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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: What happened to the trolley line plans?

  • [This is the conclusion of our 3-part series on the Honesdale-Hawley electric trolley line which was first discussed in local newspapers as early as 1898. Tracks were actually being laid on Main Street, Honesdale in 1906, with the plan to follow the old canal towpath to Hawley. The project went through various company transfers and several delays. Here's what happened...]
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  • [This is the conclusion of our 3-part series on the Honesdale-Hawley electric trolley line which was first discussed in local newspapers as early as 1898. Tracks were actually being laid on Main Street, Honesdale in 1906, with the plan to follow the old canal towpath to Hawley. The project went through various company transfers and several delays. Here's what happened...]
    HAWLEY- Governor J. K. Tener granted the charter in May 1913 to the Wayne County Railway Company.
    The right-of-way had been secured. Once the charter was in hand, work on the route from Honesdale to Hawley could be pushed to completion.
    May 23, 1913… The Citizen newspaper in Honesdale is very optimistic. The editor, Edwin B. Calloway, writes, "Hats off to the trolley. The Citizen takes great pleasure in announcing … the long talked-about and wished-for trolley road between Honesdale and Hawley is surely to be built. This is glad news and we are as anxious to hear of it as you. Three cheers to the Wayne County Street Railway Company! Long may it live and prosper."
    An advance guard was in Honesdale in mid- July 1913 making preparations, cleaning out the Cortright cold storage building. The first installment of laborers, who were of Polish nationality, was expected the next week. E. F. Draper of New York City was in town, reporting that ties will be placed along the surveyed route that week and all material had been ordered. Once work is started, track was expected to be laid at a rate of a quarter mile a day.
    Draper came with good credentials, having built seven trolley roads and operated one.
    The company stockholders met and elected officers and 11 directors- nine from Honesdale and "two Hawleyites."
    Erie Railroad had acquired the D&H Canal Towpath in this area at some point after the canal's closure. Draper secured the right-of-way from the Erie between the two towns.
    Two hundred workmen had been engaged, and were expected to lay about a half mile of track a day. Material had already been ordered. Barns to store the trolley cars were to be erected just below Herman's (4th Street) Bridge in Honesdale. Ten of the most up-to-date cars were to be purchased. Not all of this fleet was expected to be in use at once, except at busy times such as a holiday.
    On June 19, 1913, work started at 4th Street to erect poles for the overhead lines. A steel bridge with concrete piers was planned to take the trolley over Carley Brook and onto the old canal towpath.
    *** Hawley pens a verse
    The unnamed Hawley columnist in the June 13, 1913 issue of The Citizen had lots to say about the trolley, beginning with a little rhyme:
    "'Fare please! Soon will be the train man's merry call, "And from our pockets wide and deep gray nickels we will haul, "And we'll gladly hand them over.
    Page 2 of 5 - "We'll hum like bees in clover,
    "Then praise the builders of the road in language strong and tall."
    The columnist penned that Hawley folks were in need of patience to spend their money and take a ride on the hopeful new trolley line. One thing for certain, the columnist wrote, before Election Day 1913, "Honesdale ladies can have every opportunity of visiting Hawley and incidentally of doing a little shopping with Hawley merchants, stopping at the White Mills stores on their way to complete their purchases, and then get a car for home in time to get supper ready for 'the old man in the house.' Ahem!"
    He (we think the columnist was a "he") added that there are as many opinions about the trolley as the man in Pittston reported to have 26 children. The columnist suggested it would be a jolly time for this brood to take the Laurel Line trolley in Scranton to catch the Wyoming Division train to Hawley, catch the trolley to Honesdale and go home by way of the D&H train to Carbondale and points west.
    *** Bonds secured
    In July of 1913, Honesdale Council reported that a $10,000 bond had been filed by the Wayne County Railway Company to protect the Borough from any legal trouble arising from the former trolley company. It still looked like the trolleys might run after all. Work had begun on a concrete bridge to carry the trolley over the former canal basin, leaving the roadway and entering the old canal towpath that led to Hawley.
    A contract had been secured with an engineer, William Regali of Scranton.
    Honesdale Council that month had presented an ordinance saying that the Wayne County Railway Company shall begin franchises and privileges "within three months" of passing the ordinance and "have its railway fully equipped and conveying passengers, baggages, freight and mails within 12 months and continually thereafter."
    The $10,000 bond would also hold Honesdale Borough harmless upon removal of the rails and ties "now in Main and Park Streets."
    *** End of the line
    At the December 4, 1913 meeting of Hawley Council, the Council signed a petition filed by Martin B. Allen, president, and Charles B. Dodge, secretary of the Wayne County Railway Company, asking for a six month extension of the franchise to run the trolley. Hawley Borough had first granted the company the franchise early in 1913 but it was permitted to expire three months before (around September) by the failure to begin operations on the streets of Hawley, within six months of passing the ordinance.
