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Two trolleys.

Separated at birth?--Public Service Ry-Central Division Birney # 7001 is on the Easton Avenue line, New Brunswick, N.J. and the 2014 issue Lionel #81450 The Polar Express™ Trolley
(Public Service trolley photo courtesy of “Streetcars of New Jersey” by Joseph F. Eid Jr.
& Barker Gummere-John H. Riley Collection-used with permission)

Trolley Parks- America’s First Amusement Parks

A story of two states and why TCA Members won't have to go to court like they did.

By Bob Mintz                                                          Winter 2014

Take this trolley ride through history and end up with a one-time opportunity to own two special Lionel trolleys.

Trolley Parks started in the 19th century and rose in popularity when Charles J. Van Depoele created an electric trolley pole which could power a trolley car. This new invention replaced horse-drawn streetcars in the United States around the beginning of the 20th century. Trolley Parks naturally followed. 

These trolley parks were created by the streetcar companies to earn extra revenue by providing customers a destination at the end of the trolley lines and give people a reason to use their services on nights and weekends.

Trolley parks originally consisted of picnic groves and pavilions, and often held events such as dances, concerts and fireworks. Many eventually added features such as swimming pools, carousels, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, sports fields, boats, rides, restaurants and other resort facilities to become amusement parks. Various sources report the existence of between 1,500 and 2,000 amusement parks in the United States by 1919.


Coney Island N.Y.

Coney Island.

One such location was Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York where a horse drawn street car line brought pleasure seekers to the beach beginning in 1829. In 1875, a million passengers rode the Coney Island Railroad, and in 1876 two million reached Coney Island. Hotels and amusements were built to accommodate both the upper-classes and the working-class. The first carousel was installed in the 1870s, the first "switchback railway" in 1881. It wasn't until 1895 that the first  permanent amusement park in North America opened: Sea Lion Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. This park was one of the first to charge admission to get into the park in addition to selling tickets for rides within the park.

In 1897, it was joined by Steeplechase Park, the first of three major amusement parks that would open in the area. George Tilyou designed the park to provide thrills and sweep away the restraints of the Victorian crowds. The combination of the nearby population center of New York City and the ease of access to the area made Coney Island the embodiment of the American amusement park. Often, it is Steeplechase Park that comes to mind when one generically thinks of the heyday of Coney Island, but there was also Luna Park (opened in 1903), and Dreamland (opened in 1904). Coney Island was a huge success, and by 1910 attendance on a Sunday could reach a million people.


Palisades Amusement Park N.J.


In 1898, before the onset of highways and automobiles, the Bergen County NJ Traction Company conceived of a trolley park to attract evening and weekend riders. Located in Cliffside Park and Ft. Lee across the Hudson River from New York City, it was originally known as "The Park on the Palisades."

By 1908, the park was renamed Palisades Amusement Park, and new owners began adding amusement rides and attractions. By 1931, it was served by the George Washington Bridge, connecting the two states.

In 1934 or 1935, Nicholas and Joseph Schenck sold the site for $450,000 to Jack Rosenthal and Irving Rosenthal. The Brooklyn brothers and entrepreneurs had built a fortune as concessionaires at Coney Island.

The Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster was built by the Rosenthals in 1927 at a cost of $146,000 and is still running today.


Coney Island and Palisades Amusement Park would be home to some of the world’s greatest and most famous roller coasters, including the wooden classic ride called the “Cyclone,” which was represented in both parks.

The Coney Island Cyclone was declared a New York City landmark on July 12, 1988, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 26, 1991.


(click it to hear it)

In 1962, Chuck Barris wrote and Freddy Cannon recorded a song about the park, “Palisades Park.” The song incorporated amusement park sound effects. "Palisades Park" received nationwide airplay and boosted the park's fame even further, with radio and TV commercials in the New York metropolitan area encouraging the public to "Come on over!"

Two States and A Difficult Choice

Since we've been talking about history involving two states, it came to mind that  relations between the two haven't always been cordial. The US Supreme Court case New Jersey vs. New York (1998), known as the Ellis Island Case, came to epitomize what can happen when two sovereign states can't agree on a border in the middle of the Upper New York Bay. In that complex and hotly contested case, the Court ended up carving Ellis Island up into two sections, one in each state, with New Jersey getting the lion's share.

Now, let’s bring all this forward to today!

The Public Service Railway-Central Division which absorbed the Bergen County Traction Company that built the original “Park on the Palisades” also serviced Somerset County in New Jersey, where TCA’s 2015 National Convention host hotel is located.

A Special Offer for Special 2015 TCA-ers
In honor of the duality of this convention, which features both New York and New Jersey, and considering that:

  • both former trolley parks eventually became world famous Metropolitan area amusement parks
  • both had a roller coaster named “Cyclone”
  • both coasters were once owned by the same family

We want to commemorate this with the issuance of two Lionel-produced trolleys that once serviced Palisades Amusement Park (NJ) and Coney Island (NY).

Two states, Ellis Island.:

But will TCA members have to choose one state or the other? No! METCA, the convention's sponsoring division, covers portions of both states, and the Supreme Court has never gotten involved with that!

So, to further the thought of family, the TCA is offering its members, wherever they reside, the following opportunity, for one or both:

6-58238 TCA Trolley "Palisades" Computer Generated Prototype.
Graphics may differ slightly from above---(track not included)

6-58237 TCA Trolley "Boardwalk" Computer Generated Prototype.
Graphics may differ slightly from above---(track not included)


Here's How It Works

For the first 350 TCA Members only, who sign up for three nights or more at the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center (the convention hotel), in Somerset, New Jersey, the TCA member will receive FREE, a Lionel Trolley with the New Jersey Palisades road name.

The TCA member must book the hotel directly, using the group code "TCA." This can be done on-line, by mail, or by telephone. The three nights must fall between June 20, 2015 and June 28, 2015. The hotel will provide updated confirmation of registrations throughout the convention. Cancellations will void the offer.

And the member must register for the convention.

The TCA member will also have the option of buying the New York Coney Island trolley for $89. This pre-convention offering price of $89 is ONLY good if you qualify for the FREE NJ "Palisades Park" trolley and make payment for the "NY Coney Island" trolley during the initial registration process, be it on-line or by mail.

When they are gone, like the trolley lines they represent, these cars will be gone.

For an information sheet on this offer, click here!

Questions about these offers? Contact
Do NOT contact the TCA National Business Office!

As the old Palisades Amusement Park commercial proclaimed:
Come on Over!!!

Come on over.
(click it to hear it)

Second Decade.
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