Our Mission: Friends of the Hershey Trolley is a committee of The Hershey-Derry Township Historical Society. Its mission is the education and preservation of the Hershey Transit trolley system that ran from 1904 to 1946.
History: The Trolleys That Ran On Chocolate
On December 21, 1946 , at midnight, Cars No. 17, No. 21, and No. 23 rolled out of the square in Hershey on their last run, ending the almost half-century era of Milton Hershey’s trolley line. Regardless of inclement weather, Hersheyites rode the cars for the last time, carrying receipts showing a thirty-five percent increase on that day.
As the chocolate company took off, Milton Hershey saw a need for transportation, not only to bring milk from the fields on surrounding farms, but also to bring his workers into Hershey. 1903 saw the formation of the Hummelstown & Campbellstown Street Railway, sponsored by Mr. Hershey, to operate an electric railway from Hummelstown through Derry Church to Palmyra to Palmyra and Campbelltown. Three Brill trolley cars were ordered, one straight passenger and the other two combination freight and passenger. On October 15, 1904, the first trolley left Hummelstown for Derry Church.
1907 saw additional cars and companies added to accommodate the increased number of passengers and freight. Additional trolley lines sprung up; Deodate & Hershey Street Railway, Elizabethtown & Deodate Street Railway, Conestoga Traction Co. and the Lebanon and Campbellstown Street Railway were formed, extending service and adjoining existing service to outlying communities.
On December 13, 1913, the Hershey Transit Company was formed, merging all of the surrounding trolley lines and subsidiaries. Hershey officials kept their trolleys and the 35 miles of line in first-class condition. Cars were clean and brightly painted in deep green with yellow trim. The Hershey Transit car roster numbered 1 through 30, although with some of the cars being replaced through the years, the total number of cars that ran during the company’s 42 year history is 34.
During the heyday of the trolleys, the nineteen-teens and twenties, in addition to hauling milk and passengers to and from work, “picnic trolleys”, or “picnic specials” were a common sight in Hershey. Cars from neighboring lines in Harrisburg, Lebanon, and Lancaster were permitted on Hershey’s lines and chartered to accommodate large crowds for outings and events, especially to Hershey Park. Sometimes a “basket” car was assigned to a very large groups. This car would pick up and deliver family meals that were carefully placed in baskets and boxes for the excursion. The picnic specials ran as late as the 1930’s.
For park visitors arriving on regular trolleys, a small single-truck trolley car was made available, free of charge, during the hours that the park was open, providing back and forth service between the square and the Hershey Park.
It is possible that the Hershey trolleys would have ceased running by the end of 1942, had it not been for the intervention of WWII. Hershey officials had placed an order for buses and trucks, but the Office of Defense Transportation ordered that the trolleys keep running. Rubber and gasoline were needed elsewhere.