On October 4, 1880, Newark's first electric
trolley line -- the Springfield Avenue line -- began operations.
It started in downtown Newark and traveled up to Irvington.
It was followed, within weeks, by the Central Avenue line, and
then the Orange line on Orange Street.
By 1900, a decade after the first electrified trolley went into
operation, more than 300 trolleys were passing Broad and Market
Streets every hour, in rush hours.
In 1903, Thomas N. McCarter organized the Public Service Corporation,
which combined all Newark trolley operations, as well as gas companies,
and power and light companies.
By 1910, more than 552 trolleys per hour were rolling on steel
tracks though the Broad and Market intersection.
By 1913, with a Public Service fleet of nearly 2,000 trolleys,
traffic at the Broad and Market intersection was 600 cars per hour
in rush periods, and plans were laid to build a new modern trolley
terminal on Park Place facing Military Park that would draw the
trolleys off the streets and into downtown Newark through underground
Opening of Downtown Trolley Terminal
In 1916, the new Public Service Terminal was opened in April.
The result was startling. The 600-trolley per hour rush hour volume
at the Four Corners diminished to about 300.
The trolleys feeding into the New Terminal came in on two levels.
Trolleys using the lower level basement Terminal approached from
Washington Street through a tunnel carved under Cedar Street and
Cars using the upper level terminal entered from Mulberry Street
on the east, using an incline bridging Pine Street, before entering
the Terminal itself.
The new Public Service Terminal had ten loading and unloading
tracks on the two levels.
Trolleys reaching the Terminal arrived from such diverse points
as Paterson, Elizabeth, Hackensack, Jersey City, Bound Brook, Perth
Amboy, Trenton, Caldwell, the Oranges, Irvington, Maplewood, and
With the advent of World War I in 1917, and the accompanying bustling
wartime economy, motorbus as well as trolley operations of Public
Service continued to expand.
By 1923, in addition to the 200,000 bus passengers per day, the
22 trolley lines of Public Service each day carried 330,000 passengers.
Seven years later, in 1930, Public Service was running more than
2,000 trolley cars on 23 different street lines. In May 1935, it
added underground trolley service by opening the City Subway on
the bed of the old Morris Canal, with service from Broad Street
to Heller Parkway.
1935 Also Beginning of End of Street Trolleys
But even as the new City Subway was getting underway, the year
also marked the beginning of the end for the 23 street trolley lines
as Public Service introduced the newly-perfected rubber-tire trolley
buses, also called 'trackless trolleys'.
This vehicle was a combination trackless trolley and diesel-electric
These vehicles, perfected by Public Service engineers, could draw
electric power from overhead electric wires when running on established
A second pole was added to allow for grounding.
When the end of the overhead electric wires was reached, the trolley
poles could be hooked down to the roof and a gasoline or diesel
engine could be started, which drove a generator that generated
the electricity needed by the electric motors to run the vehicle.
The advantage of the trolley bus was that it didn't have to follow
the rails and could pull to the curb to pick up or discharge passengers,
and the trolley poles would pivot and remain connected to the overhead
Phase Out of Trolley Service
With the success of the trolley bus, by the late 1930s, Public
Service laid plans to phase out street trolley car service.
Trolley service on Broad Street officially ended on December 18,
1937, although it took more than a decade before all trolley service
on Newark's streets finally came to an end.
The last two street trolley lines in service, the 21 Orange, and
the 29 Bloomfield, continued rolling on steel tracks until March
30, 1952 when they made their final runs.
The Orange Street Car on that date was replaced by the No. 22
On many discontinued street trolley lines, the tracks remained
embedded in the roadway for many years after the trolleys had ended
* * *
Some Newark Street Trolley Lines*
No. 1 Newark
No. 3 Bergen
No. 5 Kinney
No. 7 Weequahic
No. 9 Clifton
No. 11 Elizabeth
No. 13 Broad
No. 15 Nutley
No. 17 Paterson
No. 21 Orange
No. 23 Central
No. 24 West Orange
No. 25 Springfield
No. 27 Mt. Prospect
No. 29 Bloomfield
No. 31 South Orange
No. 33 Market
No. 35 Kearny
No. 39 Harrison
No. 43 Jersey City
No. 49 Union
No. 51 Irvington
* (If you know of or can recall any
other Newark Street Trolley lines, please let me know and I will
add them to this list).