Worcestory Lesson: All aboard! The heydey of Worcester trolley service

“As home to trolley manufacturer Osgood Bradley and later Pullman Standard, Worcester played an important role in the history of passenger rail travel in the United States. And over the years, trolleys and trains have captured the imagination of millions.” Indeed, hop on and take a fascinating journey with Worcester history expert David DuBois.

Worcestory Lesson: All aboard! The heydey of Worcester trolley service

The Civil War was still raging in September 1863 when the first horse-drawn trolley cars rolled down the streets of Worcester. By 1900, a system of light rail connected not only the neighborhoods within the city, but communities across Massachusetts and into neighboring states.

At its height in 1916, the Worcester Consolidated Street Railway Co. was the largest in the state with 429 cars, more than 300 miles of track and 72.7 million fares.

A 1902 map published in the Sunday Telegram of the electric rail network.

Worcester Public Library Periodicals Collection

A 1902 map published in the Sunday Telegram of the electric rail network.

The first electric trolley cars were introduced to Worcester in 1891. The streetcars were a big improvement and service expanded rapidly. The system was a mishmash of different trolley and railroad companies that formed a transportation network across Massachusetts and into neighboring states.

Today we think of transit as a government responsibility, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries rail was run by for-profit corporations. In the beginning, many of the companies were small and some were even created to run a single line.


Another Worcestory Lesson: A trip down memorial line, starring the Aud