Edison Electric Plant becomes subsidiary of York Railways
Part 5 of York County History Center Buildings
This is Part 5 of an industrial chronicle of the buildings on the property recently purchased by the York County Heritage Trust, with their goal of renovating the buildings into a York County History Center. These buildings originated as York’s Edison Electric Plant. If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
The York Street Railway Company was chartered by the State of Pennsylvania in 1886, at which time they took over the York Chariot Company; a public carrier that began five-years earlier utilizing horse-drawn chariots. On September 30, 1886, the Street Railway Company began service with two one-horse cars; both operated on rails to the west from Centre Square, with one staying on West Market Street to Belvidere Avenue and the other traveling north on Penn Street then onto West York Avenue (now Roosevelt Avenue) until it reached Linden Avenue. The photo shows a one-horse car of the York Street Railway Company in front of the York Manufacturing Company on the west side of North Penn Street. The footprint of this building is now situated in the parking lot of the Roosevelt Tavern.
The next, of many streetcar lines, was established with rails from Centre Square eastward on East Market Street until it reached Broad Street. However, the west and east Market Street lines were not connected until after the removal of the market sheds in the Square on June 30, 1887.
In 1892, the York Street Railway Company decided to begin operation of their streetcars with electricity. Some published histories have the Street Railway Company erecting their own power plant, while other published histories note they contracted with York’s Edison Electric Plant to supply the electricity and to build the electrical infrastructure. An article, in the July 11, 1892, issue of The York Daily, confirmed the Edison Electric Plant worked on the infrastructure:
The Edison Electric Light Company are digging pole holes on South George street for poles for the electric railway. Work on the street railway will now be pushed vigorously forward to completion. Possibly within two weeks cars propelled by electricity will be in operation.
Summary of Prior Parts Chronicling the York County History Center Buildings
Part 1—New History Center Generated Edison Electricity This introductory post provides a brief overview of all the buildings within what was the former Met-Ed Steam Heat Generating Plant on the northeast corner of West Philadelphia Street and North Pershing Avenue in York.
Part 2—York County History Center Buildings 1885 This post takes a closer look at the initial industrial building constructed on the site in 1885; a generating station for the Edison Electric Light Company of York.
Part 3—Edison Lights Streets as York becomes a City On January 11, 1887, York was incorporated as a City. The same year marked the replacement of gas lighting with Edison electric lights on the streets of York; necessitating an addition to the 2-year-old electric generating station along Gas Avenue.
Part 4—War of the Currents hits York Nationally, the War of the Currents plays out with the company started by Thomas Edison, who favored direct current and was adamantly opposed to alternating current, being transformed, through the financing of J. P. Morgan, into the champion of alternating current. Locally in York something similar happened in 1894. The Westinghouse Electric Light, Heat and Power Co. of York, PA, located in the high bay part of the present Agricultural and Industrial Museum, was absorbed by the much better financed Edison Electric Light Company of York, PA; located in one of the buildings that will become the York County History Center.
Part 5—Chronicling the York County History Center Buildings:
The recently purchased York County History Center Buildings, on the lot bounded by West Philadelphia Street, North Pershing Avenue and West Gas Avenue, originated as York’s Edison Electric Plant. An article in the Tuesday, August 2, 1892, issue of The York Daily confirmed the York Street Railway Company utilized the Edison Electric Plant to supply their electricity; i.e. the street railway company did not build their own power plant:
The work of hanging the wires and laying the new rails is progressing satisfactorily, and things are being put in readiness at the Edison Electric Light Works. A large addition is being built to the works, which will be used as the power station of the street car line, but until it is finished one of the engines in the present building will be used for the purpose. It is the intention to have motor cars running Saturday, but it will take hustling to do it.
The York Street Railway Company began electric streetcar operation on August 18, 1892. This 1904 photo shows an electric streetcar in Centre Square while it traverses George Street. The Spahr Building is directly behind the streetcar, in this view of the northeast corner of Centre Square.
The success of the electric streetcars in the City of York resulted in a desire to expand the lines out into the county. The York County Traction Company was chartered in the State of New Jersey in 1900, to encompass the streetcar lines in the city and to build electric streetcar lines out into York County. In the coming years, trolley lines were constructed all over York County.
After the York Haven hydro-electric plant was placed into service during 1904, they were contracted to carry most of the load of the Edison Electric Plant in York. The primary functions of the Edison Light & Power Company became supplying steam to the district steam heating system, which had commenced operation in 1898, and in serving as auxiliary power supplier for many of the streetcar lines of The York County Traction Company. As demand rapidly increased on the York Haven electrical power plant, the streetcars relied more extensively on the electricity generated by the Edison Electric Plant in York.
In 1907, all the lines operated by The York County Traction Company were merged. At the same time stockholders also heavily favored acquiring and merging the Edison Light & Power Company as a subsidiary of the newly named York Railway Company. In researching this merger further, an article in the August 1, 1907 issue of The York Daily reported on the stockholders meeting were the York Railway Company was formed:
Stockholders of the York County Traction Company met in Camden, N.J., Tuesday and in accordance with a resolution adopted at a meeting in this city June 2, the old company was dissolved and will hereafter be known as the York Railway Company. The new corporation will embrace all the electric railway lines formerly included in the traction company and also the Edison Electric Light Plant and the York suburban land company. The meeting in Camden, Tuesday was attended by ex-Judge W. F. Bay Stewart, George S. Schmidt and A. W. Owen, at which 14,960 of the 15,000 shares of stock were voted in favor of the proposed dissolution of the old company.
Related posts include:
- New History Center Generated Edison Electricity
- York County History Center Buildings 1885
- Edison Lights Streets as York becomes a City
- War of the Currents hits York
- 100th Birthday for the History Center Chimney
- Birth of District Steam Heating in York
- New Name is York County History Center
- Twin Smokestacks at Edison Plant
- Your History Starts Here
- History Center’s Smokestack Twin
- Edison Electric Plant Expansions in York
- 1931 Aerial Photo of Edison Electric Plant in York