Streets and Electric Railways of Erie County, Pa.
From: History of Erie County, Pennsylvania
By: John Elmer Reed
Published ByHistorical Publishing Co., Topeka - Indianapolis 1925


A horse drawn street railway system had been in operation on the streets of Erie since 1867, superseding the picturesque bus line operated by William Loesch from Perry Square up State Street, Turnpike Street and Peach Street to Federal Hill. The driver of the bus sat on his high, outside seat, equipped with a strong voiced tin horn upon which he performed with vigor and enthusiasm. The boys called this outfit "Bill Loesch's Band." Loesch operated under an ordinance requiring him to make regular daily trips between the termini.

In 1868 a company had been organized and commenced running its horse cars on the main line on State, Turnpike and Peach Streets from the Hamot Hospital site to its stables and car barns where the present South Erie Turn hall stands, just south of Twenty sixth Street. This company was called the Erie Passenger Railway Company, and its stockholders and officers comprised practically all of the well known business men of the town.

Strife between. the car company and the bus line soon developed, but one morning Mr. Loesch found all of his horses lying dead in the stables, and being obliged to defer service for a day or so to get others, he was called on to forfeit his franchise. He always maintained that the animals had been poisoned to remove him from the competition.

W. W. Reed at length became active in its management, and he advocated its electrification; and in the early spring of 1885 the first electric passenger car in this county came up State Street on its trial trip, with Jacob Pfetsch, the General Manager in charge. Other cars were speedily fitted for electricity, and shortly all of the rolling stock of the company were under electric power excepting a small bob car running semi occasionally up and down Turnpike Street, upon which a passenger was a startling curiosity. Mr. Casement of Painesville becoming interested in the company, it was reorganized on Oct. 1, 1888, as the Erie Electric Motor Company, which continued the operation of the lines until April 13, 1906, when a new organization called the Buffalo & Lake Erie Traction Company took over all of the lines, and in August of that year acquired the suburban and inter-urban lines east on the Buffalo Road to Westfield from the promoters' receiver who had been operating for some time. A power station had been constructed by the builders of the road, at Six Mile Creek, which was later abandoned when better power facilities were secured. The inter-urban line to Buffalo is now being operated by the Buffalo & Erie Railways Company, which has bought the property from the receiver of the former company.

In January, 1901, John R. McDonald, H. E. Fish, Charles E. Shenk, J. Spencer VanCleve and John S. Rilling organized the Conneaut & Erie Traction Company, which was built along the Ridge Road to Conneaut, Ohio; later it was extended, and connecting companies joined their links of railway to it, until cars run over the rails from Erie to Cleveland, and the company finally became the Cleveland & Erie Railway Company, which later went into the hands of a receiver, who operated it for a time until he made a sale of the road and its road bed, iron, trolley, and cars were scrapped.

Another inter-urban line, that has apparently been making money for its owners, is operated by a company that is the final successor of the Erie Transit Company, chartered April 22, 1891, through the efforts of Hon. Perry A. Gibson, an Edinboro boy who had been living in Erie for some time. Its route was from Cambridge Springs to Edinboro, thence over the Edinboro Plank Road through McLane, McKean, Kearsarge to Erie. Construction on its line down Myrtle Street was halted at Nineteenth Street by the Nickel Plate Railroad, and never went any farther. It now enters the city over the Peach Street tracks of the local street car company. A branch was built from the line into Meadville, which later became the main line, with the branch leading from it to Cambridge Springs. Connections have since been made which extend the service to other points south and west of Meadville, and the line is being well patronized under modern, practical management.

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