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Trolley lines had a helping hand in boro growth

Queens had trolley lines, one of which ran along tracks in Bayside, but are no longer visible — like on 38th Avenue. The old trolley system was used for more than half a century and had never used overhead lines. Instead, power was delivered via an underground system.

Battery operation was used on one early trolley line in Flushing, but was impractical and overhead service was adopted shortly thereafter. The high volume of automobile and bus traffic and hastened the trolley's demise.

The Midville Brooklyn "horse car" and trolley lines promoted western Queens development. The Grand Street and Flushing-Ridgewood lines played important roles in the early history of Maspeth and Elmhurst. Queens had remained largely undeveloped while Brooklyn was incorporated as a city in 1834.

The Grand St. and Newtown Railway was incorporated in 1850, though not built until 1876, when Grand Street was extended into Queens and renamed "Grand Avenue."

A profitable flow of traffic to downtown shopping centers was experienced. Because of the volume of traffic Grand Street attracted, the Maspeth Depot was built on Grand Avenue and ready for service by 1894.

In 1893, the western Queens horse car lines became electrified and expanded their services from the Maspeth Depot to the Broadway ferries. Soon trolley expansion reached Corona and Elmhurst. The 1890s saw more growth when Flushing, an area then of 12,000 people, was serviced.

Before the automobile, the trolley networks carried Long Island's passengers from place to place, including Northern Boulevard. In 1907, a network of trolley lines began along the North Shore from Flushing to Roslyn and then later as far as Port Washington.

After World War I, when prices of materials rose and fares were not allowed to go up, the trolley's role declined, aided by competition from automobiles. In 1927, the Huntington line was the last to go.

You could travel on a trolley for 5 cents and service came every 15 minutes. But when trolleys vanished, no evidence of their presence remained. The trolley drawbridge over Alley Creek in Bayside, for example, was destroyed and streets such as 38th Avenue were made by paving over tracks, obliterating a once-vital source of community development.

Most shopping streets are usually where old trolley lines ran, as commerce and transportation tend to pair up. Thus, most city bus lines run along old trolley routes.

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