Written by: Barbara Barksdale
How often do you look around when you are walking or driving around Steelton? I had to stop at the Steelton Post Office and when coming out I stood there looking at the building across the street that I had the pleasure of touring several months ago. As I was standing there a Mr. Carroll seeing me stare at the building started talking to me and I explained that I would love to see the building by the Locust Street steps rehabbed. Then we got into the discussion about the area having a historic district that I am trying to get for our beautiful town. He then informed me and directed me to a piece of history that many of us go by on a daily basis. There in front of me was a very large towering pole…a trolley car pole. Yes, the last bit of great history that connected us in another way.
He shared some information concerning the pole but was not certain of all the questions that I was asking of him this Steelton Trolley Car connector. Well, if you know me I had to get to my office, research, validate and write about this awesome history.
Originally service was started by horse trolley in 1886 to Steelton by the Harrisburg East Company. The company electrified the trolley car pole service to Steelton sometime during the early part of the month in July 1888.
Can you imagine the many people that traveled on this line for years? The Borough was bustling during that time period with lots of shops, houses, steelworkers and schools. The travelers included working women, parents, children, tired steel workers, grocery shoppers and so many more that used the “street car” but not without this pole. This pole serviced hundreds of people and was a delivery system of mail and purchased items long before there was a direct delivery system as we know now. This was the main line to Highspire, Middletown and Camp George Meade during the Spanish American War where Buffalo Soldiers also stayed and would travel to Steelton to see friends. Some of you may recall the trolley tracks that were on Pine Street and on Front Street years ago. With time and resurfacing they were either buried or removed. But yet the pole remains.
As we walked by this trolley car pole forgotten in time you may someday take the time to look at it and reflect on its history and the people that benefitted from it. It is old, cracked in several areas, the metal is rusting and chipping but yet it stands firm in the concrete block. At the top of it, it is capped, at first I thought it was original to the pole but learned that it was procedure to cap the poles once they were out of service. There are very few left of the original genuine trolley poles in America…and we have one. Those still existing from this period in America were repurposed and used to support electric wire poles. Most people do not have an idea what this pole was used for, but may, depending on the location, just lean against it for their support. If this pole could talk…oh what would it tell us?
Our Steelton trolley pole stands at the entrance to the Steelton United States Post Office driveway and I pray that it will never get hit as the mail is being delivered. July 16, 1939 was the last time that this pole was electrified bidding farewell with progress to modern times. Got to run, here comes the bus!