Aquidneck Island Trolleys: A lecture by Jim Garman

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The Portsmouth Historical Society will host a lecture by Portsmouth Town Historian Jim Garman entitled “Aquidneck Island Trolleys.”

The lecture will be held at the Portsmouth Free Public Library on Monday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. This lecture is free and open to the public but reservations are recommended and can be made by calling the library at 401-683-9457. 

In the age of the horse and buggy, mass transit was not available on Aquidneck Island except for the Old Colony Railroad (built 1862-1864).

Some cities had horse-cars earlier. But with the development of electric street railways (begun in Richmond VA in 1888), mass transit emerged in a new form which proved very popular.

In 1889 the first street railway was authorized in Newport. Eventually, Newport had the Main Line from Morton Park to One-Mile Corner and additional lines to First Beach and to the Naval Training Station. The first of two “Interurban Lines” was built in 1898 and a second in 1903. It was then possible to travel along the two major highways from Newport to the Stone Bridge and to Bristol Ferry respectively.

Trolley ridership was robust in the 1900-1918 era. Eventually, however, the trolleys were replaced by busses, jitneys and, of course, the automobile.

By 1925 the trolley companies were out of business as motorized travel replaced the electric street railways. But it was a very interesting period in mass transit on Aquidneck Island.

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