The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 20, 2014

Jo Ellis: Carthage Historic Preservation to re-create trolley era

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Recapturing history is difficult, but recapturing history without a building, an artifact or a singular focal point is even harder.

To celebrate National Historic Preservation Month, Carthage Historic Preservation wants to recapture an era and an experience that have been gone from the city for almost 80 years: the era of the trolley (or tram) cars that provided public transportation.

On Saturday, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., CHP will re-enact modes of transportation that existed in Carthage for 52 years, from 1883 to 1935. The horse- and mule-drawn trolleys were in service for about 12 years before the electric trolleys took over in 1895.

A.H. Rogers, a Carthage resident and grandfather of Lang Rogers, a former publisher of The Joplin Globe, started the Southwest Missouri Electric Railway with a small two-mile line between Webb City and Carterville as a means of helping miners get to their work. That line expanded to Joplin, Carthage and other area towns, and eventually 94 miles of track were laid to outposts as far away as Picher, Okla., and Pittsburg and Girard, Kan.

The trolley barn was located in Webb City at the current location of Cardinal Scale Co.

Electric trolleys were becoming commonplace in larger cities around the country at that time, but Carthage was in the forefront of smaller cities to enjoy such service. To extend the demand for public transportation, the rail companies often would start up recreational parks to encourage weekend business.

Lakeside Park on Center Creek between Carthage and Carterville was one such effort. It offered a dance pavilion, swimming lake, roller coaster, picnics, boating, and musical events including Sunday afternoon concerts. The renowned James Scott often entertained there on the calliope and ragtime piano.

During the early part of the 20th century, it became so popular that the trolleys sometimes would be making their last trip of the night around 4 a.m.

Saturday’s re-creation of the trolley era will offer horse-drawn ”trolleys” from the Phelps House on a loop around Grand, Centennial and Main streets, passing the homes of three of the investors in the railway enterprise. The trolley originally ran south as far as Fairview Avenue, where it cut westward on its way to Lakeside and points beyond.

The “Dinky,” a smaller version of the electric trolley that served Carthage exclusively, will be simulated by a small bus that will take guests down Grand Avenue, around the square and to the location of the old Missouri Pacific depot, where many passengers used to board the trolley to get “uptown.”

Photographs and news articles from Rogers’ descendants, prints of “An Evening at Lakeside,” and a print by Andy Thomas showing a trolley passing the Carrington Hotel and the old bank building on the Carthage square will be displayed at Phelps House. Also on exhibit will be posters showing the routes and schedules of the Southwest Missouri Electric Railway.

A brunch will be served at the Phelps House during the hours of the event. To enjoy this event and learn more about the city’s history, just bring your annual membership dues to CHP.

The cost for individuals is $30. Family memberships are $50, and associate memberships are $100. If you want to be a contributing member, the cost is $150. Details: 417-358-9688.

ADDRESS CORRESPONDENCE to Jo Ellis, c/o The Joplin Globe, Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email

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