Electric Trolleybus



Photo by Roberta Hill

Computer Manipulation by Ken Josephson

Go to Bottom Page

I can however add an anecdote about how well 'ordinary' people actually notice trolleybus wires. A few years after the London system closed, a friend of my father's, who had moved out of London before the conversion, came back to visit.

He waited at his usual stop for a trolleybus to come along, allowing a number of [the replacing] buses to go by, wondering why he was having to wait so long for a trolleybus! Eventually, he noticed that there were no overhead wires, but it took him about half an hour!

[submitted by Irvine Bell]

I grew up on the northwest side of Milwaukee. When my oldest brother was about twelve years old, he and a friend rode the Route 23 diesel bus line downtown to see a movie. When it was time to return home, my brother and his friend asked the driver of another route where to catch their bus. The driver pointed to a safety island and stated, "You catch that bus right there." There was a Route 14 trolley bus waiting at the safety island. When the driver said "that bus", he was referring to the 23, which shared the same stop. My brother and his friend thought the driver meant the bus currently waiting at the shared stop. They boarded the trolley bus, went to the back and tore up their transfers. It was only after the trolley bus began traveling south that they began to realize: 1.) There was no trolley bus overhead in our neighborhood and 2.) They had about twenty cents left between them. After pleading with the understanding operator, he issued them transfers which enabled them to return home on the 23.

[submitted by Ken Josephson]

[Note: this bus driver was nice. When I lived in Milwaukee, one bus driver wouldn't let me on the bus since I was a block away from the transfer point. I refused to given them more money, so I walked. Richard]

My friend Charlie Davis tells the story about a Metro bus driver who was driving Brill 798 after it was brought back into service in the 70s. The driver was downtown and was leaving his stop and pushed down on the pedal. He noticed the head end of a bunch of celery bobbin up and down in front of him. He slammed on the breaks, and stood up and saw a little old lady walking directly in front of the bus carrying a bag of groceries with celery sticking out of the top. The Brills had poor visibility for things of this sort.

[submitted by Richard DeArmond].

When I was a teenager, I lived not far from San Francisco and had an opportunity to be in San Francisco by myself. So I took advantage of the occasion to ride some of SF's trolleys and streetcars. I was riding on the 33 Golden Gate (as I think was then called). We were going downhill when we got to the famous hairpin turn. The driver cut in too short and he lost his poles. For some reason some of the passengers got off the bus presumably to watch him repole. But he couldn't get the poles far enough over to the wires to make contact. He stood there and he wondered what to do. A lady passenger suggested the he put the poles on the uphill wires. Why not, he mused. So he did, nothing happened such as a spark storm, we got on, he drove the trolley 30 feet or so until he was under the wires. He repositioned the poles and off we went on our merry way.

[submitted by Richard DeArmond].

I don't remember who told me about the following anecdote. Before the major (and IMHO, criminal) conversion of electric trolleybus lines to diesel in 1963 in Seattle, drivers returning from the then #10 Mt.. Baker line to the garage would coast down the hill from 31st Ave.. S on McClellan to Rainier Ave.. S. where they would pole up and continue on their journey to the garage. On the day when the #7 closed and the power was shut off, these drivers were unaware of this and coasted down the hill. They repoled only to find out there was no juice. Embarrassed, they had to phone the garage for a tow truck. It is not known what disciplinary action they had to deal with.

[submitted by Richard DeArmond].


A driver on the service in the early 1960s recalled an incident of a crowded
bus pulling away from the foot of Wyndham St (the steep street which was the
reason for the 2 block service - the world's shortest etb line). The four
Leyland trolleys had 10-notch non-automatic foot-operated controllers, which
required some skill to operate smoothly. On this occasion our driver was a
little "lead footed" and tripped out the overload circuit breakers with a
terrific BANG!! These breakers did not have arc traps fitted and the
resulting sheet of flame shot out of the breaker and straight through the
heavily-lacquered hair of a lady passenger standing by the front door way.
The fashion at the time was for hair to be set very high on the head held
with copious quantities of lacquer. For this unfortunate lady, the arc took
the top clean off her bouffon hair style leaving her with what today might
be called a "flat-top". No doubt the trip up the hill to Hobson St was
tainted with the dreadful smell of singed hair and melted lacquer. In our
driver's defence, there was a sign on the floor of each bus stating quite
clearly NO STANDING FORWARD OF THIS LINE and maybe it was for just such a
scenario as this that the sign was fitted.


The four pioneer (1938 vintage) Leyland trolleybuses were retired in 1967
and have all been preserved, though none are currently in running order.
Other Auckland etbs ran the Wyndham St free service until 26 September 1980
when it closed, along with the final remnants of the rest of the Auckland
system. Tramway Topics records that the bus stop at the bottom of the hill
had to be shifted round the corner to give the replacement diesels a bit of
a run - their automatic transmissions not coping with hill starts too well!
The Farmers department store which paid for the service has since also
closed; the building is now an apartment and hotel complex.

[Submitted by Brent Efford]

Harold ("Dirty Harry") Anderson was a bus/trolley coach driver in Milwaukee during the late 1950's and early '60's. He shared the following story with me during 1979.

