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LHT Historic Site – Johnson Trolley Line

Johnson Trolley Line

The Story

The LHT follows a segment of the former Johnson Trolley Line in Lawrenceville, and most trail users probably don’t recognize it. After all, there are no rails, no ties, cinders or grit, like with most railroads. The Johnson Trolley began operating in 1902 and in its peak year of 1921 carried 1.6 million fares. A one-way trip between Princeton and Trenton took 35 minutes. The trolley’s heyday was short-lived, cut short by the automobile. The last passengers traveled the line in 1940. Today, the LHT and many other trails make use of former rail lines, offering hikers and bikers a calmer alternative to the highway.
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LHT Johnson Trolley Line Albert Munsey

Albert Johnson

The trolley is named after Albert Johnson, a Kentucky native who operated a streetcar company in Cleveland and then acquired franchises in Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

Albert Johnson, June 1901 (Albert Munsey’s Magazine).

An enthusiast for electric railways, he eventually took an active part in the building of the London Underground. He dreamed of an electrified trolley system connecting Philadelphia and New York City, which would have passed through Lawrenceville, but planning was cut short by his death in 1901.

The Johnson Trolley Line was purchased in 1929 by the Reading Railroad, which ran local freight service until 1973. This no doubt accounts for the boxcar sitting on the siding just east of the station in 1940 when this aerial photograph was taken.

Aerial view of downtown Lawrenceville, looking southeast, 1940 (Dallin Aerial Survey Photographs, Hagley Museum & Library).
LHT Johnson Trolley Line Hagley Village

Lawrenceville Village

LHT Johnson Trolley Line Lville Station

The Station

The two-story brick building to your right at the southeast corner of James Street and Phillips Avenue has a very domestic appearance.

It is actually the former Johnson Trolley Line combination station, office and powerhouse. The old trolley building has been restored in recent years by owner Gary Hullfish. The cast-iron railroad crossing sign is a custom reproduction.

Peering through the gated opening in the center of the facade would have offered a glimpse of the high-voltage electric equipment that powered the trolleys.

A streetcar on the Johnson Trolley Line at James Street, just to the right of your current location, circa 1930 (Gary Hullfish).
LHT Johnson Trolley Line James St

The Trolley

Compared to the prevailing coal-fired steam operations of main line railroads, the electric trolleys were quiet, clean and had the advantage of accelerating and decelerating quickly, which made it possible to make frequent close-spaced stops for passengers.

Continuing the Story

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