Thursday, December 24, 2015

Revolution on Wheels, Part Five - The Trolley (2)

The Annisquam stagecoach
All photos from the collection of Paul Harling, unless otherwise noted1

Once upon a time, in my grandfather's early years, two firms rivaled for stagecoach passengers from Annisquam to Gloucester proper. When the line founded in the 1830s by Messrs. Ezekiel and Chard ceased operation in 1889 Charles Harvey of Lanesville 'reined' supreme on the north roads of the City.2

Trolley tracks on Washington Street, Bay View, looking northeast.
Granite industry facilities and the Methodist Church merge with houses in the background.
The granite railroad from quarries in uplands to the right crosses to Hodgkins Cove at center.
The revolution on wheels brought the electric railway from Gloucester past Annisquam to Bay View in 1890. Its extension to Lanesville posed additional challenges including a more substantial bridge at Hodgkins Cove. The railway management decided that a trestle would make the best roadbed at Plum Cove. Only months after its completion in 1893 the owners of the Plum Cove pasture insisted that it be taken down.

Electric railway trestle, Plum Cove, looking southwest
The rail line reached Lanesville in time to garner26,770 five-cent fares to and from the village in the first seven days of July, 1893. Extra cars had been added to handle crowds for the circus in Gloucester. The electrics were making 36 trips daily, compared to the typical two trips of the stagecoach line.

At the beginning of 1894 Mr. Eli Morgan, 89, and Capt. Joseph Saunders, 75, took their first ride on an electric car. The Lanesville correspondent of the Gloucester Daily Times reported that "they enjoyed their ride, thinking it a great improvement on the former accommodations. They said they had not visited Gloucester before for the past six years." 

The original Lanesville terminus at
Washington and Andrews Streets
The railway tracks stopped just past the center of the village.  Folks further on got up a petition to continue the line to Folly Cove. The daunting hill and curve up to Langsford Street provoked engineering debate from both professionals and amateurs. After three years the newspaper was finally able to report a successful blasting at Andrews corner to open the way to Mason Square. It came at the expense of "the old sliding rock, which was worn smooth by much sliding and wearing out many boys' pant and girls' dresses in years gone by."

Washington and Andrews Streets
The railway continues on to Mason Square near Folly Cove
The Cape Ann railway network closed out the nineteenth century with inclusions to Rockport and Long Beach.

Crossing the dunes at Good Harbor toward Long Beach

Excursionists at Long Beach
 In September 1896 while the electric railroad was being extended from Pigeon Cove to Halibut Point  the Village Improvement Society sponsored a Jolly Trolley party to Ipswich for the day, departing Pigeon Cove at 9am, reaching  Ipswich at 11:30. "As it was the first visit of many of the party to this charming place, they were agreeably surprised at beautiful scenery of this most picturesque town." Newspaper advertisements in the summer of 1899 offered trolley linkages from Pigeon Cove all the way to Nashua, New Hampshire.

Riverdale passengers
Goose Cove causeway and mill in background
 The awkward gap in local service was erased when the trolley loop around Cape Ann was completed around its northern tip in 1902, with a short leg from Mason Square to Halibut Point.
Trolley tracks on the way to Halibut Point,
at the intersection of Langsford and Washington Streets near Mason Square

The Folly Cove turnout, where cars could bypass each other

"Cape Ann is now encircled by an electric car line....If this prediction had been made to the early residents of the Cape, the idea would have undoubtedly been taken for a good joke, but if they could have looked from their old time homes this morning, they would have seen the scheme realized....The continuous route around the cape will make one of the most beautiful trolley rides imaginable, and not only will it be exceedingly popular with pleasure seekers, but will be of great convenience to travel." Gloucester Daily Times, August 11, 1902.

Carl Peterson3
 As soon as he turned eighteen Pigeon Cover Carl Peterson donned the uniform of a trolley conductor. Motormen's hardiness was tested during winter blizzards.

Clearing the tracks in Lanesville

Digging out a buried trolley snow plow
During one storm Carl and two mates operating a trolley plow on Essex Avenue in West Gloucester became stuck in deep snow near the LePage Glue Factory. They shoveled until dark, then drew straws to see who would fulfill company policy that night, to never abandon the train. Carl drew the short straw and lit a little coal stove on board. Neighbors brought a hot dinner. He slept four consecutive nights in the car until they finally cleared the tracks.

Carl Peterson's certificate of Railway Union membership, 19183
In the next essay we will follow Carl's adventures driving several generations of the new motorized vehicles that could travel anywhere the roads led, on inflatable tires.
1. Retired Gloucester schoolteacher Paul Harling collected these images of Cape Ann trolleys. Paul grew up in Arlington at the end of the streetcar line. He and his brother got the streetcar bug early, and enjoyed the parental freedom to explore the whole Boston metropolitan system, sometimes with a wink from their pals the conductors. A good day consisted of roaming the entire route paying only one fare. When Paul married Ruth Harvey, granddaughter of the Lanesville stagecoach operator, his interest and resources in Cape Ann history deepened.

Paul Harling holding court in the Diving Locker
at the Maritime Heritage Center, Gloucester
 2. The story of the Cape Ann trolleys has been gleaned from accounts in the Gloucester Daily Times on microfilm at the Sawyer Free Library.
3. Fred Peterson of Rockport provided stories and materials relating to his father Carl.


  1. Re: travel from Lanesville to Gloucester. I was told it was tough to have to walk to 'Squam to catch the trolley, before it was extended to Lanesville. Others said that going to Gloucester was like going to Boston from Gloucester is today, ie: the allure of a "Big City"...The Ipswich Bay Villages were pretty self sufficient. I've met people who grew up in E. GLO, who have rarely, if ever, visited Lanesville(!) AKA "The Land That Time Forgot"...

  2. Lanesville and Bayview were a different country even when I was growing up the in the 1960's