Local woman preserves a forgotten piece of York City's history
For nearly 50 years, a network of electric trolley lines traversed York County connecting outlying communities to York City through a relatively inexpensive form of mass transit.
Much of that infrastructure, originally put in place in 1893, disappeared since the York Railways Company went bankrupt and shut down in 1939. The most notable remnant is a tiny trolley master station that's been the passion project of Jerri Worley.
A York-area native, Worley first learned about the master station from a friend who was invested in city history. While Worley moved to New Jersey when she was 30, she returned to York 30 years later to retire.
“When I saw the Trolley Master Station, I was appalled,” she said, “It was in such disarray. The wood was rotting. Windows were broken. And I thought ‘Well, what can I do?’ I wanted to help York.”
Worley spearheaded the effort to refurbish the booth and install a plaque to preserve its history. Sometimes called the “teapot dome,” the green booth has a copper top and sits on Continental Square outside of the Iron Horse restaurant.
In addition to traffic controllers, she said, trolley tickets were sold there and when the trolleys disappeared police officers would use it to get out of the elements or help direct traffic.
Eventually, she reached out to the city to seek support for renovation efforts.
“Prior to all these vehicles running all over the place, we had this amazing transportation system that went all over the county," York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said. "The trolley system really sustained the whole county for 50 years.”
Today, the system would be heralded as a low-cost, environmentally friendly means of mass transit. In the 1930s, however, old electric streetcar lines across the country were discarded in favor of gas-powered buses and — of course — automobiles. As more families bought their own cars, demand for street cars and inner city gridlock made the old system less practical.
"People weren't choosing to ride or not ride in some perfect universe," Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia, told Vox in 2015. "They were making it in a messy, real-world environment."
After Worley coordinated with Deb Rohrbaugh, an administrative assistant for the Kinsley Construction company, the pair organized a group of students from the Kinsley Education Center to help refurbished it.
Since she lives above the Iron Horse, Worley likes to keep an eye on the master station. She will sometimes go sit out on the square and talk with those nearby. Living close by, Worley can help with its upkeep, so any damages don’t go unnoticed.
In recent winter seasons, Worley has decorated the booth with leftover ribbons from square decorating efforts and even had someone give her a toy solider decoration that stood in the booth during the holiday season.
To learn more about the Trolley Master Station plaque, watch the ribbon cutting ceremony on the City of York Facebook page.
— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.