Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Lewisburg, Milton & Watsontown Railway Trolley

The LM&W on North Main Street In Watstontown

The Lewisburg, Milton, and Watsontown Passenger Company was organized in 1897 by Philadelphia Capitalists Henry V. Massey and Edward A Tennis.  It was was the first trolley company in Northumberland County.  Within a few months, "the dirt was flying from picks and shovels of a work-gang of Italian and Hungarian laborers recruited in Philadelphia, whose hustle was described as an object lesson for the American Workman."

The first trial run was made from Milton to the east end of the river bridge at Lewisburg on February 9 1898.

A Lewisburg, Milton & Watsontown  Passenger Trolley Car

Lewisburg Chronicle, Feb 1898

The Trolley running along the river in Lewisburg.

The line connected Lewisburg to Watsontown.  It followed river road north through Lewisburg, crossed the east bank into Milton, entering at south Font Street, where it ran north to Broadway.   

 "The trolley used the covered toll bridge.  The grade from the riverbank to the railroad bridge at the East Lewisburg was steep and difficult to negotiate.  Before crossing the bridge, the conductor called the Pennsylvania Railroad station agent at Lewisburg on the telephone to request a clear track.  He then opened the switch, crossed the bridge, and pulled onto a siding at the station at North Second and St. John Streets."
Read More About The Lewisburg Covered Bridge Here

The trolley crossing the bridge between Lewisburg & Montandon

Trolley along the river  at Milton, 1910

The trolley  on front street in Milton

The same photo as above, labeled as South Front Street, Milton

 At Broadway the line turned east to Arch street, then north to Locust Street, west to North Font Street.  Following North Front street, it ran along the river to the outskirts of Watsontown.  

The Trolley on Broadway, Looking East From Front Street, Milton

The Trolley on Broadway in Milton

Broadway, west from bound avenue

Broadway, Milton PA

The Trolley Barn  on Locust Street, Between Front & Arch Streets

Salvation Army  1st Annual Outing
Harvey E. Coup was the motorman

The Pennsylvania Railroad owned the old canal outside of Watsontown, and at first it  would not allow the trolley line to cross it.  The train crossed the canal bridge for the first time in April of 1898, according to the Watsontown Record & Star newspaper.

The Trolley At Riverside Park, Milton

Riverside Park, Between Milton & Watsontown, was an amusement park built by the trolley company to encourage locals to ride the trolley.  The park had a ferris wheel, dance hall, tennis courts, bear cage, and hosted many events.
See more photos of Riverside Park here:

The Trolley on South Main Street in Watsontown 

April 1898

 Trolley, Main Street Watsontown

 Trolley on North Main Street, Watsontown

“The first car crossed the canal bridge at Port May and passed through town shortly after four o’clock on Monday afternoon [April 4, 1898].  As it came somewhat unexpected there was no special demonstration, but a few flags were unfurled to the breeze when it started on the return trip.  Tuesday morning the car began regular trips, beginning at 6 o’clock and arriving and departing every hour with unvarying regularity.  Our people recognize it as a great convenience and the patronage indicates that the steam road is having very slim traffic between here and Lewisburg.  The service is excellent now, but it is understood that as soon as a switch is put in near Muddy Run, another car will be used and trips made every half hour, thus doubling the accommodation.”The Record and Star April 8, 1898,

 The Trolley on South Main Street In Watsontown

 A view of the trolley tracks in Watsontown

 The Trolley on Main street in Watsontown, Klapp's Drug Store on the left

Trolley On Main Street in Watsontown, Empire restaurant on the left

A ride from Milton to Watsontown cost 5 cents and took 20 minutes.

The Last Run Of the LM&W

The Last Run Of The Lewisburg, Milton, And Watsontown Trolley.

The last  run of the Milton, Lewisburg & Watsontown trolley stopped at the Lewisburg bridge on August 1 1928, unwilling to even pay the cost to cross the toll bridge. 

Two local diners, one between Milton and Watsontown, and one in West Milton, were created in old trolley cars in the 1940's and 50's. See the Aunkst Diner between Watsontown & Milton here.

The Miltonian
July 1928

Trolley Accidents
Children hitching a ride on the wrecked trolley

In 1906, Motorman Walter Bubb of Milton was headed to Milton and forgot he had to wait at the switch for the car bound to Watsontown.  The two cars collided head on.  George Thornton, the motorman of the car heading to Watsontown, reversed the lever and jumped from his car, escaping uninjured.  A female passenger also jumped, spraining her ankle.
Bubb was caught in the wreck, breaking both of his legs.  He was taken to Williamsport hospital for treatment.  Both trolley cars were badly smashed.

