The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hidden Plainfield: A trolley ran through it


Lo and behold! A trolley rail in a pothole.

Indulge me in a different, non-architectural Hidden Plainfield this week, wouldja?

With pothole season in full flare-up, one proceeds cautiously. Yesterday, I saw a glint off something in a pothole as I approached. Passing over it, I thought perhaps it was something special.

After circling around the block and finding a parking space, I got out to check out my find.

Just as I thought, a large pothole had popped out to reveal trolley track that had been paved over.

The trolleys (or interurban electric railways, to be technical) were an affordable means of mass transportation in the days before buses and cars crowded them off the scene.

Plainfield was criss-crossed with several trolley routes (can't find my map; will keep looking), so today's track could have come from many different streets within the community.

Do you have any idea where I found it?

Answer tomorrow.


An undated photo of a Plainfield trolley that appeared in the Ledger,
from the collections of the Plainfield Public Library.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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13 comments:

Anonymous said...

The trolley ran from West to East on Front St. through the business district.

Anonymous said...

Front Street? I remember as a child driving North on Park Ave, there use to be a jog as it criss-crossed Front Street going into No. Plfd. They have since taken the jog out and straigtened the intersection. But I still can feel the rumble of the tracks under the floor of my father's 1955 Oldsmobile. jbandomer

olddoc said...

Dan, I think the picture was from the 4th St. line which joined the tracks at Watchung Ave and ran west to at least Clinton and I am not sure made a turn round at Evona. The other line from North Plainfield came up Somerset St, joined the main tracks at Front then went via 4th St. to Atlington down to Randolph easst to Park and south to Southend Parkway to a turnaround a t the cemetery. The main PS line ewas down Front St. from the Dunellen border to Watchung, south to 5th east to Richmond trhe up to East Second to Terril where it contin ued on a privste right of way which is now Midway.

I can't afford the gas to look for that pothole but I would bet on East 2nd St.

Bill Garrett said...

Dan,
Those tracks ran all over, as you said, and many of the remains are buried under the asphalt, causing trouble. It was easier to pave over them, than take the time to remove them. There are not just rails under there, but the wood ties remain as well. Drive out East Second Street from Leland Ave., and notice the washboard effect in the pavement. Notice also how wide the roadway is. Perhaps it was to allow several tracks to run along together?

So, where is your "find". Park Ave., Arlington Ave., South end Pkwy., Second St., Front St., Watchung Ave., The tracks are everywhere. The potholes are everywhere. I would go looking, but fear for my car's suspension.
Bill Garrett

Anonymous said...

I saw it too and was shocked to see it. Wish we still had them here.

Michael Townley said...

My guess is North Avenue between Park and Watchung. There are so many potholes you must be able to spot the old trolley lines there.

Dorrie Neisel Johnson said...

Along Front Street? When I was a child I remember before the tracks were paved over - especially the corner of Front Street and Watchung Avenue.

Rob said...

Dan, the pothole most certainly wasn't a good clue as to where it is....lol

Walt Hetfield said...

My 3x's great grandfather Levi Hetfield started the first hosre drawn trolley in Plainfield in the mid 1800's.

Anonymous said...

My Dad told me the trolley ran across Woodland Avenuenear the graveyard, golf course area...

Anonymous said...

what years did the trolly run regularly? did it run at all during 60's? am i delusional to think i saw it in 60's , maybe a special event? donno?

Anonymous said...

My vote would be somewhere along Front St. I remember seeing exposed rails polished to an almost chrome look by passing cars long after the trolleys left. I believe this route extended fron Elizabeth NJ to Northbranch Somerset co. along the Rt 28 corridor. Hey does anyone out there remember John's Bargain Store on Front St. in the 1960's??? Bud

Anonymous said...

I remember trying to learn to drive over the exposed trolley tracks on Front Street, which puts that around 1968 or so. No trolleys running by then but the tracks definitely had not yet been paved over. I had a heck of a time avoiding ruts and always had to hang onto the wheel with both hands gripped. In grade school, around 1965-66, I remember picking up the bus in Middlesex Borough and paying 35 cents each way to go to Plainfield and walk around the shops with my friends. One of my friend's mother worked at Tepper's Dept. store. Closest thing to a big city I had ever seen up to that time. Used to buy Wrangler jeans in The Surprise Shop. Would go to McCrory's drug store to pick a balloon to pop to see how much I'd get to pay for a banana split. Great memories!