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Out of the Past: Buses replace the trolleys in Hamburg, circa 1934

BEEP, BEEP — Pictured is one of the first buses from the Hamburg Railways Company circa 1934. The photo is a contribution from the historian’s files.
HAMBURG — William Allen introduced the trolleys in the development of mass transportation in Hamburg and also recognized the potential that buses offered, in moving people to desired locations in the Southtowns. After all, buses needed no overhead lines to operate and the motor bus had complete freedom of movement, allowing for any desired route to be established.

Pictured is one of the first buses of the Hamburg Railways Company, as it picks up a passenger at Main and Buffalo streets in the village of Hamburg, in 1934. The former “bunting block” is in the background on the northwest corner of the intersection; the building was later destroyed by a fire, in 1967.

On May 7, 1927, Allen petitioned the Hamburg Town Board to operate motor vehicles along certain highways in the town. His request included routes along Boston-Springville Road, Eden Valley Road from the village of Hamburg to the southern line of the town, Big Tree Road from South Park State Road to the eastern line of the town, and Newton Road to the eastern line of the town.

Later that year, during a special meeting of the Hamburg Town Board regarding Allen’s application, Supervisor George Abbott and the board granted Allen 10 years of operations. The Hamburg Railways, owned by Allen, were slowly converted from an all-trolley traction company to motor buses. The last trolleys ran in Hamburg in 1932.

When the trolleys stopped running, at least two other bus lines petitioned to operate buses within the town. Both the Erie County Motor Coach Lines and the Allegany Motor Coach Company sought licenses to operate along Abbott Road, South Park Avenue, Gowanda State Road and various other lines, from downtown Buffalo to the village of Hamburg.

Both proposals were rejected. The Hamburg Railways continued to dominate public transportation in Hamburg through the ‘30s; by the end of World War II, during the ‘40s, Allen’s company was challenged, after several years of poor management and service. By the end of that decade, buses from the Buffalo Transit Company began to serve passengers from Hamburg.

With Hamburg’s “new” trolley station near the Clark Street roundabout coming close to completion, I thought it would be interesting to review the early trolley lines that served the town of Hamburg between 1897 and 1932. There were three trolley lines that operated within the town, during that period. The Buffalo and Lake Erie Traction Company operated an interurban line along the Lake Shore from Buffalo – Erie, Pa. with several stops in between.

A second line, the Hamburg Railways Company, started in 1895, to operate a line from Ridge Road in Lackawanna through Blasdell, via Electric Avenue, and ending at Hawkins Avenue in Hamburg. When started, the line was also projected to run to Woodlawn Beach, via tracks along Ridge Road to Route 5 and then south to Woodlawn.

The third line ran down Clark Street, near Imagine:Hamburg’s new trolley station. The line was originally run by the Buffalo Southern Railway and came out of Buffalo on Seneca Street, proceeded on Abbott Road to Armor, then down Clark Street to South Park and finally up Buffalo Street, to where it intersects with Main Street.

It has been more than 60 years since the trolleys serving the city of Buffalo have been gone, and those serving Hamburg and other suburbs left 20 years earlier. However, the question of how to move people in Western New York more efficiently and economically remains. Certainly the old trolleys were airy, noisy and due to be replaced. In recent years, there has been some second guessing.

This column was written by Hamburg Town Historian Jim Baker.

Individuals’ wanting to submit photographs and/or materials can call Baker at the Hamburg Town Hall on either Wednesday or Thursday, between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., at 649-6111 ext. 2400. Readers can also provide feedback by writing to The Sun and mailing correspondences to The Sun at 141 Buffalo St., Hamburg, NY 14075.

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