In 1907 a wreck car was attempting to make a switch and failed to reach it, colliding with a passenger car "at considerable speed". The motorman and all but three women ("one a cripple") jumped off. The impact of the car pushed the passenger car back, and the women, with no motorman aboard, feared it would plunge into the river, jumped off.
The women were named as Miss Edyth and Mary Ziegler of Dubois and Miss Grace Struble of Vicksburg.

In 1907 an "old veteran at Milton" committed suicide by tthrowing himself under the wheels of the trolley car.  

Trolley Workers & Crew
Harvey E. Coup was the motorman, or operator, for Lewisburg-Watsontown trolley. A banner on the front of the trolley indicates the "Salvation Army First Annual Outing".

The Trolley Crew At Watsontown Pa
The house in the background is the old Doc Persing home, 10th and Main street.
John Eggbert Falls is standing in the middle with the broad brimmed hat.  Look close and you can see he is missing most of his right arm.  He lost it in 1910 while coupling trains. 

Workers on the trolley tracks near Watsontown

Photo of workers on the trolley tracks

The LM&W Railway Trolley

The Lewisburg, Milton, Watsontown Trolley
The gentleman with the change maker is identified as John Evans

August 1931
Trolley tracks sold to junk dealer.

In September 1931 the rails were removed near the fair grounds at Milton

"A 1921-built gasoline powered Mack Model AC railbus. The chassis was built by Mack, and the body was built by Brill. It originally was constructed, serial number 6005, as number 20 for the Lewisburg, Milton & Watsontown Passenger Railway, a Pennsylvania trolley line."

In the 1920's, the battery car was replaced by a railbus manufactured by the Mack Truck Company.

The Battle Over The Canal Bridge
The bridge over the canal at Port May, Watsontown

The LM&W and the Pennsylvania Railroad battled in court for four years over the right away into Watsontown.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the Trolley lost, in 1902.  After the loss, the company considered abandoning the entire line.
The trolley however,  continued to run into Watsontown through at least 1912 (and I believe right up until the trolley stopped running in the late 1920s - but the last photo I have dated in Watsontown is 1912) so some agreement or alternate track must have been accomplished.


There's a book about the trolleys in our area on Amazon
I have not yet seen it myself - I'm ordering a copy.


For More Local History

[Ebay Listing]
This is an ORIGINAL B&W photograph of the old Lewisburg, Milton & Watsontown (PA) Passenger Railway Trolley #14 (a battery powered car). Photo is undated and appears to be of a builders photo, as various dimensions (both printed and drafted) can be seen above and below the trolley photo

More Old Newspaper Articles About The Trolley Line:

Lewisburg Chronicle Feb 1898

The trolley was denied permission to build a bridge over the canal back in 1898, but they did eventually build the bridge, winning a suit against the railroad to do so. The RR took the case to the Superior Court, where the ruling was reversed, but the Trolley Company then took the case to the Supreme court, dragging the battle out for four years.  The trolley company lost their battle in 1902.

March 1903
The Canal Bridge At Watsontown was located at "Port May"
Roughly across from where Watsontown Brick stands today.

1907 Accident

1907 Suicide on the tracks

 1911 Complaint About Coupon Book Fairness
1940 is 1914 Worst Snowstorm in the past fifteen years
  16 inches fell overnight

The last trolley ran in 1929.
 The tracks were sold to a junk dealer, and at least partially torn up, in 1931
This article is from 1939. 

With Both Legs Broken and is in a Serious But Not Dangerous Condition. He Forgot to Wait at the Switch on the Other Car Motorman Thornton Saw the impending Crash, and Jumping, escaped injury. A Lady Passenger Sprained an Ankle.
Walter Bubb, of Milton, a motorman on the trolley line in that place, was brought to the Williamsport Hospital last night badly injured, the result of a head on collision of cars, which occurred about two miles above Milton, on a sharp curve, along the river, about 7:20 0 clock in the evening. Bubb is a married man.
Went by the switch
Bubb was on his way to Milton with his car, and no doubt forgot that he had to wait at the switch for the car bound for Watsontown. The result was a head-on collision. George Thornton, the motorman on the other car, saw Bubbs car coming, and, realizing that a collision was inevitable, reversed the lever and jumped, escaping uninjured. A lady passenger also jumped and sprained an ankle
Both Legs Broken
Motorman Bubb, however, was caught in the wreck, and both bones of his right leg at the ankle were fractured, while the left leg was broken at the knee. He is in a serious but not dangerous condition.
Both cars were badly smashed, one car running up onto the other to about the third seat. They were open cars.
Daily Gazette and Bulletin, Williamsport, PA 18 Aug 1906


1 comment:

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