Trolley festival set for Saturday in Darby

OcTrolleyFest organizers Jan and John Haigis stand in front of a trolley mural on the exterior of Sharon Savings Bank, across from the borough's trolley station.
OcTrolleyFest organizers Jan and John Haigis stand in front of a trolley mural on the exterior of Sharon Savings Bank, across from the borough's trolley station. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 13, 2013

DARBY BOROUGH As trolleys make their way through the streets of Philadelphia and into Delaware County on Saturday, enthusiasts in Darby Borough will celebrate OcTrolleyFest.

Since 2005, the event has been an annual appreciation of trolleys. It features guided tours along several lines and opportunities for shopping, eating, and socializing.

"There is a [trolley] system that connects us that we are not fully aware of," said Darby's Jan Haigis, one of the festival organizers. "Even though [the system] has been there a long time, it's new to people who aren't aware of it."

OcTrolleyFest begins at 10 a.m. outside the Sharon Savings Bank building at Ninth and Main Streets with a historical guided tour of Darby. Art displays and scarecrow-making will also be offered. A scavenger hunt is set for 5 p.m.

Passes cost $8 for eight trolley rides throughout the day. At 11 a.m., the Route 11 trolley will leave the Darby Transportation Center for a guided tour of historical sites.

"We are going out into the region. This is the first year we are expanding" out of Darby, said John Haigis, Jan's husband and a fellow organizer.

The use of trolleys dates to the 19th century, and they remain an important method of transportation today. The Haigises, members of the Darby Borough Historical Commission, started OcTrolleyFest to promote the use of trolleys in Darby.

In previous years, they hired a vintage, rebuilt Presidents' Conference Committee trolley to make loops to Colwyn, Darby, Elmwood, and Yeadon. This year, organizers opted to use existing SEPTA trolley lines to promote their everyday use and acquaint residents with the system and its connections.

Route 11 began as a horse-drawn line in 1858 and still runs over its original route down Woodland Avenue to its end at 13th Street in Philadelphia. Historical sites along the route include Woodland Cemetery and the Blue Bell Inn on Cobbs Creek.

After reaching the 69th Street interchange, riders have a choice of trolley routes. Route 13 stops at University City, Mount Moriah Cemetery, Cobbs Creek Park, and the former site of Hilldale Park, the home of the 1925 Negro Baseball League world champions, Darby Hilldales.

On Route 36, riders can stop at Bartram's Garden, America's first botanical garden and the 18th-century home of famed naturalist John Bartram.

Trolley lines are threatened by financial turmoil. Last month, SEPTA officials made a final pitch to the state for millions of dollars to avoid service cutbacks. Still waiting on a House vote to decide the matter, SEPTA officials say they are prepared to enact a doomsday plan that would convert trolley Routes 10 and 15, which serve West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia, respectively, to bus lines next year. In 2018, buses would replace trolleys on Routes 11, 13, 34, and 36.

So, for the organizers of OcTrolleyFest, Saturday is more than a celebration of trolleys - it is a hope for the future.

"Something that is important to realize," Jan Haigis said, "is that every day can be trolley day."

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