The Lake Line Trolley
Editor's Note: The following material is adapted from Chapter 7 of Harold E. Cox's Wyoming Valley Trolleys: Street Railways of Wilkes-Barre, Nanticoke and Pittston, Pennsylvania (Forty-Fort, PA 1988). Copyright © Harold E. Cox 1988. Used By Permission. The Preface and Afterword, plus material in brackets throughout the text, has been added to enhance the article. – F. Charles Petrillo, February 2002.
Chapter 4 -- The Short Line and Decline
The W-BD&HL made several half-hearted proposals of its own. In April 1901 rights were granted to build a line looping the lake on the public road. However, this was never built, possibly because of strong opposition from property owners. There were reports that the W-BD&HL would build a tunnel at Idetown but no further changes would take place until 1912.. From the beginning of electric service, the Harvey’s Lake cars had operated through Luzerne, following Main and Bennett streets. It was an indirect way to get to Dallas or Harvey’s Lake and ran on narrow congested streets. This meant that cars to the Lake could be delayed by street traffic and by local Luzerne cars through the borough, an arrangement which caused increasing dissatisfaction. Nothing could be done about the situation in the early 1900s because of financial problems of the W-B&WVT and the holding company which controlled it. In November 1909 the establishment of a new operating company, the Wilkes-Barre Railway, made new financing possible and on 23 September 1910, a new dummy corporation, the Wilkes-Barre & Luzerne Street Railway, was chartered. This company built a connecting line over Division Street, Kingston, and over a private-right-of-way to a connection with the old line just above the Iron Bridge across Toby’s Creek in Luzerne. The new line was built during 1911 and 1912, with considerable delays incurred in the construction of a railroad underpass for the line. The first rest run over what came to be known as the Short Line operated on 1 August 1912. The formal opening was on the 5th and regular service began the following day. Operation over the Short Line cut ten minutes off the running time, allowing the Lake to be reached in 55 minutes.
In addition to Fernbrook Park and Harvey’s Lake, the line served several large cemeteries. Branch lines were built into the grounds of Mt. Greenwood Cemetery in August 1910 and St. Nicholas Cemetery in July 1914. The Mt. Greenwood spur was torn up in February 1932, the spur to St. Nicholas in October 1931. Baggage car service was provided to the Lake through the summer of 1915. Trailers were operated during the summer far longer than on any other line. They were operated to the Lake through the 1916 season and ran as far as Mount Greenwood until October 1918. The Lake line continued to have the problem of uneven traffic. During the peak year of 1914, 65% of all car mileage over the line ran in only four months - from June to September. That winter, hourly service was provided from the Lake. This was clearly in excess of needs and alternate cars were turned at Dallas beginning in February 1916. While it meant that car crews sat at Dallas for forty minutes between trips, the power costs were saved. The Lake line also continued to have spectacular wrecks. On 22 September 1914, W-B&WVT Superintendent Edward Ervin was killed while motoring a two-car train which collided with an open motor car, operating in utility service and hauling a trailer loaded with stone. He had been running the car as a favor while the regular motorman ate his lunch. On 22 September 1921, cars 324 and 330 were destroyed in a head-on collision between Hays Siding and Dallas.
While business to the Lake declined steadily throughout the 1920s, the growth of population south of Dallas caused ever greater inequity in passenger loading. A decision to abandon the Hays Substation in 1931 in order to cut operating costs led to the closure of the line above Idetown on 5 July 1931, a shuttle bus hauling passengers from Idetown to the Lake. The schedule to Idetown allowed 40 minutes to get from Public Square during non-rush hours, an arrangement which allowed motormen little time for contemplation. Effective 16 September 1931, the cars were stopped at Dallas, providing some breathing room for crewmen. Alternate cars ran through to Idetown during the summer of 1932. Thereafter regular cars terminated at Dallas, although the Idetown line remained intact and was used during 1936 and 1937 for the operation of special cars for WPA workers. [When the trolley retreated to Dallas, the Wyoming Valley Autobus Company, a trolley subsidiary, leased the bus line to I.A. Rood, a Harvey’s Lake businessman. His son, Ben Rood, operated the bus for a time.]
Service over the Short Line was discontinued because of highway construction, the last car operating on 25 September 1938. Dallas cars were rerouted over the original line through Luzerne until the following spring when Luzerne’s Main Street was also rebuilt. The last cars from the Square to Dallas ran on 30 April 1939. In keeping with its accident record, a streetcar demolished an automobile at the Mount Greenwood highway crossing about 2:30 p.m. The streetcar rode up and over the auto and required the use of jacks to raise it high enough to get the auto out from underneath. [A line to from Wilkes-Barre to Dallas was substituted for the trolley. At Dallas passengers changed to another bus to the Lake.]
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo