The Coming of Transportation

In 1816, a direct route from Reading to Harrisburg was begun and the turnpike, as it was called, passed through the center of our town. A station was also opened for the accommodations for weary travelers. This was located a few places west of the present day "Handy Market" on west Main Street.

Toll gates were important buildings along these roads because the collection of tolls assisted in better maintenance of the turnpike. One such building was located and is still standing at the Triangle west of the Lebanon County line on the right side of the road.

By 1926 this same route which had been named "The William Penn Highway" and had been given the route number of 22 was now concreted. To celebrate this accomplishment a parade was held in 1927 with all school children participating.


THE TROLLEY ARRIVES FROM LEBANON
Later this highway was to be renamed "The Ben Franklin Highway" and given the route number of 422. Many citizens were irate because of the change and they considered this detrimental to business for our town. However, nothing came of their protests and the name and route remained.

William Penn had the foresight to suggest that a canal could join the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers. Nothing materialized until 1791 when the SchuylkillSusquehanna Canal Company was formed.

Many people were opposed to the building of a canal because of varied reasons. Nevertheless the canal was begun and it brought jobs of all descriptions to the area.

After many problems such as insufficient funds, misuse of funds, numerous delays, the main canal was finished by 1827. This canal was eighty-two (82) miles long and was named "The Union Canal."

A landing was located at Lyonsville which is only a few miles north of Palmyra. This was very good for the business of our town. Supplies such as saddles, carts, gunpowder and food were in demand. It also provided jobs: blacksmiths, carpenters, and stone masons, to name a few.


CANAL BOAT
By 1837 it became apparent that the canal was not a profitable venture and most of this was due to the that the locks of the canal were too narrow and this would not allow the large boats to pass through. After much government and private wrangling over funds, in 1849, the state granted permission to enlarge the locks and the canal. This improvement did not benefit our town for any length of time because in 1859 the first train made the run from Reading to Harrisburg. This spelled the end of the canal system in our area.

November 30, 1857 was an important date in the history of railroads for Palmyra. It was on this day that fact the first train with passenger cars attached rumbled through our town. It was called the "Lebanon Valley" and was under the supervision of the Philadelphia and Reading Company. This gave us direct routes to Harrisburg, Reading and Philadelphia, as well as proving to be an economic boost for our community.

In 1899 the "Lebanon Valley Street Railway Company" was formed in order to provide trolley service to the towns to the east and west of Lebanon. By 1904 this service reached Palmyra and now Palmyra residents could travel on the trolleys to Myerstown or Schaefferstown. By now the "Hershey Trolley Company" had built a line from Hershey to meet the Lebanon trolley at the "Square" in Palmyra. This trolley connection would last until 1933 when the Lebanon system gave way to busses.

The Hershey trolley line also had service to Lebanon via Campbelltown and Fontana. In 1940 busfare from Palmyra to Lebanon was 25 cents. If time was not of the essence, one would take the Hershey line and travel through the pleasant countryside and for this excursion you would pay 20 cents from Palmyra.

Service on the trolleys would begin at 5:30 in the morning and the last Hershey car would pass through Palmyra at 12:30 at night.

On December 21, 1946, the Hershey line made its last run at midnight. For those of us who stood at the "Square" that cold nostalgic night, we realized that an important mode of travel in our lives had become history.


READING STATION IN PALMYRA


Excerpted fromWe Love PALMYRA 225THAnniversary