Naked Emperor: Trolleys in Yonkers

No. 1 Trolley Warburton Line Shown near Getty Square

One of the trolley cars that took you all around Yonkers, N.Y., before the buses replaced them in 1952. The No. 1 trolley traveled on Warburton Avenue to Hastings-on-Hudson, and back to Getty Square where you could transfer to other lines.
One of the trolley cars that took you all around Yonkers, N.Y., before the buses replaced them in 1952. The No. 1 trolley traveled on Warburton Avenue to Hastings-on-Hudson, and back to Getty Square where you could transfer to other lines.

Trolleys Take to the Rails in 1886

The trolley, in 1886, replaces the only public transportation in Yonkers, a horse-drawn stagecoach operating between Getty Square and Mount Vernon.
The trolley, in 1886, replaces the only public transportation in Yonkers, a horse-drawn stagecoach operating between Getty Square and Mount Vernon.

Warburton Ave. Looking North, Philipse Manor Unseen at Left

The Yonkers I Knew -- With Trolley Tracks. Only the Soldiers & Sailors Monument is visible on the grounds of Philipse Manor.
The Yonkers I Knew -- With Trolley Tracks. Only the Soldiers & Sailors Monument is visible on the grounds of Philipse Manor.

Metro North Train Station in Yonkers

Yonkers Metro North train station near Larkin Plazal, where the Saw Mill River recently was 'daylighted' as part of the city's revival.
Yonkers Metro North train station near Larkin Plazal, where the Saw Mill River recently was 'daylighted' as part of the city's revival.

Washington Street, Norwalk, CT.

A postcard image circa 1910 of Washington Street, South Norwalk, Connecticut, where I moved to from Yonkers in 1951. Norwalk's trolleys were long gone by then. Yonkers trolleys were replaced by buses in late 1952.
A postcard image circa 1910 of Washington Street, South Norwalk, Connecticut, where I moved to from Yonkers in 1951. Norwalk's trolleys were long gone by then. Yonkers trolleys were replaced by buses in late 1952.

"Clang, clang, clang, went the trolley ... ding, ding, ding went the bell ..."

The words of that old familiar song bring memories to me of the wartime 1940s in Yonkers, N.Y. -- known by its natives in those days as "The City of Gracious Living." That city, more hilly than the "city by the bay," boasted trolley cars until the early '50s when buses took their place.

Those were the "good old days" despite the ravages of war, the blackouts, the rationing of sugar and gasoline, and the black-starred telegrams I sometimes helped my late brother deliver by bicycle to kin of fallen GI's.

Those were the days of soft music, great movies, fresh-from-the-farm food -- unadulterated by cross-breeding (tomatoes), whipping (butter), decaffeinating and freeze-drying (coffee), rolling (turkey), injection of water (ham) and treatment by chemical additives (bread) -- and, for most of us, the only high we experienced was when the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Yankees or the Giants made it to the World Series.

'Iron Monsters'

But, back to the trolleys! Many of us who grew up with the iron monsters look upon them now not only nostalgically, as we do, but also as an excellent form of transportation. In summer, the cars were often open-aired, operated on a full, convenient schedule and took you just about anywhere you wanted to go in the city from the subway in the Bronx to the city lines at Hastings-on-Hudson and Mount Vernon.

And they were fun; as kids, we often rode them all over town when there wasn't much else to do. It kept us out of trouble more than once.

We think of the trolleys quite a lot these days -- just about every time we find ourselves sitting patiently behind another car on Route 7, the (Merritt) parkway or the (Connecticut) turnpike. And, more often lately, on many of the (Fairfield) county's side streets. Here, at The Hour newspaper, it's an adventure trying to pull in and out of the driveway (on Route 7.)

Public Transportation

In fact, we've been preaching the benefits of public transportation for years, but not only buses. Logically, one should fit the mode of transportation to the goal, or destination, desired. A train or plane fits the bill for most long trips; private cars, limos, taxis, buses, bicycles, monorails, or even golf carts do the trick in other situations.

With today's limited-access "parking lots (the Merritt, I-95)," hasn't it become clear the automobile isn't the panacea it once was?

