People's Traction Company

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In 1892, the Philadelphia, Cheltenham and Jenkintown Passenger Railway Company was incorporated for the purpose of building an electric street railway from 15th and Erie Avenue in Philadelphia to a point which was described as being between the Valley Road and the Philadelphia, Bound Brook and New York Railroad, in the borough of Jenkintown, the line to follow Old York Road for its entire distance.

The original intent of the incorporators is not clear from the material available, but it seems likely that the company was merely a front for the Philadelphia Traction Company. This company, dominated by the Widener and Elkins interests, was the largest in Philadelphia. Still, it had difficulty competing for park and suburban traffic with the Peoples Traction Company, a much smaller undertaking which controlled vital suburban lines, especially the Germantown Avenue line, and a major cross-town route which ran from Kensington and Frank-ford to Fairmount Park via Girard Avenue.

The Peoples Traction Company apparently had no intention of losing this new suburban route to Philadelphia Traction without a struggle. The Philadelphia portion of the P. C. and 3 was authorized by ordinance of Philadelphia City Council on June 29, 1893, but a competing company, known as the Old York Road Passenger Railway Company, clearly controlled by the Peoples Traction Company, secured an overlapping franchise from Erie Avenue to Broad and Olney only four days later. It appeared that the competition for the route could easily lead to acts of violence, as it already had elsewhere in Philadelphia, if both companies decided to begin construction simultaneously. It is difficult to assess what actually happened. No records survive of the Old York Road Company, while the P. C. and 3 makes no mention of conflict or competition in its relatively dull directors' minutes. It seemed to be expending most of its energy during this period in nailing down every available thoroughfare, through franchise grants. In the city of Philadelphia this included a franchise on Mill Street and the Limekiln Pike north to City Line, and then on into Glenside along a route which paralleled very closely the route finally constructed in 1905 along Ogontz Avenue. Another franchise which followed Fishers Lane and Olney Lane to the Old Second Street Pike, now Rising Sun Avenue, and thence to City Line, came into direct conflict with the line of the Electric Traction Company being constructed from Franklinville to Fox Chase, and was probably never taken seriously by anyone concerned.

We are currently offering the following pieces from the People’s Traction Company:

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