Rural “Mass Transit” a Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, January 20, 1912: Ruth and I went to Milton this afternoon. We both had our pictures taken. I hope mine won’t be any bigger than what I am, but I won’t know for a whole week yet.

Old postcard of South Front Street, Milton. (Source: Milton Historical Society, Used with permission.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sounds like Grandma was worried that she’d look heavy in the photo. I wonder if she’d gained weight over the holiday season.

The Muffly farm is about 6 miles from Milton—but the sisters probably used “mass transit” to get there.

Ruth and Grandma probably walked the two miles to Watsontown—or  maybe they took the train to Watsontown. (There was a whistle-stop for the Susquehanna Bloomsburg and Berwick Railroad at Truckenmiller’s Feed Mill which was located near their farm.) Once the sisters got to Watsontown they would have taken the trolley from Watsontown to Milton.

It amazes me how many transportation options were available in a relatively remote area of Pennsylvania a hundred years ago. And, how trolleys and passenger rail service vanished a little later in the 20th century as automobile ownership proliferated.

6 Responses

  1. That’s a pretty big town there! I’ve read that the automobile industry was responsible for dismantling a robust public transportation in California to make automobiles king. Wouldn’t be surprised if this was true in other places too. Very sad.

    • Based upon what my father’s said I think that many people just stopped using the trolley system after they had cars. The trolley cars and track fell into disrepair and they eventually got rid of it.

      I don’t think that the passenger service of the Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick railroad was ever very reliable. I’ve hear that people called it the Sweet, Bye, and Bye railroad because you never knew when the train would come. And, I think that there were a lot off issues with the railroad not being profitable. (Though the tracks are still in use. Today trains rumble down it taking coal to an electric power plant that is about 15 or 20 miles away.)

  2. [...] and her sister Ruth got their pictures taken when they went to Milton on January 20. At that time Grandma worried that she would look heavy–she must have gained weight over the [...]

  3. [...] Stout was a friend of Grandma’s. Grandma had her photo taken by a professional photographer in January. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  4. My grandmothers name is Ruth, and from Watsontown. Was it she whomever your grandmother was referring I wonder?

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