In the face of daily stagnated traffic, can anyone truly watch the naked king roll down the turnpike every morning without seeing that he has no clothes?

I wrote this column for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn. It appeared on June 27, 1987 as an "Editor's Notebook." At the time, I was a reporter and editor at The Hour, where I spent 32 years, from November 1968 until I retired on June 1, 2000. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

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Chip Taylor Sings 'Yonkers, New York'

Getty Square, Yonkers, New York

Getty Square, the hub of Yonkers trolley cars in the early 20th Century.
Getty Square, the hub of Yonkers trolley cars in the early 20th Century.

1941 Photo of 'Hitler's Face' on the Palisades

The "Hitler" face, c. 1941 on the Palisades of New Jersey as seen from the Hudson River. See upper left side of the rockslide. Another rockslide obliterated the face after WW II. (Photo by the Yonkers Ferry Corporation).
The "Hitler" face, c. 1941 on the Palisades of New Jersey as seen from the Hudson River. See upper left side of the rockslide. Another rockslide obliterated the face after WW II. (Photo by the Yonkers Ferry Corporation). | Source

The Changing Scene in Downtown Yonkers

The Trolley Song Performed by Judy Garland

Bing Crosby: A Favorite of Many in Yonkers

More by this Author


Comments 29 comments

JazLive profile image

JazLive 9 years ago from Decatur

An experienced writer - Yeah! Welcome to the HUB Community :)

Gettin' Better by the Tic' Toc' -- JazLive


Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 8 years ago from England

Nice piece - like your style!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Glad you liked it, Rik. I appreciate your comment.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Your HubPages version with the video trolley rides added adds a dimension which you couldn't capture in the original print article. Great hub. If I ever have grandchildren, I'll have them read the article and watch the videos.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks, Ralph. Believe it or not I just talked to my old editor, and friend, the other day and commented that I wished we could have dressed up the old columns then with art work. I'm sure any future grandchildren will love the trolleys, as I do. Trolley 850 from New Orleans on the video is at the Branford, Conn., Trolley Museum. I've been there, and it's a great place for children -- and adults.


Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 8 years ago from Chennai

Those were the days! I suffered from pangs of nostalgia reading this hub, but enjoyed it too! Though I haven't seen a trolley car in my life. It's a different kind of nostalgia, like wanting to live in Sherlock Holmes's England!

Thank you, William.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I'm really pleased that you enjoyed the column, Kenny. Those days were truly grand.


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

California still uses Cable Cars in San Francisco..they are fun...G-Ma :O)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks, G-Ma Johnson. I wish they'd bring back the trolleys to New York!


jormins profile image

jormins 8 years ago from Chicago, IL

I do have to admit I love all the new technology we have in modern times but I feel like my generation is missing something. Hard to put my finger on it but I think there was just more character in everything in our recent past. Shows like Band of Brothers and Mad Men are two of my favorite shows because they give a nice window to the past.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I guess you could call it nostalgia, jormins, but I look back to '40s and '50s with great fondness. They were days when everyone knew everyone in their neighborhoods, when people all loved the same music, including Bing Crosby, and great movies, when people shared public transportation and were not isolated in cars, when crime wasn't on the front burner. Despite the pain of World War II, there was a common bond shared by everyone on the homefront. It was, indeed, "The Greatest Generation."


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Thanks again Mr. Torpey.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

And thank you, Micky Dee. There are few things in this world that I love more than trolley cars. I wish they'd make a comeback. Your comment also gave me an opportunity to replace the nonfunctioning video with an even better one (with Judy Garland.) Thanks, again.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 6 years ago from London

How about trams? Are you a fan of those, too?


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

WhenI was nobbut a lad in Cape Town there were what were called "trolley buses" which were buses, like the diesel driven buses we see today, but they were elcetric, and drew their power from overhead cables much like trams. They were silent, smooth running and comfortable, they didn't smell or push out clouds of noxious fumes. And they were immensely popular with commuters.

But for some economic reason which I don't pretend to understand, they were withdrawn and replaced with diesel driven buses.

I will never forget the sound of the trolley buses passing my aunt's house in Cape Town - all one could hear from them was the sushing sound of their tyres on the tarmac.

