Tracking The Trolley

Last night, alert “06880” reader/EMS deputy director Marc Hartog was working another job: traffic agent.

He assisted a construction crew installing water service to a building at the corner of Route 1 and Riverside Avenue.

Digging for the main, they uncovered old trolley tracks in the middle of Post Road West.

(Photo/Marc Hartog)

Treating them like dinosaur relics, the crew worked around the tracks, rather than removing them.

When the service is connected to the main, they’ll back fill and cover them with asphalt.

Once again, an important bit of Westport history will lie forgotten and undisturbed — until another 21st-century project digs deep, again.

(NOTE: In the 19th and early 20th centuries, trolleys rolled up and down the Post Road, connecting towns and cities all along the coast. A spur took riders to Compo Beach. Tracks remained through the 1950s, though service had been discontinued.)

15 responses to “Tracking The Trolley

  1. I think the tracks were visible into the early 1960s. I moved to Westport in 1959 at age two. I remember seeing the tracks on State Street/Post Road in what had to be the early 1960s.

  2. John L Krause

    Yeah, tracks were visible in several areas well into the 60’s. I was born at the top of the hill on the corner of Lincoln Street. As kids we always shouted out “Trolley car tracks!” when riding around town. And especially when passing down Wall Street in Norwalk past the old Trolly Barn. Which I believe still stands, but many times over re-purposed.

  3. Michael Calise

    When you see the level of the Trolley tracks it shows how the constant paving and repaving of the roads has elevated them to the grade level they are at now. This is clearly evident for most of the post road and Riverside Avenue against the older sidewalk levels and private property improvements. In some instances first floor levels are actually lower than street levels causing flooding in heavy rains.

  4. I think I remember visible tracks downtown near where Ships restuarant used to be.

  5. Imagine how green our society would be if we hadn’t abandoned the trolleys.

  6. And a line went down Riverside to connect the train station with downtown. Some of the townsmen would sit outside the Westport hotel (I.e. the YMCA, Anthroplogie) so they could catch a glimpse of the ladies ankles as the got off the trolley. Scandalous!

  7. Inspiration for Hardie Gramatky’s “Sparky: the Story of a Little Trolley Car” as I recall .

  8. The Connecticut Company (New Haven RR) had a lease from the Connecticut Rail and Lighting Company (United Illuminating) on the streetcar lines until the mid-thirties. When the lease ran out, the CR&L lines converted the routes to busses. When I was a kid in Westport (1955-62) only the Post Road route survived, though I think few Westporter’s ever rode it.

    The New York Times did an article where a reporter went from Wilmington DE toNew Haven CT using only local busses, and he found the Westport busses to be the worst encountered on the ride. Hopefully with public takeover things have improved, though I still doubt many Westporters actually use the busses–the Times said it’s passengers were mostly service workers coming to Westport to work.

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker

      I grew up in Westport and graduated from the Riverside location of Staples in 1958. From my days as a student at the Post Road location of Bedford Jr. High and then on through Staples we used to take public busses to school. We would walk from Bedford Jr. High to the center of town to catch the public bus. From Staples we could board the bus in front of Assumption but would often walk to the center of town for the chance to be asked by a boy to have a coke at Colgans Drug Store, now Tiffany’s. Those were the days………

  9. Does anyone know if there were tracks on Main Street.. along the section near Washington Ave and Gorham Ave. I grew up neon Washington Ave, and I swear I remember seeing trolley tracks poking up through the cement at some point when I was a kid (perhaps the road was being repaired or there was a pothole that revealed them). I could be mistaken and actually saw them elsewhere in town.. but I am pretty sure it was on that section of Main Street.

  10. My understanding — and readers please correct me — is that at their peak, an intrepid rider could go from NYC to Boston purely on trolleys. Transferring at the edge of each town to the next. Of course, the automotive industry did in the trolleys, just as they did in LA, so famous now for having so little public transportation, butonce had one of the country’s most extensive trolley systems. That Trolley Barn in Norwalk now has a great Peruvian restaurant called Aji 10 on the ground floor on Wall Street.

    • You could also go by trolley from Boston to Chicago. The demise was more complex than that. Trolleys required 2 operators (the unions would not budge), and infrastructure that had to be maintained and was taxed. Electric utilities often owned the streetcar lines but the government made that illegal. Their infrastructure was also not auto friendly, with islands in the middle of the street for boarding and tracks cars would slip on. Trolley’s nevertheless remained in several cities because they went into subways (Boston, Newark, Philadelphia but alas it didn’t save the Syracuse system), tunnels (Pittsburgh and San Francisco) or dedicated rights of way (Boston, New Orleans, Shaker Heights and other interurban systems). Things reversed in the 1980s when San Diego unveiled a new system which many cities have emulated.
      I currently live in San Francisco which has a line down Market Street, it’s main drag, where ancient PCC streetcars built in 1948 have been restored and run painted in liveries of most of the cities that ran such streetcars. Go to streetcar.org to see a live map of such streetcars running.
      One small city–Kenosha, Wisconsin, has also restored 7 PCC streetcars as a tourist draw, also painted in various liveries.
      Alas, Westport doesn’t have the population to support such an operation unless it could be justified as a tourist draw.

  11. Correcting myself–the CR&L Lines were owned by the Connecticut Light and Power Company. Streetcar service ended in 1936 and bus service ended in 1972. Another company, Cross Country bought some of their older busses and operated the service through Westport. These were probably the decrepit busses the New York times reporter rode on.

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