Altoona Street Cars
Altoona Penna.
a Boy Story, c. 1953

by Frank Lamca0 Frank Lamca

Dear Phil,

I have pondered your inquiry concerning the location of the Llyswen trolley station1, and am pleased to say that the puzzle is solved.

Llyswen Station "Llyswen Station."

When I was a youth, not that I am really old now mind you, I was somewhat of an adventurer. No destination was too far, nor was any circumstance too dangerous to quell my curiosity. Of course, I had to be home at supper time or endure my mother's wrath and consequent violent temper, but so long as I stayed within time parameters and did not disclose too much about my activities, I could do just about anything.

My earliest experience with the Altoona Electric Trolley Company was as a passenger. Usually, we would get on the Trolley at the corner on Burgoon Road and Sixth Avenue. That was near what was Trodd's Store, and later the Variety Room Bar. Pennzoil LogoAcross Burgoon Road from the Trodd's was an old Pennzoil gas station with about twelve garage bays with heavy bifold wooden doors. These garages were rented to the occupants of the Knickerbocker row house that did not, for the most part, have garages.

Nothing was quite as exciting to a young lad as looking down the tracks for that single large headlight mounted in the front of the bowed center of the arriving Trolley. Trolley Illustration The long arm that rose about ten to twelve feet above the Trolley sparked consistently as it touched the bare wire that was strung from poles along side of the road to fuel the electric engine. Silent except for the humming of the electric motor and the clanking of the metal wheels on the steel tracks, the Trolley would come ever closer until the squealing sound of the brakes sent sparks out from beneath this awesome beast.

The slowing sounds of steel and the glowing spectacle of sparks high above on the wires and from beneath on the brakes, was the signal for my mother to grab my hand and pull me back up on the curb for my own safety. My Uncle Eugene had been killed by a train in London during a "Black Out" in WWII. Every time that the Trolley approached, I was reminded that this could also happen to me if I were not more careful. Fortunately, depending on whether you talk to me or my ex-wife, the same fate that happened to Uncle Eugene never happened to me!

The nice thing about the Trolley tracks was, that if you understood where the Trolley's destination was, you could never get lost. All you had to do was to follow the tracks and they could take you to your destination; never a wrong turn, never a misdirection. Here is an example of what I mean:

Ant Hill Station. Ant Hill Station.

When I was five years old, I attended Kindergarten at Baker School. I went in the mornings only. My best friend, Davie Headberg, was a year older and was in first grade. Davie had a cousin whom I knew well from his frequent visits to Davie's house named Billy Carol.

One day, as we walked home from school, Davie and I were talking about Billy and how nice it would be if we could go see him. I asked Davie how far it was to Billy's house and Davie said, "Not too far. I go there all the time on the Trolley."

We debated whether or not to tell our parents about our intent, but Davie said that his parents would only say "no" if he asked. That left us with only one choice, don't tell anybody anything. We figured that as long as we got home before dark, it would be OK.

We ate a quick lunch, walked down to the streetcar tracks, and started walking. When we got to the corner of Logan Boulevard and Sixth Avenue, the pavement ended. You may recall that Logan Boulevard used to dead end at Sixth Avenue. There was a dirt road up about four or five blocks, and then the street car had a double lane bridge across the Pennsylvania RR tracks and then the pavement picked up again at Broad Avenue and 31st. Street.

We stopped for a short while where the boulevard ended. Cupples Memorial Company was located on one corner and a Sinclair gas station on the other. Up the dirt road from Cupples there were some deserted old railroad cars. Wow! What fun we had exploring. I can still remember all of those old hornet nests that were built inside the cars as we gazed through broken window glass.

Further up the road, we came to our first real challenge. The road ended and the tracks continued across a double tracked trestle for about one hundred yards. Nothing was beneath the tracks to walk on, except for railroad ties spaced a few feet apart. PRR Bridge joining Logan Boulevard to Broad Ave. PRR Bridge joining Logan Boulevard to Broad Ave. "We could look down and see the main line of the PRR about thirty feet beneath.". We could look down and see the main line of the PRR about thirty feet beneath. The only option open to us was to balance our way along the rail and get from one tie to the next. About mid-way across, to our horror, we could see a street car coming toward us. It was about four or five blocks away on Broad Avenue. The adrenaline started flowing like water and we speeded up our crossing. We barely made it across in time when the trolley came rolling by. Fortunately for us, the uphill grade to the bridge had slowed the arrival of what may have been our final journey. We took some time to rest on the other side and to tell each other how brave we had been. We were simply very stupid. My mother was right, I almost ended up like my Uncle Eugene!