One particular night, Harry was heading eastbound with a 300 series Marmon-Herrington on Route 22. He reached the Lake Park terminal with one remaining passenger, an intoxicated man.

For some reason (I can't remember if it was an obstruction placed in the
coach's path by a prankster or a stray dog crossing its path), Harry had
to take a sudden evasive move as he was "turning the loop." He drove his
coach beyond the poles' reach and dewired. As he was attempting to
replace the poles on the overhead, the intoxicated gentleman stumbled
off the coach and assessed the situation.

"You're too far away...you'll never get those things back on. Call a tow
truck", said the passenger. At the same time, Harry noticed the coach
was on a slight upgrade. Turning to his passenger, Harry replied, "Who
needs a tow truck? I'll push this bus back under the wires!" As his
doubting passenger watched, Harry gave the Marmon a hard shove. The
errant trolley rolled obediently back under the wires, stopping in just
the right spot. As Harry "poled up", the passenger exclaimed, "Well I'll
be the Devil himself! I won't ever scrap with you."

Harry related another story which sounds more believable. In Transport
Company days, the Milwaukee system utilized extra fare zones. As Harry
entered an extra fare zone, an attractive young woman got up from her
seat and stood by the rear exit. Harry called out, You can't leave
unless you pay the rest of your fare." The young woman gave him puppy
dog eyes and pleaded, "Please, mister. I didn't know and I'm meeting my
friends for a movie. I'll be short." Harry replied, "I'm sorry, but you
owe the Transport Company another nickel." The woman stormed up to the
front of the coach, deposited the extra fare and left in a huff.

The next day, Harry received a compliment from one of his supervisors.
The young woman was the daughter of a company official and was working
during the summer as a "checker." Her job was to make sure drivers
collected all fares and didn't cut any slack with expired transfer

[submitted by Ken Josephson]

This one is for those who were around in the 1950's and early 60's in Johnstown.

Does anyone remember the little man in the long overcoat (regardless of
season) who hung around 22-Crosstown stops at East. Ohio and Federal
Streets, and sometimes downtown at Sixth St. and Penn Ave.? He carried
slips of paper and furiously wrote down the number of passing trolleys.
He also rode 22-Crosstown cars, holding down the seat behind the
motorman. He was NOT a trolley fan, and he never spoke to anyone. The
local buzz was that he was reacting to a mysterious trolley accident
involving a family member.

I saw this man many, many times, but interacted with him only once. I
lived on Spring Hill, and on New Years Day, 1960, I had to work downtown,
and was waiting for a 22-Crosstown trolley to get me there. The trolley
never arrived, but eventually the little man in the overcoat approached
me and began to use sign language. He showed me a 22-Crosstown
timetable, and shook his head, trying to tell me that the Crosstown
trolleys weren't running on that holiday. He was deaf mute! I thanked
him, and started to walk to downtown.

Does anyone remember this fixture on route 22?

I didn't have to work over the New Years WEEKEND, and so I drove to
Johnstown to photograph JTC trolleys in their last six months. One of
the photos I took on January 3, 1960 can be seen at:


Note the double
trolley wire for use by both trolleys and trolley buses.

[submitted by Bob Rathke, 7 AU 2000]

My friend Charlie Davis was driving an AMG on route 13 in Seattle several years ago and he was busy talking to a driver who lived on N. Queen Anne Hill. Charlie forgot to turn onto W. McGraw St. and continued north on N. Queen Anne Ave. using the #3 wire. It was too late when he realized his error. He finished the loop, but he had to turn westbound onto W. McGraw St. in order to get back onto the wire. He couldn't coast through the turn, so he decided to turn and let the trolley dewire. One of the poles came off, swung around, and rope got stuck on top of the bus and he couldn't reach it. Not wishing to phone control, he went to a gas station on the corner, borrow a stick used for measuring gas in a gas tank, went back to the trolley, and managed to release the rope so it came down. He returned the stick to the gas station, thanking the attendant, and went merrily on his way on route 13.

[submitted by Charlie Davis, 5 JL 2002]

Map of North System

On another occasion Charlie was driving a trolley westbound on S. Jackson St. and he was supposed to turn right onto 4th Ave. S. At that time he would drove his car home from S. Jackson St. to 4th Ave S. Just before 4th Ave. S. there is a traffic island. Automobiles may drive to the right of the island and they must turn right onto 4th Ave. S. The wires are positioned on S. Jackson such that the trolleys must stay to the left of the island and then turn right. By force of habit, he pulled into lane to the right of the island and then remembered he wasn't supposed to go on the right. The poles were at their limit before coming off the wires, and Charlie knew he couldn't make it without the poles coming off. So he tried to back off, but the poles came down. At this point a fellow driver saw his dilemma and went to help Charlie. He got the poles back on the wire and then helped keep them on the wires as Charlie resumed backing up until he could go forward on the left side of the island.

[submitted by Charlie Davis, 5 JL 2002]

Map of Downtown System


This page last updated 5 JL 2002