Ever ride a real trolley car?
You can do just that here at the Rockhill Trolley Museum! From the ting-ting of the trolley bell, to the growl of the gears, and the ticka-ticka-ticka of the air compressor, you’ll learn about the sounds to listen for when riding with us!
Take a step back in time to when many American towns and cities offered inexpensive and convenient transportation using electric trolleys.
Our collection has several operational trolleys, including cars from local Pennsylvania towns such as York and Johnstown, to cars from out of this state such as San Diego, and even further away such as Porto Portugal. We have high-speed interurban cars from Chicago and Philadelphia, fascinating maintenance-of-way cars from Porto, and two PCC Cars, one from Philadelphia and the other from Newark New Jersey. Plus you’ll see more cars being restored in the restoration shop by our talented volunteers.
You and your family can learn about trolleys and how generations before ours got around in America while enjoying a leisurely ride through the scenic countryside.
Your Trip Begins with the Purchase of a Ticket
We have two locations to purchase tickets at, our own Meadow Street Platform Ticket Booth, and across the street at the East Broad Top Orbisonia Train Station. Once you have your tickets in hand, proceed to the red brick platform where our trolley cars will normally depart from. Trolleys depart from the Meadow Street platform during holiday events and other special operation days.
Upon boarding, please have a seat and the conductor will come to you to punch your ticket. Each ticket puncher is unique so try to get your ticket punched by many of our volunteers! After seated and the trolley is ready to depart, riders will occasionally hear the chuga-chuga-chuga sound of the air compressor as it replenishes the air for the brakes. The conductor will sound two bells to depart and the motorman will sound two gongs. Riders will hear the rush of air as the brakes release and hear the characteristic hum of the electric motors.
The Brick Platform
This is where you will board to head outbound towards Blacklog Narrows and you will be let off here after your trip. Look left and right when you are walking up the pedestrian walkway after you have disembarked from the East Broad Top train, or just walking from your car. Trolleys sound their bells and whistle when approaching the brick platform, but do your part and be attentive!
As the trolley departs the brick platform, it traverses the former Shade Gap Branch of the East Broad Top Railroad on standard (4 ft 8.5 in.) gauge. Visitors will get a short view of cars inside or in front of Carbarn 1. Next, the car passes a ballpark and Carbarn 2. From this point on, the journey takes visitors through the nineteenth century realm of the Rockhill Iron Company that once operated here 24/7 with 700 employees. Shortly after passing Carbarn 2, the trolley will cross Cummins Road. Trolleys equipped with an air whistle will sound two longs, a short, and another long for the crossing; cars without a whistle will sound their gong.
As the car proceeds toward Altoff Siding, a trained eye will be able to spot the slag piles, but the average visitor will only see pleasant woodlands, meadows, and a small stream beside the track. Just as in the trolley era when the trolley industry was the 5th largest in the US and carried 15 billion passengers a year, there may be one or more trolleys waiting at the siding for our car to pass before they can enter the single track to return to the Brick Platform.
After the siding, the car enters the narrows, where the woods are thicker and the mountain side steeper. There is a brief evidence of mine tailings where water pours out of one of the iron company’s now flooded mines but visitors are more likely to enjoy the view of the Blacklog Creek as it flows serenely to the left of the trolley track. As the car rounds the final curve, the Blacklog Narrows Platform appears ahead at the end of the track. There is a track on each side of the platform. Visitors may notice that the turnout from the switch to the siding is quite sharp; only a trolley can negotiate such a sharp turn (which was, in fact, designed and fabricated in our own shops). When the car comes to a stop, the motorman will give a brief history of the car and its significance in the trolley era.
Outside, the conductor will raise the front pole and then lower the rear pole. That is so the trolley can troll along on the overhead wire behind the car to pick up the 600 volt DC power on which the motors operate. Yes, the “trolley” is really the brass harp with the carbon insert at the end of the pole. Trolley cars got their name because they had a “Trolley”. The motorman will reverse the direction of the seats (in some cars) and take the operating handles to the other end of the car. Most trolley cars operate from either end; the motorman determines which end is the front.
Rockhill Iron Company
After the car crosses Cummins Road on the return trip, the motorman may give a brief talk on the history of the Rockhill Iron Company as the car pauses next to the most visible of its remains. (Talks, pauses and tours may not occur during Special Events.) Shortly after, the motorman will stop to throw a switch so we can depart from the dual gauge track. The switch has a spring — it was not necessary to throw it when the car passed it on the outbound trip.
The trip usually ends at the Brick Platform but may instead end at Carbarn 1. From here visitors may visit the Museum Store or gather for a tour of Carbarn 1 (except on Special Events days). If the group shows an interest, a guide may also show them through the restoration shop. Carbarn 2 may also be toured, if pre-arranged or there is sufficient volunteer coverage to do so.
Where is “the Museum?”
The answer is: as soon as you step out of your car, you’re in it! The museum is your trolley ride and all the things you’ll see throughout the grounds. Inside the Museum Store, there are a handful of pictures on display. These exhibits rotate periodically, but our collection of cars and equipment really is the heart of the exhibits.
The motorman or conductor may offer to take riders on a tour of the cars in Carbarn 1 at the conclusion of most excursions, but the best way to experience a trolley is by riding in it and seeing it come to life. While each car’s destination is the same, each ride is quite different. For this reason, tickets are good for unlimited rides on the day of purchase. On many days there may only be enough qualified crew members to run one car at a time, but if visitors request to ride one of the other passenger cars that are out on display, the dispatcher will do their best to schedule it.