We are very familiar with the public transportation of today—busses can get us practically anywhere we need to go. It is hard to envision a time when Reading’s citizens were getting from one place to another by horse.
Horsecars, an early type of streetcar drawn by horses over rails, were used as a main form of public transportation in Reading as early as 1874. Tracks ran through the center of main city streets, right where cars and busses travel today! Twenty years later, in June 1894, the animal-drawn streetcar took its final route through the city on Cotton Street.
The introduction of a new form of transportation created by the Reading Transit Company dismantled the dependency on horsecars when, in 1888, the first electric trolley zoomed through Reading. This push for a more modern form of city transportation quickly made horsecars unnecessary. The Cotton Street Horsecar (#75) was pulled out of retirement in 1923 to be used in Reading’s 175th Anniversary celebrations; it was paraded through the city to show the progress of how far public transportation had come. In 1957, Number 75 was donated to the Berks History Center Museum where it is still on display today! Visitors can see the horsecar and even climb aboard providing them with a first-hand experience of what traveling in the “pre-electric” Reading might have felt like.
Amber L. Vroman
Curator, Berks History Center