Newburgh Evening News – June 24, 1985

Trolley cars maintain their place in history

by Jean Yanarella

Newburgh Evening News – June 24, 1985

Historians place the demise of trolley cars in Newburgh at about 60 years ago.

Establishment of a bus line brought the trolleys to their last stop in 1924, 1925, or 1926, according to City Historian Helen Ver Nooy Gearn.  Freedom of movement and more economical operation resulted in the rubber tired vehicles taking over.

The trolley car still retains a spot in some area residents’ hearts, as evidenced by a replica of one exhibited during modern-day parades.  It made its way down Broadway Memorial Day.

The reign of the trolley in Newburgh began in 1896 and was heralded by parades, fireworks, bonfires and other assorted fanfare.  Broadway was said to resemble an early-day Times Square on New Year’s Eve as the whole town came out to greet the “B.B. Odell,” the “G.W. Stetson” and the “Haines Brothers.”

The Odell trolley was named for the mayor, Benjamin Barker Odell, and the other tow were in honor of the builders of the trolley road.


The word trolley may give the wrong impression as to what the vehicles actually were.  Far from being electrically propelled the cars were actually drawn by large horses.  The car itself ran on a track.

As one can imagine, no matter how hefty the horse, Newburgh’s Broadway presented quite an obstacle.  To move up Broadway’s sharp incline, a third helper horse sometimes had to be hitched on.

One can imagine there were times snow and ice forced the passengers to disembark when horsepower couldn’t make it up the hill.

It is not surprising, then, that in the 1890’s some residents greeted the replacement of horses by electric power.  The noise from hooves and cars on granite-supported rails could be heard for blocks.

Newspaper accounts record that horses pulling wagons and carriages on the main street were frightened by the new contraption.  By the third day, it is said they had grown accustomed to the noise.  But eventually, protest about the trolley rumble led to quieter wooden ties replacing the granite.


The year 1895 brought another milestone in trolley history.  Service was extended to Walden, to the delight of citizens.  A Dream of Newburgh Realized.

Newburghers and Waldenites took advantage of the advance to head to Orange Lake, where an amusement park was the draw.  A roller coaster and merry-go-round, among other rides, games of chance, a dance pavilion, picnic grove, canoe and rowboat rental were among the attractions.

Ridership grew so much that  a double-decker trolley was purchased.  The trolley operators found to their dismay that the vehicle couldn’t fit under the Walden bridges.  The top half of the trolley is said to have ended up as the front porch for an Orange Lake resident.

As time went by , the signs of changes to come became evident .  In 1924 advertisements for a bus line first appeared.  Buses and cars took over the streets of Newburgh, and continue their reign today.