Clang, clang, clang went the trolley. But meow?
Write about the “trolley cat” at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, and someone is bound to think it’s a typo by a reporter who meant “trolley car.”
Trolley cat, however, is part of the name of Frank the Trolley Cat, the resident feline at the museum outside Washington.
He’s named for Frank J. Sprague (1857-1934), who came up with the idea of a trolley wheel, according to trolley museum Executive Director Scott Becker.
The trolley museum was hosting a barbecue at its picnic area a little more than three years ago when people heard a car stop, a door open and close, and the car drive away.
A large, striped cat made his way to the barbecue, and he’s been nuzzling museum staff, volunteers and visitors ever since.
“In the afternoon, he lies on the ticket counter because he knows someone will pet him, and he likes attention,” Becker said.
“He’s the friendliest cat that I’ve ever met. He likes to spend time in the repair shop. He’s been known to follow people up ladders.”
The trolley museum encompasses about 50 acres in Chartiers Township, and in any barn – including a car barn – mice are a scourge.
“There’s a history of car barn cats,” Becker said. “Mice are very destructive. They chew on wires. The fact that cats can chase mice out of the car barn, that’s something that we like, so this is not a new phenomenon.
“I know for a fact that he’s a mouser. He also runs stray cats off the property.” Lest anyone worry that Frank is subsisting on rodents alone, Becker feeds him daily and the pet now tips the scale at a hefty 14 pounds.
Frank has settled into a life as a trolley museum feline, except for actually riding the trolleys. Becker, who takes the cat - by car, not trolley - to a vet for an annual checkup, said the feline doesn’t like automobile trips, either.
“I say he has the most volunteer hours because he’s in 24/7, 365,” Becker said. “He pretty much has become our mascot.”
A newsroom cat aficionado took one look at a photo of Frank and immediately recalled another famous kitty associated with rails, Chessie, the napping tabby symbol of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway who was introduced in 1933.
Frank’s unusual domain led to a quick check of possible pets at some other area museums.
Clayton Kilgore, interim director of the Washington County Historical Society, said neither the LeMoyne House nor Bradford House in Washington harbors animals.
But he was aware that the Greene County Historical Society in Waynesburg had a resident cat a few years ago.
“The cat crossed the road one too many times, and that’s how it met its demise,” said Linda Rush of Carmichaels, vice president of the board.
“Even now we have cat toys in the storage room.”
A successor feline stuck around the Greene historical society for a while but was adopted by then-administrator Bernice Fox.