THE LACKAWANNA TRAIL:
Northern Electric Street Railway
References - Available Publications:
1. "The Northern Electric" by Norm Brauer
2. "Northern Electric Railway - Scranton, Montrose & Binghamton RR Co." Thomas F. Flanagan, Ben Rohrbeck Traction Publications, 1980, 72 pp
3. Station mileage and fare structure
Note: Photos, postcards and information regarding the Northern Electric Street Railway, stations, power houses, etc. needed to continue the work on this page. All inputs welcome.
From the Tunkhannock Creek Watershed Atlas - History of the Watershed.
1905 - The Northern Electric Street Railway was incorporated and operated as an interurban trolley between, Scranton and Montrose, through the heart of Tunkhannock Creek watershed. By acquiring the charters and franchises of the Dalton Street Railway Company, the Scranton, Factoryville and Tunkhannock Railway Company, and the Providence and Abington Turnpike and Plank Road Company, the Northern Electric secured the needed rights of way and began construction in 1906 with a maiden trip on July 1,1907. From the Scranton Terminal on Wyoming Avenue, near St Peter’s Cathedral, the trolley leased city trolley tracks through the city to Bull’s Head, Providence Corners, up the hill and through the Notch. Tracks were laid and stations built in Chinchilla, Clarks Summit, Green, Dalton, and LaPlume in Lackawanna County. Stations were built as near as possible to the center of each community, with some platforms for passengers and/or milk cans, located between stations to better serve the traveling public and farmers. Regular runs began as soon as the tracks were laid in each town, so that Clarks Summit had trolley service almost ten years before Montrose, which was not reached until 1916.
To expand ridership, the Northern Electric built two amusement parks: one at the top of the hill in Clarks Summit at Grove and State streets on the southwest corner of the intersection; and the other at the outlet of Lake Winola. Each park offered a carousel and a thrilling roller coaster ride, with a large dance pavilion and concession booths for ice cream and games. These destinations proved wonderfully popular to many people from Scranton and neighboring towns; on July 4, 1911, four thousand people visited the Northern Electric Park at Lake Winola. A special platform was built on the hill above Keystone in LaPlume where cars were switched for the ride to Lake Winola, which became a great summer resort for cottagers from Scranton.
Continuing through Wyoming County, stations were built in Factoryville and Nicholson, and into Susquehanna County at Foster (Hop Bottom), Brooklyn and Tiffany Junction, where travelers took a stage into Montrose. The Northern Electric bought the Binghamton Railway, changed the name of the corporation to Scranton and Binghamton Railroad, and planned to extend service to Binghamton through Heart lake, New Milford, Somerville, Hallstead, Corbettsville, Conklin, Conklin Center, and Binghamton. This plan was never realized due to prohibitive costs ($1,477,000), the already existing rail service between the two towns by the DL&W, and the increasing popularity of the automobile. Whatever its official name, the trolley was always called “The Northern Electric.”
Electric power was generated by the big brick power plant at Brookside (now Dalton Do-It Center) and sold to many nearby communities interested in having electric lights replace gas lamps. Electrical storms often interrupted service to the trolley and other customers; occasionally, heavily laden double-header trolleys, carrying workers up the long hill home from the city, demanded more power than was available and lights dimmed in homes along the line. Car barns with repair shops were built across the road from the power plant and a long trestle carried the trolleys over the DL&W tracks (now Rt.6& l1) toward LaPlume. Burning coal produced electricity and the Northern Electric conducted a modest sideline of carrying coal beyond Brookside to pockets in Factoryville and Nicholson for resale
The Northern Electric passenger cars had a capacity of 48 and 50 persons and offered regular service every hour, and, during peak periods, every half hour, from 5:30am to 11pm. The cars traveled on a single track except where there were switches for trolleys to pass. Over most of the track, trolley speed averaged about thirty mph, although some conductors were reported to “let ‘er rip” up to 60 mph on more rural stretches. The Northern Electric adhered to strict schedules and operated scheduled runs in a timely fashion. The company also had milk cars that provided a great service for area farmers who needed their milk to have prompt delivery to markets. Bursehel Dairy of Scranton operated creameries in Nicholson and Lake Winola where they made delicious “Dutch Cheese”, buttermilk and Bursehel’s ice cream, made with real cream, the finest that could be bought — five cents a cone.
LaPlume Northern Electric Power House
Turn off Route 11 to find a photo spot near Waverly, or look for the Northern Electric station along the creek in this fantastically quaint town.
The Northern Electric once connected Montrose with Scranton. Abandoned in 1927, much of this electric interurban is still visible. At Brookside, the Do-It Center east of the highway (Route 11) occupies the old NE carbarn. On the west side of the highway, a bridge abutment marks where the NE climbed over the DL&W main... which you are still driving on.
Coming into Factoryville, note the beautiful Lackawanna Creamery along the west side of the road. A wooden station stood on the side of the highway a couple of miles north of here until a fire claimed in the late 1980's. Coming into the hill above Factoryville, look for the Northern Electric grade running through town. The small station stands as a garage. You may turn here to photograph StL&H trains at La Plume, the new line station which replaced Factoryville.
North of Factoryville, Routes 6 and 11 split. The Northern Electric grade is very apparent as it climbs out of the valley to join Route 11 on the way to Tunnel Hill. As you approach Tunnel Hill look into the trees to the west, This is where the original DL&W main tunnel was. Today the portal is covered with a berm of dirt. StL&H trains use the new Nicholson Tunnel and appear on a shelf above the highway north of the crest of Tunnel Hill. Here you rejoin the old main alignment into Nicholson.
Take a moment to enjoy the massive Ncholson Bridge (also known as the Tunkhannock Viaduct! The Northern Electric station is uptown, while the DL&W freight house remains along Route 11. The cemetery to the right and up from Route 11 is an afternoon favorite, but please be respectful! I have seen many who haven't. Early day shots are best from the other side of the bridge. Go under, make a right, and find your hillside angle.
North of Nicholson, Martens Creek and the NE right-of-way are to the west, while st Stl&H are up on the hillside to the east. At Hop Bottom the grades remain from switchbacks used to get from the new line down to the old main at highway level.
Northern Electric Clarks Summit, 1910
Satellite images of the Lake Winola - LaPlume railbed. Provided by Wally Smith.
This is a photo facing North towards the Landsdowne way station fomr North Chinchilla.
The road on the right is the turnpike that was acquired by the Northern Electric
to obtain right of way through the Providence Notch.
Another view of the "Notch" Very interesting photo, view is towards Chinchilla, shows (L to R) DL&W, Leggetts Creek, The Northern Electric and the Turnpike through the notch. Postcard courtesy of Tim Traver
NE bridge crossing the DL&W at Dalton PA, Postcard courtesy of Tim Traver
Webmaster's note: Need a color copy of the above postcard, credit will be given.
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