York's Transportation History

Before trains came to York, Phineas Davis, a local clockmaker, was securing York’s place in transportation history.  Davis developed the first practical coal-burning locomotive, the York engine, at his workshop on the corner of Newberry and King Streets.  He won $4,000 in 1831 from the Baltimore and Ohio railroad for his design.  At the dawn of the railroad age, Davis’s engine was the model for B&O’s locomotives for decades.  Pictured here spectators check out a later Davis engine, the Atlantic, at the Pennsylvania Railroad station before York’s Thanksgiving Parade (1924).  A model of the York is on exhibit at the Agricultural and Industrial Museum. 


York’s proximity to major metropolitan areas coupled with its railroad lines defined the area as a manufacturing hub, where goods could be made and easily shipped.  With the decline of railroad, major thoroughfares, such as the Lincoln Highway and the newly constructed Interstate 83, allowed York to remain a manufacturing hub.  Pictured here is the opening of Interstate 83 in Shrewsbury Township on October 29, 1959 and a car traveling on the newly opened I-83 at the Leader Heights split on January 2, 1960.

I-83 opening.jpg
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Moving about town changed significantly between the 1880’s and the 1930’s.  Trolleys ran beside horse and carriages during these years.  Cars entered the streetscape in the first decade of the 1900s, followed by buses.  The pictures below illustrate this evolution.  In the first undated picture of the southeastern corner of Continental Square, you will notice trolleys, cars, and horse-drawn wagons.  The second photograph (c 1935) of the northeastern corner of Continental Square includes a bus, which would replace trolley service in 1938.  Juxtaposed next to the Lincoln Highway Garage, the photo of the last trolley run in York illustrates this major shift to automobile travel.  See a trolley, cars, wagons, and an early bus on exhibit at the Agricultural and Industrial Museum.


In the early 1900s, York had a robust automobile industry.  One manufacturer, the Pullman Motor Car Company, operated for fourteen years in York. The 1916 Pullman DeLuxe Coupe is the earliest known car to be designed and marketed to women.  Here is a 1967 placemat from the former York Dutch Restaurant outlining some of these vehicles from the early auto industry.  Though none of these companies survived, Harley Davidson motorcycles have been assembled in York County for over 30 years.  Long before being manufactured in York, this Harley-Davidson was used by Concino’s Shoe Repair to make deliveries (c 1925).  The Agricultural and Industrial Museum has 10 automobiles from York manufacturers on exhibit.