Electric streetcars reigned supreme on the streets of New Castle, Pennsylvania, beginning in the summer of 1890. By the 1920’s they began to be slowly phased out with more efficient bus service. The end was near when in June 1941 the New Castle Electric Street Railway Company and the Penn-Ohio Coach Lines made an application to end all streetcar and bus operations in New Castle. The application also called for a new entity known as the Shenango Valley Transportation Company (SVTC) to provide bus service throughout the county and up north to Sharon. The Public Utility Commission reviewed and soon approved the application.
On the afternoon of Thursday, December 11, 1941, all of the streetcars (and affiliated buses) of the New Castle Electric Street Railway Company were taken out of service and replaced with the buses of the Shenango Valley Transportation Company. That day marked the end of over fifty years of streetcar service on the streets of New Castle.
The New Castle News of Wednesday, December 10, 1941, disclosed, “Arrangements have been completed by Superintendent T. C. Moore for the inauguration of the city’s new bus service on Thursday afternoon. The change from the present street car and bus service to the new all-bus service will be made starting at 2 o’clock, following an inaugural parade of the buses and a luncheon to invited guests at the Castleton hotel.” The celebration was likely subdued as the country was still reeling in the shock of the recent Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The Shenango Valley Transportation Company remained in active service until a labor strike by the drivers and mechanics shut down operations in August 1958. The strike crippled the cities of New Castle and Sharon and led to a nasty dispute between the bus line and the city council of New Castle. City officials began campaigning for the Public Utility Commission in Harrisburg to cancel the operating charter of the bus line. As the strike dragged on, and with no signs of compromise, city officials took a new route. They began exploring the idea of establishing a city-owned bus service. In December 1958 the city council, after organizing the New Castle Public Transportation Authority, began serious negotiations to acquire the assets of the Shenango Valley Transportation Company.
An agreement, despite ongoing funding issues, was soon worked out and in late February 1959 the city purchased the vehicles and equipment of the old bus line. With this action New Castle would become the first city in Pennsylvania to have a municipal-owned bus system. The Public Utility Commission, who would have no control or authority over a city-owned transit service, did not attempt to block the venture. Buses started running again on Monday, March 2, 1959, and a month later the Public Utility Commission cancelled the charter of the Shenango Valley Transportation Company. In November 1965 the bus system came under control of the newly organized New Castle Area Transit Authority (NCATA). The NCATA, based in Mahoningtown, is still in service today and serves all of Lawrence County and even maintains routes to Grove City, Hermitage, and Pittsburgh.
This advertisement, posted just a few days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, announces the end of all streetcar service in New Castle – and the commencement of the new bus service of the Shenango Valley Transportation Company. (Dec 1941)
Mahoningtown native Charles E. “Chuck” Meade (1903-1955) drove a streetcar and then a bus in New Castle for many years. He is shown here on the West Side bus route. (Photo courtesy of Debby Gillis) (1939)
Several bus drivers and another man (with badge) who appears to be a New Castle police officer. Bus driver Charles Meade is second from right. (Photo courtesy of Debby Gillis) (c1942)
Charles Meade posing in front of his bus on the Mahoningtown route. (Photo courtesy of Debby Gillis) (c1942)