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In a time before motor cars ruled the world, electric trolleys allowed the mass transport of people which allowed metropolitan areas to expand into the cities we know today

Our road trip to the North Eastern States of the USA started at Newark airport.  We started out from Newark airport toward our first stop in New York’s Finger Lakes region. The plan was to make a few fun detours on the route. The first place we stopped was Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania, but I had also decided to stop in Scranton to visit a couple of museums there, grab some food before heading out.

The journey from Bushkill to Scranton is only around 70 miles but takes a while as you pass through the largely rural areas of northern Pennsylvania. 

Now for a bit of history lesson about Scranton. 

Scranton is located in the heart of one of the great deposits of anthracite coal in the world, which provided the underpinnings for much of Scranton’s industrial growth until the middle of the 20th century. The first white settlers came to the Wyoming Valley in the middle of the 18th century and lived amicably with the Munsee Indians, who moved west to the Ohio Valley between 1758 and 1771.

In 1840, the Scranton brothers arrived and found only five houses in the village. The Scrantons built a forge that later became the nucleus of the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company. A new name was given to the settlement in 1845: Harrison, in honour of the president. Finally, in 1851, the name was changed to Scranton. When the railroad arrived in 1853, it provided an outlet for the iron industry and the coal mines. 

The Electric City Sign lights up Scranton’s skyline at night! It was originally built to commemorate Scranton’s status as being one of the first cities in the United States to become electrified. The city’s nickname “Electric City” began when electric lights were introduced in 1880 at the Dickson Manufacturing Company. In 1886, the United States’ first successful streetcars powered only by electricity began operating in Scranton.

Our first stop in Scranton was the Electric Trolley Museum which is located on the Steamtown National Historic Site grounds, downtown Scranton, in a resplendently restored late 19th-century mill building, the Trolley Museum features interactive exhibits and displays including vintage trolleys. 

ELECTRIC CITY TROLLEY MUSEUM

The Electric City Trolley Museum
The outside exhibits
The museum is run by volunteers and support by the county

One of the highlights of the museum is to take a ride on an electric trolley. The route passes historic landmarks like the Iron Furnaces and offers scenic views of Roaring Brook. You’ll even pass through the Crown Avenue tunnel, one of the longest interurban tunnels ever built.

Sadly, we missed the last ride of the day so had to settle for a look around the museum. This is quite a small museum so it doesn’t take too long to look around the exhibits, but if you are really interested you could spend hours here as they have a lot of archived materials. We were in a bit of a rush so we focussed on looking at the trolleys themselves. 

At the entrance of the museum, we are greeted by the volunteers who run this museum on behalf of the non-profit association set up to manage the place. They are very welcoming and point us in the direction of the small theatre that has an introductory film about the history of the electric trolleys of Scranton and the rest of the United States.

Today, we have a nostalgic love of the trolleys and a romantic view of taking a ride along the streets of our cities, but in the day these were a utilitarian mode of transport that brought people from the suburbs into the cities to work. In the early 20th century the emergence of mass-produced automobiles, such as Henry Ford’s Model-T saw the decline of mass transit in favour of more convenient travel by car.

With concerns over climate change, we are once again seeing mass transit regain a foothold in the transport infrastructure. For cities where metro trains are not feasible, light rail and electric trolleys are seeing a resurgence. Horray!

Trolley bus

The museum is not only about the trolley busses themselves but also has some exhibits on the infrastructure, including the power systems that brought them to life.

Electrical power equipment that moved the trolleys
Philadelphia & Western Railway #46 is the sole surviving representative of the first generation of cars to run on the Philadelphia & Western Railway

Not all the trolleys in the Museum are fully restored, some are in the process of being remodelled. There is something in me that is attracted to things in disrepair whether it be vehicles, buildings, old factories etc. So, I was fascinated by these old beat up trolleys as much as the nice shiny ones!

A trolley waited to be restored
These seats don't look too comfortable - this trolley is waiting to be fixed up!

One of the more unusual exhibits is the John Oliver train set. HBO host Oliver made fun of the local TV station, WNEP-TV, who was using a train set as a background on some of its weather reports. This caused some upset locally, but John Oliver explained that he wasn’t taking the mickey of Scranton, he just thought they deserved something better!

To clear the air John Oliver donated a large, new train set to the TV station that had “every Scranton landmark that [the show] could find on Google,” and instructed the station to come to get it from a warehouse in New Jersey. Which they did. The station subsequently donated this train set to the Electric City Trolley Museum.

The John Oliver train set

In summary …

  • A fabulous place for adults and kids, there is a lot to see and touch
  • Make sure to get there early enough to get a trolley ride

About The Electric City Trolley Museum

Address:300 Cliff St, Scranton, PA 18503
Website:http://www.ectma.org/
Telephone:T: (570) 963-6590
Hours:9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily
Fares:
 AdultSenior (62+)Child(4-17)
Museum Admission$7.00$6.00$5.00
Trolley Ride Only$10.00$9.00$8.00
Combination Admission & Ride$12.00$11.00$10.00
Children 3 and under are free.

 

Best time to visit Scranton, PA

Pennsylvania’s weather is very similar to that of New York or New Jersey. It’s changeable, with moderate precipitation all year long, with some heat waves in the summer and cool weather in the winter and early spring. Snow is concentrated in the winter months.

Late-spring – May, June – or late-summer and early-fall – September, October – are excellent months for visiting Pennsylvania.

WHEN NOT TO GO TO PENNSYLVANIA

Avoid the winter months, when temperatures may reach very low levels.

Humidity and high temperatures may turn some July and August days rather uncomfortable, despite the moderating influence of the Lake Erie in the region.S

Where to stay near Scranton

1. THE COLONNADE

The Colonnade is a unique boutique hotel and event space located in beautiful downtown Scranton. Each suite has a private bedroom, bathroom and sitting room. Free wireless internet and honor bar. Continental breakfast tray delivered to your door available upon request.

The space

The Colonnade is 140 years old! It was renovated and restored in 2006.

2. RADISSON LACKAWANNA STATION HOTEL

Next to the University of Scranton, this hotel offers a free shuttle to Wilkes-Barr/Scranton International Airport. It features an on-site restaurant and a fitness centre. Free WiFi is offered.

A flat-screen cable TV, a refrigerator and a coffee maker are provided in every room at Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel Scranton.

This Scranton Radisson features Carmen’s Restaurant & Wine Bar. It offers fresh seafood, homemade pasta and a large wine list. Trax Bar and Grille serves soups, appetizers and sandwiches along with a martini menu.

An on-site gift shop and room service are available for guest convenience.

Memorial Stadium and Electric City Trolley Museum are a 1,000 feet from this hotel. Nay Aug Park Gorge and Waterfall is 6.2 miles away

3. STEGMAIER MANSION

With 4 Historic Rooms & Suites to choose from, the stunning Frederick Stegmaier Mansion is among the most elegant, architecturally unique, and historic properties in the Wilkes-Barre area – having played host to a diverse group of visitors & foreign dignitaries… and even an American president!

 

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