PAUL DUNN: Nothing New Under the Sun: Trolley Idea Has a Proud History
Last week, a Pilot article caught my eye. Greg Law, a returning veteran, proposed that a trolley line be established between Southern Pines and Pinehurst -- an idea of interesting merit.
The 82nd Airborne veteran suggests the timing might be propitious since discretionary federal funds might be garnered for the project. With words abounding about President Obama's economic stimulus, many eager hands are raised for a fair share -- or in this case a fare share.
I was reminded of the article when I recently visited the Tufts Archives. For those who've never been there, it's located in the Given Memorial Library in Pinehurst and is well worth an exploratory visit. On this trip, I happened to mention the fact that a trolley line had once operated connecting those two communities. John Root, a volunteer at the Archives, quickly produced, as if by magic, a two-color map showing the exact route of the old trolley line.
The line was built by James Walker Tufts, the genius who created Pinehurst. A consummate entrepreneur, Tufts decided, once he'd set his mind to creating a small New England village in the Sandhills, that visitors should be able to reach it from Southern Pines' railhead via trolley. In short order he'd laid tracks, built a power plant, purchased a trolley, hired a trolley car operator and crew, and was in business. The enterprise lasted from 1895 until 1905, with local service within just Pinehurst lasting another two years.
John Root's map indicates the trolley tracks began near the present-day Carolina Hotel. But in actual fact the trolley stopped directly in front of the first hotel Tufts built, the Holly Inn. It then headed directly to the location of today's large and very busy Pinehurst Traffic Circle, then went down the middle of Midland Road (where majestic longleaf pines now tower), continuing to the Knollwood Golf Course Driving Range property.
There tracks turned right. The tracks crossed Glover Street, continuing along Illinois Avenue, crossing Wisconsin Avenue, and at Broad Street turned left along Broad until reaching the present-day railway tracks at the recently restored station depot, ending at New Hampshire. It's still possible to see traces of the old tracks along parts of the right of way.
The right-of-way agreement called for a payment of just one dollar and was entered into by the always-adroit Tufts with the New England Mining, Manufacturing and Estate Company to allow an electric railway alongside the Seaboard tracks in Southern Pines. Before the electric trolley arrived, a horse-drawn trolley had brought guests to Tufts' hotel and cottages.
According to an account by Tufts Archivist Audrey Moriarty in her informative book "Pinehurst: Golf, History, and the Good Life," the trolley brought passengers and luggage to and from the hotel as well as food and other supplies, which arrived by rail from points north and south. Southern Pines was where the U.S. mail was picked up and delivered by trolley to Pinehurst residents and guests.
North-south trains operated with reliable frequency, and before the auto and airplane that's how guests, mostly from the north, arrived here. A large trolley powered with overhead electric wires offered both regular and first-class service, and by 1897 ran for seven miles. In cold weather cars could be closed and were electrically heated. The regular fare: 15 cents one-way.
In the village of Pinehurst, Tufts built a trolley depot building, and according to Moriarty, the station stop was called Pinehurst Junction. Smaller open trolley cars carried construction materials, merchandise of all kinds and large passenger trunks.
One hundred fourteen years ago, the trolley line was a viable form of intermodal transportation here.
Today the route is probably far too dangerous, with fast-moving automobiles and trucks, to allow for safe operation. However, a jitney type bus operation between the two communities might have real merit at a time when Americans are looking for ways to save gasoline.
It would cost very little to test the concept, particularly since Pinehurst Resorts has in its stable buses that look just like trolleys. Hotel guests might relish being able to visit nearby Southern Pines in such style. I doubt the fare will be 15 cents.
Paul R. Dunn, co-author of "Great Donald Ross Golf Courses You Can Play," lives in Pinehurst and can be reached at email@example.com.
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