Wolcott Historical Society History for March 2013
By Florence Goodman
The Blizzard of February 9, 2013 dubbed "Charlotte" by WFSB weathermen brought an abundance of snow to Wolcott and the state of Connecticut, but this is not the first February snowstorm to cripple our area. This month I would like to share some pictures of the Green Line Trolley after a large snowfall blanketed our area in early February of 1920 and give you a brief history of this trolley line that brought public transportation up Meriden Road into Wolcott.
While spending several days shoveling and snow blowing the two plus feet of snow in my driveway, I began to think of a similar snowfall I had seen in old post cards at the Historical Society' Schoolhouse Museum. When I carefully perused the cards, I noticed the date at the bottom of the cards was identical to our recent blizzard. Ninety-three years ago, Wolcott received enough snow to keep residents in their homes for many days. Imagine trying to remove that much snow with limited resources?
I began researching the 1920 storm and with help from a former student / colleague from Tyrrell Middle School, Sara Tedesco and former colleague / meteorologist, John Bagioni, I was able to find out a few facts about it. The information found at, "Dave's Weather America" stated that in February of 1920 our area received 17" of snow and sleet. The removal of the snow created such a problem that the Army was called in to help. They used flamethrowers in the removal process. Another website, "Nice List of Great Snowstorms in the NE USA" stated that in 1920 from February 4th thru the 7th a large snow and sleet storm left an accumulation of 37 to 50 cm of ice, sleet, and snow in New York City and Boston, Massachusetts. This storm stalled over the area stopping traffic for weeks. John Bagioni felt that there was probably accumulated snow on the ground already and this three day weather event of sleet, snow and ice created a "very disruptive clean-up."
Those pictures told it all and records showed that a large amount of sleet and snow did fall in this region in February of 1920. Surprisingly, all that snow only delayed the Green Line Trolley for several days from making its usual run from the Waterbury Green to Milldale. So let me give you a brief history of this trolley line and how it helped in the development of the Hitchcock Lake area.
Trolleys were usually associated with summer recreation because the trolley companies built resorts in areas surrounding large cities to increase the use of their lines. In the fall of 1913 workers began laying track up Meriden Road, which passed through the Will Garrigus farm. On December 4, 1914 the Waterbury and Milldale Tramway Company also known as "The Green Line" trolley began to provide service from the center of Waterbury to southern Wolcott along Meriden Road to Hitchcock Lake. It then continued down Southington Mountain into Milldale.
The Hitchcock Lake area was known as Shelt's because Mr. Shelton Hitchcock owned much of the land around the lake and his home was located on Meriden Road near the head of the lakes. The area became a favorite retreat for city people with its pure spring water and peaceful scenery. The lots around the lake were inexpensive so summer cottages and small businesses quickly sprang up. It became a popular water resort for people from Waterbury and this new transportation helped with the rapid development of these twin lakes.
At its peak the Tramway Company operated six cars over 9.2 miles of track in the Waterbury area. A car barn, repair shop and a waiting station were located at the corner of Woodland Avenue and Meriden Road just across from where Perillo's Bowling Alley is today. The trolley cars began and ended their routes at the Waterbury Green. During rush hours or "express runs," Frost Road was the point where the cars turned around and headed back to the Green.
In 1921 the company purchased two center-entrance, double-truck Birney safety cars from the American Car Company in St. Louis, Missouri. A company from Nova Scotia originally ordered these unique trolley cars, but the order was canceled. These were the first and only safety cars ever built by this company that featured the center door.
The Green Line Trolley from Hitchcock Lake to Milldale was stopped in 1927. The East Main Street Line Service continued until October 29, 1933 when it was closed down because of street repaving. The next day the Cooke Street Bus Line began operating buses that followed the Green Line route; sometime later the bus was dubbed the "Green Line."
As you can see the Green Line Trolley played an important role in helping to develop Hitchcock Lake into an enjoyable summer and weekend recreational getaway. Many restaurants and several small amusement areas developed in this location because residents of Waterbury now had transportation into our suburb.
(Information for this article was taken from Dave's Weather America Blizzard Central, Eastern US Weather Forums, Images or Rail Waterbury Trolleys, 2005 Arcadia, 175th Anniversary 1796-1971 by John Washburne, and John Bagiono.)
A 1925 map of the Green Line trolley route from Waterbury to Milldale.
A 2008 Google map of the same route.
Green Line trolley at Dew Drop Inn in February 1920 (location uncertain).
Green Line trolley on Southington Mountain during February snowstorm in 1920.
Green Line trolley at top if Southington Mountain during February snowstorm in 1920.
Green Line trolley on Meriden Road at Dew Drop Inn (date and location uncertain).
Green Line trolley trestle that crossed over Meriden Road at top of mountain.
Laying tracks for the Green Line on Will Garrigus farm (Meriden Road), 1913.
Green Line trolley at car house on Meriden and Frost Roads.
Green Line waiting station on Meriden Road across from Perillo's Bowling Alley in 2013.
Green Line Car #9 (photo courtesy of Harold West).
Green Line Car #112 (photo courtesy of Harold West).
Fred West and friend (photo courtesy of Harold West).
Fred West and friends (photo courtesy of Harold West).
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