    Hawley Council was waiting for legal opinion to know if a new franchise would be required. The petition also said a bond would be furnished before the company began work in Hawley. No application had been made to Honesdale Council for an extension of time; the franchise there had also been allowed to expire. The original franchise from the Wayne County Railway Company called for trolley operations to begin in Honesdale in June of 1913.
    Page 3 of 5 - Plans continued to unfold as 1914 came. Wayne County Railway Company had expanded its goals to continue the line in Honesdale up the center of North Main Street and reach as far north as Tanners Falls, about six miles from town.
    Tanners Falls at that time was a village built around a large tannery operation. Abandoned in the late 1950's due to the Jadwin Dam flood control project, the village was completely demolished.
    Businessmen in Hawley were still skeptical of what benefit the promised trolley line would do for their town and commerce. The "Down Hawley Way" columnist in the Wayne County Citizen, March 27, 1914 edition, stated that people in town heard the trolley line would be built that spring and summer. The writer noted, however, "an absence of enthusiasm" over the project. The question of the day, he said, was, "How and to what extent will the troller road benefit Hawley?"
    Interest was high in the hydroelectric project that would dam the Wallenpaupack River at Wilsonville and make a huge reservoir. Supplying power for the Paupack Electric Company. There was suggestion that work on the trolley road would hurry completion of the power project, since the trolley company was expected to receive power from the Wilsonville project more cheaply than if it could establish its own power plant.
    Population of Hawley and the Paupack Valley was expected to increase rapidly with the new power plant and attract new manufacturers. The trolley line, meanwhile, was still trumpeted by its supporters as a means to aid farmers and industry.
    ••• Trouble
    Trouble, however, was brewing in 1914 between Honesdale Borough officials and the Wayne County Railway Company.
    In January, Honesdale Council was informed that the Company wanted to lay "T" rail on Main Street in place of girder rail, which the Borough's franchise required.
    "T" rail had previously been laid in the street. In April, Honesdale Council ordered the trolley company to remove the ties and rails within 30 days or Council would take action.
    That same month, Honesdale Council approved extending the franchise to June 21, at which time the two, $10,000 bonds were set to expire.
    Honesdale Council was in the midst of planning an ambitious project to pave their principal streets with brick. Wayne County Railway Company had agreed in the franchise to help pay for the paving, two feet on either side of the rails as well as between the rails.
    In May 1914, E.F. Draper, the principal behind the Wayne County Railway Company, approached Honesdale Council and said that he had bought material for the protection of the bondholders. He explained that the "T" rail was a much better design than girder rail. A proper sand cushion was needed between the bricks and the rail ties.
    Page 4 of 5 - Draper said that the "T" rail would not invalidate the franchise. Councilman George W. Penwarden made a motion, second by John Erk, to abide by the current franchise calling for girder rail. Council said they had done all they could for the trolley project and did not see where the Borough was at fault.
    Borough Solicitor William H. Lee advised that whichever party was at fault, ought to yield.
    Draper then stated that "if the present rails cannot be used, that none will be used."
    Council questioned if the state would approve of the change to the rails, and tabled the vote on the motion until an engineer's report was available.
    The May 12, 1914 Citizen reported that the nine foot strip up the center of North Main would not be taken care of by the trolley company. A grass median was suggested instead.
    No more mention of the dispute over the type of rails has been located. The June 9, 1914 issue, however, reported that Honesdale Council was planning to file suit with Wayne County Railway Company.
    The law suit was over the trolley company's failure to comply with the proposition to help pay for street paving. The Wayne County Railway Company has put up a bond of $10,000 to protect the Borough's interests.
    Solicitor Lee and attorney Elwin C. Mumford filed the suit for $10,000 on July 8, 1914, against Wayne County Railway Company and the Surety Title & Guarantee Company of Scranton.
    The outcome of this suit was not located in a search of newspaper archives or in the Honesdale Borough minutes.
    By the fall of 1914, Honesdale's principal street was paved over with brick, and discussion of the trolley seems to have faded away.
    ••• Moving forward
    The old canal towpath almost had a new chapter in its existence. Property owners instead largely filled in the old canal or used it for rubbish. A hundred years later, only a few segments remain to see where the canal and towpath once was active. Notably, a one-mile section just west of Hawley was preserved, and in 2013, the Wayne County Historical Society opened its D&H Lock 31 Canal Park. Today, the public is free to walk the towpath here, imagining the 19th Century canal days and yes, try and picture the electric trolley that almost made its way down here.
    When Hawley Borough paved its streets is still being researched. One thing we know, roads were improving. Henry Ford had made automobiles within reach of the average working person. By 1918, half of all of America's cars were Model T's. Eventually this would hasten the end of the trolley line's usefulness.
    Just looking at business directories for Hawley, in 1912 there was one automobile dealer/repair garage; in 1925 there were seven.
    Page 5 of 5 - No trolley was needed for progress to move forward.

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