car.art

December 20th, 2006

AN OLD FRIEND COMES HOME

BY ROGER DUPUIS II – 12/20/2006

Six decades after retirement, a century-old Scranton trolley car made a short but important trip Tuesday.

It went inside.

After years spent resting under a tarp outside the maintenance barn at McDade Park, Scranton Transit Car 324 was unwrapped and carefully eased into the county’s new trolley restoration shop next to Lackawanna County Stadium. There, it will remain safely under cover until crews can begin the multiyear process of restoring the vehicle to working order.

Of 23 cars in the museum collection, only two have been in regular service since museum operations began about five years ago — most needing a fair bit of TLC before they can carry passengers again. And of those, several could be returned to service much easier than 324, which spent its hibernation years built into a Gouldsboro restaurant and bar.

“It would probably not be a candidate for full restoration, but it is one of only three Scranton trolleys known to be in existence,” said Rich Foley a county carpenter who works on trolley restoration.

“We are a trolley museum in Scranton, and this is a Scranton car.”

And Scranton is the Electric City, after all, dubbed that for opening the nation’s first successful electric trolley line in 1886.

The museum’s two working trolleys both came from a suburban Philadelphia line, however.

Philadelphia is where 324 was built in 1903 for the Scranton Railway Co., predecessor of Scranton Transit, by the J.G. Brill Co., then the world’s largest trolley manufacturer.

You could almost see the gleam in volunteer David Noyes’ eyes as he pointed out the car’s technical features, from the faded blue and cream paint to how the window sashes worked.

“I told you he was the man,” Mr. Foley said.

“Without question, had it not been built into the bar … that’s what preserved it,” Mr. Noyes said.

One side of the trolley, which was exposed to the elements, was remodeled and bears no resemblance to its former self. The side that was inside, though minus its window glass, is a faded but recognizable reminder of what 324 looked like — down to its fleet numbers and logo — when it hauled working folks around Scranton.

“On the end and that side, it looks terrible,” Mr. Noyes said, pointing to the remodeled parts. “But the structure’s in good shape.”

Workers will need to re-equip it with motors, wheels, control equipment, seats and window glass, much of which can be supplied out of the museum’s spare-parts stock or through trades with other museums. Mr. Foley estimates they have 60 percent of all needed materials.

While Scranton’s trolley system survived until 1954, Car 324 was retired just before World War II. It was stripped of its components and the body sold, ending up as a diner, known as the Rainbow Inn. The museum acquired the car in 2000.

At least one other trolley is ahead of 324 in the restoration queue. Philadelphia Car 5205, built in 1923, needs much less work to be made operational. When that’s done, in a year or so, the two-year process of restoring 324 can begin, Mr. Foley said.

How much that will cost remains to be seen, he added, though a full inspection and estimate can be made now that the car is safely inside.

Of the two other surviving Scranton trolleys, the museum owns one, Car 505, built in 1929 but badly deteriorated. The other, a snow-sweeper trolley, is owned by a museum in Rockhill Furnace, in south-central Pennsylvania.

During the warmer months, the Electric City museum runs cars along a line between the Steamtown National Historic Site, in downtown Scranton, and the restoration shop in Moosic.

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