shot first. 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, October 20, 2017 10:05 AM

54light15

Top hat, sure. And spats. Maybe some high boots to deal with the horse manure. But make sure you have your polio shot first. 

 
Unfortunately, the first polio shots didn't come until about 1955 with the Salk vaccine.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by 54light15 on Friday, October 20, 2017 11:14 AM

I know, that was sort of a theme of one of Woody Allen's recent films, "Midnight in Paris." If you're ever going back in time, make sure you have all your shots. Life expectency wasn't much back in 1900. 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Friday, October 20, 2017 6:35 PM

Life expectancy in 1900?  I think the average was 55 years old.  Certainly if you were a child back then you had only a 50/50 chance of making it to adulthood.

An interesting thing I've noticed from being a student of history.  Back in those days, it seemed the longer you lived the better your chances were of living longer.  55 may have been the average, but quite a few people lived much longer than that. 

Anyway, I'd certainly love to go back to those days for a visit, but I certainly wouldn't want to stay there. 

But who knows for sure?  If any of those people in the film were still around today, I'm sure a lot of them would say "Come now, my good man.  It wasn't all bad!"

I'm not sure how good I'd look in a top hat, or a derby for that matter.

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Posted by Paul of Covington on Friday, October 20, 2017 6:53 PM

54light15

Top hat, sure. And spats. Maybe some high boots to deal with the horse manure. But make sure you have your polio shot first. 

 

   Speaking of polio--I remember seeing quite a few years ago, I think on PBS, a program about polio that claimed that it was not a serious problem back when horses were everywhere because almost everyone came in contact with it in infancy.   Apparently, at a very early age the body's immune system could cope with it, and once you had it, you were immune for life.   I remember it because it seemed to be a case where more sanitary conditions caused an epidemic.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, October 21, 2017 8:17 AM

Here's an interesting fact about early-life immunization.  While records were kept of these things the US Army found that from the Civil War up to World War One regiments raised in American cities were healthier than those raised in rural areas.

The reason wasn't too hard to figure out.  Any diseases (and disease was the biggest killer of soldiers up to World War Two, not enemy bullets) those recruits from the cities were likely to catch they'd already caught and survived, the population density of the cities was the reason.  Recruits from rural areas that didn't have the population density and the intense human contact that comes with it weren't exposed to those same diseases, and when they were hit with them they were hit hard and usually died from them. 

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