Thanks for this interesting Hub, William.

Love and peace

Tony


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I do like trams, LondonGirl. I also like trolley-buses and monorails as well as trolleys and trains (especially the old sleepers.) I also think we should be using more golf carts for short runs, not to mention bicycles and mopeds and such. However, I do not like motorcycles. Our roads, I think, are too dangerous for those bikes, and too many young people are injured or die riding them.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I like trolley-buses, Tony, but I grew up with trolley cars and I really love them. I wish they would make a comeback. The trolleys in Yonkers, I believe, were pushed out primarily by the automobile lobbies. The excuse was that upgrading the trolleys would be too expensive, but the trolleys ran mostly down the middle of the road. Increasing auto traffic found them disruptive, although in some residential areas they ran down the side of the road. Not only were they a wonderfully pleasant ride (open air in the summer), but, as you say, the did not spew out foul odors. While the trolley-buses swished along, the trolleys made that fantastic clang, clang, clang.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 6 years ago from London

We have quite a few new tram schemes here in the UK - south of London, and Manchester, spring to mind. I like them.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I'd love to hear more about them, LondonGirl, if you ever write a hub about them. I dream of seeing the return of the trolley cars, but in daylight I daydream of monorails everywhere!


mandymoreno81 profile image

mandymoreno81 4 years ago

I think some forms of public transportation like trolleys will see a return with increasing fuel and energy prices.


Francine Eisner 4 years ago

Hi there, everyone. I am a registered nurse with a little job in Yonkers. I've become very interested in the community, and I've been walking everywhere. Today I went to a little coffee shop on Palisade Avenue called Michelle's, and they had photos of the trolleys. Now I have developed a fervent desire to learn everything I can about the old trolley system, which closed down the year I was born. I'm very pleased to have found this hub! My warmest regards to you all.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 4 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Yonkers has gone through tough times since I left the "City of Gracious Living" in 1951 (although I went back to Yonkers for six months in 1960.) But I grew up with the trolleys and will always love them. I wish they would make a comeback. I've visited quite often lately, and the old feel is still there -- despite the many changes. You can learn a lot about Yonkers if you visit some sites on Facebook (including this one:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/IGUIyonkers/


Francine Eisner 4 years ago

Thank you William! I have asked to join that group. I'm sure that I'll learn a great deal from them.


Edmond Spaeth 4 years ago

Thanks for this nostalgic piece about the trolleys that traversed the hills of Yonkers, NY. I, too, remember riding the trolleys from North Yonkers all the way to the Bronx and many places in between. It was a delightful way to travel. I am told by an old Yonkers pal that there still is one of the Yonkers trolleys on exhibit at the Brantford (CT) Trolley Museum for all to see. Also, remember being told about the "Hitler" face on the Palisades. There was also an Indian face that I remember being visible from the Yonkers-Alpine ferry-another fun ride for Yonkers folks.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 4 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

It's good to hear from someone who remembers the Yonkers trolleys, Edmond. They sure were fun. I didn't know about the Indian face until I found a Website run by the Palisades Interstate Park (which I can't find just now.) But here's a site I think you'll find interesting: http://www.njpalisades.org/album4.htm


Rosemary 4 years ago

Glad I found this hub. Never heard of a hub before. Very interesting. Thank you.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 4 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, Rosemary. You may find some of my other hubs of interest. There's a link to them near the top right of this one. They cover many topics, including some about Yonkers, politics and great songs and singers (with videos.)


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 23 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

I've never lived in a place that had trolleys. From your description, it seems they were great for kids to get on and just ride. That's so different from the bus - when you get on a bus, you do it to get someplace. I wish there had been trolleys around when I was growing up.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 23 months ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The trolleys were lots of fun, RonElFran. Everybody rode them, not just people who couldn't afford a car. Because everybody rode them they ran often on a good schedule so you rarely had to wait very long. In Yonkers you could take the trolley to Getty Square (the hub) and transfer to another line so you could go just about anywhere in the city ... to the Bronx, to Mount Vernon, to Hastings-on-Hudson , etc. I wish they were still around. New York City considered bringing some trolley lines back in the '80s (for east and west routes only) but the city never followed through on the idea.

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