Mindful that we needed to get home before dark, we pressed on. We followed the tracks down Broad Avenue and past the Jaffa Mosque to Union Avenue. Onward we pressed, passing the culvert on Union and the tracks went to 12th Avenue and curved to the right. We followed the tracks past Gables and on to 12th Avenue and 11th Street. I was familiar with this area, because my parents attended the Grace Lutheran Church there on the corner. Across 11th Street from the church was the main ticket office of the Trolley Company.3 It was located on the alley in a long and narrow building. As you entered the smelly old building, the barred ticket windows were to your right. A long, straight-backed wooden bench lined the outside wall; to the left where three or four dirty windows which allowed sunlight to enter the otherwise drabby room.

Beside the church was Don's Barber Shop and a Clover Farm or Economy Store. Across the alley from the ticket office was the remains of an old silent movie theatre.2 and next to it a shady looking old rooming house. Next to the rooming house was the Texas Wiener (founded in 1918). Next to it was an arcade of some sort, a couple of other establishments which I cannot recall, and on the corner, the Green Avenue Market.

Across from the Green Avenue Market was Shulman's Department Store and next to it the Corner Sweet Shoppe. The Masonic Temple was above these store fronts.

Anyway, the street cars did not go to Fairview, because of the hills.5 Apparently they did not have enough power for that. One had to transfer at the 11th Street office 5A to a bus to continue to Fairview. We, of course, did not have money for the bus, but as fate would have it, Billy lived directly across the street from Keith Jr. High School which is straight up the hill from 11th Street. After getting a drink of water at the Sweet Shoppe, we started up the hill. I don't know how long it took us to get there, but we were surely tired when we finally arrived at Billy's house.

Nazareth Station. Nazareth Station.

Needless to say, Billy's mom was surprised to see us, but not nearly so surprised as we were when she called my dad and told him that we were there! My dad came to pick us up at supper time, and Davie got his ass whipped. I was scolded, but since I was able to get home by supper time, no existing rules had been broken. Actually, I think my parents were proud of me for walking that far unassisted.

Anyway, getting back to your question. The Llyswen station was located at the corners of Ward Avenue and Logan Boulevard. It stood upon a cement platform between the highway and was one of only two sheltered stations of that type. It had a long narrow wooden building with a roof and a long wooden bench.

The other covered station was at Lakemont Park.4 The trolley service ended at Lakemont Park one block beyond the gated entrance. Lakemont Park Station Lakemont Park Station. Through the gate there was a paved walkway along the end of the lake and across the breast of the dam. An eight foot high wrought iron fence ran along the right side of the walk way. On the other side of that iron fence was the official turn-around area 4A for the street cars. To continue on to Hollidaysburg, one had to pay an additional fee and transfer to a bus, just as was necessary to go on to Fairview.

The colors of the street cars I do not trust to memory 6 I believe that they were sort of orange and cream and/green. I just cannot remember. Colors were never as important to me as some other facts.

Fri, 9 Oct 1998
09:35:14 EDT
Franklin Eugene Lamca is a distinguished alumnus of the class of 1962, Altoona High School, Altoona Penna.

In addition to a panoramic memory, Franklin manifests absolute genius in recovering history and restoring clarity to faded dreams. Franklin is a true friend. He writes from his residence in Florida.

As the Student's pen bytewise breaks the surface of the inkwell's modern writing fluid these days, the ink might be new but the well is sourced in a more thoughtful, considerate generation by which one can only reminisce in his love for Miss Beck and all beauty to which many have aspired and in effulgence realized.
pm, 1-18-2003
Llyswen Station
218 Logan Boulevard
Altoona, PA 16602
This was the original passenger station on the Altoona and Logan Valley Electric Railway. It was built by the Altoona Suburban Home Company and appeared in many advertisements for the healthful and aesthetic advantages of suburban living in Llyswen.
1. Dick Lower used to live here. See Frank Lamca's Notes on this.
2. HABS Document: LLyswen Station[return]

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