Over the years, the idea of re-instituting trolley service on Greenwich Avenue has been suggested to calm traffic in our central business district. I say "re-instituting" because Greenwich actually had trolley service in the early Twentieth Century! In fact, one could catch a trolley in Port Chester and get off on Atlantic Street in Stamford. Residents took the trolley to see movies and shop in the stores in Stamford.
According to the Saturday, August 7, 1897, issue of the Greenwich Graphic, the first trolley was built by Henry Van Hoevenbergh. It was a 6-passenger, horseless electric trolley - without rails - which travelled one-quarter mile form the Greenwich Railroad Station to Silleck House (a summer hotel), which still stands on Steamboat Road. The trolley ran from 3 pm to 5 pm every afternoon, at no charge. Plans to build a 12-passenger trolley never materialized.
There was opposition to expanding trolley service in Greenwich. People used such questionable arguments as their horses would be frightened; riders might fall off the trolleys; businesses would suffer as people would be afraid to cross the tracks; summer residents would be scared away by the noise of trolley bells; and the view of overhead wires would ruin the town's image! Once again, Greenwich was demonstrating a reluctance to embrace change.
In 1900, despite opposition, the Greenwich Tramway Company was given permission to install overhead wires and track for an electrified trolley system. New track was installed from Mill Street in Byram (East Port Chester) to the Greenwich Railroad Station. On August 14, 1901, regular service was established between Greenwich and Port Chester.
In the summer of 1902, tracks were installed north up Greenwich Avenue, then east along the Boston Post Road to the Mianus River. Regular service began on September 14, 1902 on a twenty-minute schedule. Since the Mianus River Bridge was not strong enough, passengers had to walk across the bridge to connect with the Stamford trolley, which ran east of the Mianus. Some riders were incensed that it cost 5-cents from Port Chester to the Mianus River, and another 5-cents to Stamford! It wasn't until 1906 that a stronger steel bridge was constructed that could support the trolley and allow "through" service.
Around 1906 workers began to install double tracks along portions of East Putnam Avenue and Greenwich Avenue. Passbys had to be built where Greenwich Avenue was too narrow for double tracks. This must have been necessary for the increase in trolley traffic.
About the same time, a secondary line from Stamford evolved. This trolley ran from Stamford Square via Fairfield Avenue to Shore Road up Sound Beach Avenue through Old Greenwich (Sound Beach) to Adam's Corner. A short spur line was also constructed west at the southern end of Sound Beach Avenue along Shore Road toward Greenwich Point. The trolley looped around a house across the street from the Harbor House and Inn. You can see where the trolley looped around the house today. Since this area had become something of a summer resort over the years, vacationers used the trolley to travel back and forth between Port Chester, central Greenwich and Stamford.
The future of the trolley appeared very bright in 1912 as the first trolley car to travel from Boston to New York passed through Greenwich. However, ridership began to decline with the invention of the automobile. Automobiles and buses took over the roads. These vehicles offered great flexibility since they required neither electric lines or track. And they could be driven just about anywhere at anytime. Trucks took over a lot of the shipping business. In 1922 service along Shore Road in Old Greenwich ceased as buses replaced trolleys. Other lines in town soon followed suit. Eventually, the track was removed and the trolleys disappeared.
Interestingly enough, in recent years the idea of using trolleys to alleviate parking congestion on Greenwich Avenue has been proposed. Imagine a trolley running up and down Greenwich Avenue, like the one in San Francisco. People could park their cars in the Island Beach parking lot and catch a trolley up the Avenue. Not only would this add some charm to the Avenue, but it could be a potential source of revenue.
Photo: Electric trolley and horse and buggy on Greenwich Avenue - 1906.
Greenwich Library Photo Collection