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A Transportation Celebration

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Press Officer

A trolley ride in Darby Borough usually means hopping on one of SEPTA's Route 11 Kawasakis. But trolley enthusiasts and local residents know that with the fall comes "OcTrolley Fest" and the chance to travel through town on one of SEPTA's vintage 1947 Presidential Conference Committee Cars (PCCIIs).

The festival, held on October 6 and 13, is more than a trip down memory lane on the old trolley - it is an homage to what transportation has meant to Darby's development. "OcTrolley Fest is a ride through 367 years of Pennsylvania history," said Borough resident Jan Hagis who established the event with her husband, John, in 2005.

From the 1640s when the area was believed to have served as a passageway on the Minquas Indian Path to Dutch and Swedish trading posts on the Delaware River to its position as a 18th century stagecoach "highway" from Philadelphia to southern colonies and the role its 19th and early 20th century streetcar lines played in laying the foundation for what are some of today's SEPTA trolley routes, Darby transit has made important contributions not only of the Borough's history, but also to Philadelphia's and surrounding communities', too.

"Darby Borough was incorporated in 1853 and our first horse-drawn streetcar line to Philadelphia started in 1858," said John Hagis. "Today's SEPTA Route 11 Trolley follows that same path to the portal at 40th Street in West Philadelphia." What is now the Authority's Route 13 Trolley from Center City to Yeadon, one of the Borough's neighboring towns, was established in 1907.

Former Darby Borough constable Tony Spano and Yeadon resident David King are regular OcTrolley Fest participants, displaying their photos of the region through the years at the local recreation center. "The trolley was the means of transportation at one time," said Spano as he exhibited a collection of photos showing what is now part of the Route 11 line from Island Road to Main Street, circa 1922. "I always took the 11 to go downtown every Saturday to go to the stereo store, get something to eat," added King, who presented photos he took of the Borough in the 1960s and 70s, including the trolley loop at 9th and Main.

After taking in the historical artifacts and photos, festival-goers eagerly awaited the arrival of the PCC II, operated and escorted as usual by Authority employees Russell Greco and Ed Springer, respectively, for trips to SEPTA's Yeadon Loop, Elmwood Car Barn (the Authority's only all-trolley facility) and the 40th Street Portal. Once on board, tour guide and Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers Vice President Scott Maits pointed out sites such as the Darby Free Library, America's oldest public library, founded in 1743; the Blue Bell Inn, a tavern at 7303 Woodland Avenue built in 1766 and site of a 1777 Revolutionary War battle; and the former location of Hilldale Park, where the 1925 Negro League Champion Darby Hilldales played. Maits called the trolley "a historic treasure snaking its way through the neighborhood" as the PCCII traveled the streets of Darby Borough and Yeadon.

In addition to the trolley tours, guests were able to take walking tours of Eden Cemetery, the country's oldest African American public cemetery. The cemetery is the final resting place of transportation heroes, including Octavius V. Catto, William Still, Caroline LeCount and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, all of whom fought to desegregate Philadelphia's streetcars in the mid-1800s.

Jan Hagis describes OcTrolley Fest as a "labor of love". The Hagis' passion for the hometown and what the trolley has, does and can mean for the community is evident in the lyrics of the songs they have written for the festival:

"Come and ride a vintage trolley.
Come and celebrate
OcTrolley Fest.
Mom and dad
and your Aunt Polly
Need a little fun
and spice and zest.
When you're riding
on a trolley,
all your cares seem far away.
From the past
and for the future,
a relic from the past that works today."

(sung to the tune of "Deck the Halls").

Darby Borough residents John and Jan Hagis, dressed in 1890s garb, have organized OcTrolley Fest since 2005.

Yeadon resident David King displayed his historic photos, including this one of the Darby Trolley Loop, circa 1977.

Photos exhibited by former Darby Borough constable Tony Spano included several of the Route 11 , circa 1922.

OcTrolley Fest tour guide Scott Maits pointed out important Darby-area locations along the ride.

This mural, located at the Darby Loop, commemorates the Borough's first streetcar service.