The Syracuse and South Bay Trolley Line

Syracuse to Lower South Bay, New York

Note: The author of this article would like to acknowledge Mary J. Harrington for contributing information presented herein.

View looking southwest on South Bay Road near its northern end just southwest of Oneida Lake at Lower South Bay. Present-day South Bay Road follows what once was the Syracuse and South Bay Trolley Line. The trolley line likely began somewhere near this location. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
View looking northeast on South Bay Road toward Oneida Lake from its intersection with NY Route 31 in Cicero. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
View looking southwest on South Bay Road at its intersection with Route 31 in Cicero. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
The western side of the Village of North Syracuse Community Center at the corner of Centerville Place and South Bay Road in North Syracuse. This building once served as a Trolley Station on the line. South Bay Road is located on the other side of the building. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
View looking north at the southern end of the Community Center. South Bay Road is located on the far right-hand side of this photograph. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
Old artifacts from the trolley line now on display at Plank Road Park in North Syracuse. Railroad ties, spikes, rail segments, and a stop flag are among the items pictured. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
An early trolley traffic signal now also on display in Plank Road Park in North Syracuse. This signal was originally located near the Crouse-Hinds plant in Syracuse. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
An original Trolley Waiting Station, with the original siding and benches still intact. The sign on the station reads "Stop #6, Corner of Taft Road and South Bay Road" (North Syracuse). It is currently on display in Plank Road Park. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
The only original trolley car still known to be in existence from the Syracuse and South Bay Trolley Line, now located at Plank Road Park in North Syracuse. According to signs posted at the site, the trolley car was 125 horsepower with a top speed of 60 MPH. This particular car is labeled "Inter-Urban Trolley Car #200". It seats 56, and weighs 45 tons. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.
A view of one of the ends of the trolley car at Plank Road Park. Signs posted at the site indicate this car ran on the Syracuse and South Bay Trolley Line, and ended on the Empire State Railroad until 1931 in Auburn, NY. It was originally varnished green, but the changed to red in 1908 by the Cincinnati Car Co. Photo by Kevin M. Smith, July 2008.

During the early 1900s, the Syracuse and South Bay Railway Company built an electric trolley line from the City of Syracuse northward through North Syracuse and Cicero, ending at Lower South Bay on the south shore of Oneida Lake. Service began in August of 1907. This trolley line provided mail and passenger service to the developing northern suburbs and Oneida Lake region, also connecting to steamboat traffic on Oneida Lake and the canal system. (South Bay Road north of North Syracuse is almost perfectly straight all the way to Oneida Lake, further indicating a past railroad presence.) Most of the trolley line consisted of two parallel tracks. It is unknown how many trolley cars were in service on the line.

The trolley had several stops along the line, including but not limited to the intersection of South Bay Road and East Taft Road in North Syracuse, a station at what is today the corner of Centerville Place and South Bay Road, and in downtown Syracuse. The line ran southward from North Syracuse to a trolley barn on Wolf Street in Syracuse, and then continued downtown to Salina Street. It's exact route beyond the Wolf Street barn is unknown. The trolley barn not only house trolley cars for this line, but also for the other various trolley lines around the Syracuse area that existed during the time.

Service was discontinued on the Syracuse and South Bay Trolley Line during the 1930s, at which time the tracks were abandoned. This coincided with the abolishment of other trolley services in Syracuse. Along most of the line, the tracks were pulled up sometime later, although the tracks in downtown Syracuse may have simply been paved over and never removed. Most of the former trolley line through North Syracuse and Cicero was later paved, becoming South Bay Road which is still in place today. Today, only South Bay Road remains to mark the former route of the Syracuse and South Bay Trolley Line. No other remnants of the line can be found as of 2008. The former Trolley Station at the intersection of Centerville Place and South Bay Road in North Syracuse and the former trolley barn on Wolf Street in Syracuse also remain, as does one of the trolley cars, currently on display in Plank Road Park in North Syracuse. There were no known spurs along the line.

Edward "Teddy" Harrington, uncle to contributing author of this article Mary J. Harrington and great-great uncle to author Kevin M. Smith, was the motorman for the trolley line back during its existence. Mary Harrington still recalls walking along the trolley tracks to get to school after the line had been abandoned, but before the tracks were pulled up, and also riding the trolley with her family into the city from North Syracuse. She also remembers the seats on the trolley being constructed of flattened, finished, and woven straw.

Thanks to Kevin M. Smith for contributing information.

—  User Comments  —

Mr. Smith did not do his homework on this article

He better talk to the people from National railway historical society inc. (CNY. Chapter)

Kevin C.Duarte
Mattydale, NY
7/9/2010
Kevin, Mr. Smith himself is working on an update for this page, so check back soon!   —Greg Harrison, Abandoned Rails

There are indeed rails still in both Wolf and Salina streets. I just saw them last weekend.

Russell Nelson
Potsdam, NY
4/16/2011