Trolley park

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1910, Idora Park, Oakland, California at the end of the trolley line. IdoraParkOakland1910.jpg
1910, Idora Park, Oakland, California at the end of the trolley line.

In the United States, trolley parks, which started in the 19th century, were picnic and recreation areas along or at the ends of streetcar lines in most of the larger cities. These were precursors to amusement parks. Trolley parks were often created by the streetcar companies to give people a reason to use their services on weekends. [1]


The parks originally consisted of picnic groves and pavilions, and often held events such as dances, concerts and fireworks. Many eventually added features such as swimming pools, carousels, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, sports fields, boats rides, restaurants and other resort facilities to become amusement parks. Various sources report the existence of between 1,500 and 2,000 amusement parks in the United States by 1919. [2]

Coney Island

One such location was Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, where a horse-drawn street car line brought pleasure seekers to the beach beginning in 1829. In 1875, a million passengers rode the Coney Island Railroad, and in 1876 two million reached Coney Island. Hotels and amusements were built to accommodate both the upper-classes and the working-class. The first carousel was installed in the 1870s, the first Switchback Railway in 1881. It wasn't until 1895 that the first permanent amusement park in North America opened: Sea Lion Park at Coney Island. This park was one of the first to charge admission for entrance to the park in addition to selling tickets for rides within the park. [2]

In 1897, it was joined by Steeplechase Park, the first of three major amusement parks that would open in the area. George Tilyou designed the park to provide thrills and sweep away the restraints of the Victorian crowds. The combination of the nearby population center of New York City and the ease of access to the area made Coney Island the embodiment of the American amusement park. [2] In addition there was Luna Park (opened in 1903) and Dreamland (opened in 1904). Coney Island was a huge success, and by 1910 attendance on a Sunday could reach a million people. [2]

Trolley parks decline

The Jack Rabbit Derby Racer at Ramona Park, a trolley park in East Grand Rapids, MI. The park closed in 1955. Jack Rabbit Derby Racer, Ramona Park, Grand Rapids, MI.jpeg
The Jack Rabbit Derby Racer at Ramona Park, a trolley park in East Grand Rapids, MI. The park closed in 1955.

By the early 20th century, there were hundreds of amusement parks, many of them starting as trolley parks, in operation around the USA. Every major city boasted one or more parks, often based on (or named) Coney Island, Luna Park, or Dreamland. This began the era of the “golden age” of amusement parks that reigned until the late 1920s. This was an era when the number of hours worked was reduced, while the amount of disposable income rose. The amusement parks reflected the mechanization and efficiency of industrialization, while serving as a source of fantasy and escape from real life. [2]

With the increasing number of automobiles in use, urban trolley parks gradually declined, due to lack of parking and changing demographics in the urban areas. Although the automobile provided people with more options for satisfying their entertainment needs, amusement parks that were accessible by car continued to be successful and new parks were developed. It was urban trolley parks that saw declining attendance. By the end of the 1920s, amusement parks were to suffer steep declines for various reasons, particularly the Great Depression. [2]

List of trolley parks still operating

ParkLocationOpenedTrolley companyNotes
Bushkill Park Easton, Pennsylvania 1902 [3]
Camden Park Huntington, West Virginia [4] 1903 [1] Camden Interstate Railway Company
Canobie Lake Park Salem, New Hampshire [5] [6] 1902 [1] Massachusetts Northeast Street Railway Company
Clementon Park Clementon, New Jersey 1907
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom Allentown, Pennsylvania 1884 [1]
Kennywood Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1898 [1] Monongahela Street Railways Company
Lake Compounce Bristol, Connecticut 1846Oldest continuously operating amusement park in the US
Lakemont Park Altoona, Pennsylvania 1894 [1] Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway
Lakeside Amusement Park Denver, Colorado 1907 Denver Tramway
Midway Park Maple Springs, New York [7] 1898 [1] Jamestown and Lake Erie Railway
Oaks Amusement Park Portland, Oregon [1] May 30, 1905 Oregon Water Power and Railway Company
Quassy Amusement Park Middlebury, Connecticut [8] 1908 [1]
Ravinia Park Highland Park, Illinois 1904 Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad
Seabreeze Amusement Park Rochester, New York 1879 [1] Rochester and Lake Ontario Railroad
Waldameer Park Erie, Pennsylvania 1896 [1] Erie Electric Motor Company

List of trolley parks now closed

Roller coasters of Palisades Amusement Park are visible atop the Palisades, as seen from the trolley terminal in Edgewater, New Jersey, in the early 20th century Edgewater old trolley terminal.jpg
Roller coasters of Palisades Amusement Park are visible atop the Palisades, as seen from the trolley terminal in Edgewater, New Jersey, in the early 20th century

See also

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