Orange Mountain Cable Company (New Jersey Incline Trolley)
Beautifully engraved antique bond certificate from the Orange Mountain Cable Company dating back to the 1890's. This document, which has been signed by the company President and Secretary, was printed by Snyder & Black of New York, and measures approximately 10 1/4" (w) by 16" (h).
This certificate's vignette features a detailed trolley car.
30 coupons remain attached at the right side margin.
A group of investors headed by an entrepreneur named George Spottiswoode had a plan to develop land at the top of First Watchung Mountain, and the Orange Mountain Land Company was formed. An incline trolley was seen as the best way to connect their planned development with the West Orange business district, and the Orange Mountain Cable Company was formed to build such a line. Much of the construction of the right-of-way, which began in the winter of 1887-88, was done by hand, with shovels and pick axes A steam drill was also used, likely using water from a lake at the top of the hill called Cable Lake, which later provided hydropower for the engine house operating the trolleys. The lake is now a water hazard at the Rock Spring Country Club.
Completed in 1892, the Cable Road trolley was a minor marvel in engineering not unlike the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh. The system that was devised would raise one car while lowering another car to provide a counterweight. Attempts to sell property at the top of the hill were unsuccessful, however, and the line closed in 1895. The Orange Mountain Cable Company re-organized as the Orange Mountain Traction company in 1898 and re-opened the trolley with a small amusement park at the top of the hill. A pedestrian bridge across the cable cut, which offered spectacular views of the Orange Valley, was also built. Called Highland Park, the amusement park offered a refectory and a picnic area. The venture wasn't much more successful than the previous one, and it closed in 1902. The company decided to retrofit the line by installing overhead wires and running a conventional trolley up the right-of-way. A routine test run on June 24, 1906, however, led to one of the greatest transportation disasters in West Orange's history.
Fagan explained that two trolley cars, numbered 101 and 102, were delivered to the Orange Mountain Traction Company, and a dozen company officials rode up in Car 102. Everything, including the braking system, was working. At the point where it reached Gregory Avenue, the motorman was to attach an auxiliary cable to catch the car should the brakes fail.
"The motorman was confident he could make it," Fagan said. "So he continued without attaching the safety cable. Once they started to approach the steepest part of the grade, guess what happened - the brakes failed."
The car slid down the track gaining momentum rapidly. It crashed into Car 101 at the bottom, tossing 101 into the air. Miraculously, only one person was killed - a passenger of Car 102 who jumped off at Gregory Avenue and crushed his skull on impact.
A more complicated system of switchbacks was added to allow the trolleys to navigate the steeper grades in serpentine fashion, minimizing the chance of another accident. This setup was more successful, and it provided easy access to the Erie railroad station at Main Street and Northfield Avenue and the trolley along Main Street. But the advent of the automobile and improvements to Northfield Avenue, which paralleled the Cable Road, caused the line to end service once and for all in 1914.