Trolley Museum parades its fleet to mark 50th birthday

June 22, 2013
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Visitors to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum ride an old trolley Saturday when the tourist attraction celebrated its 50th birthday. Order a Print
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
A restored 1932 Philadelphia and West Chester trolley boards passengers Saturday at Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. Order a Print
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Jim Toepfer

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum volunteer Bruce Wells announces the arrival to the station of the pristine 1919 Cincinnati Street Railway Car 2227 as if he his hosting a beauty pageant. The trolley is the first of five antique cars to rumble down the rails in a parade showing off the best of the museum’s line in conjunction with the tourism attraction’s 50 birthday celebration.

“Let it ride there Joe as soon as you get our dignitaries on board,” said Wells, giving volunteer trolley operator Joe Warkany of Cincinnati, Ohio, the go ahead to take his passengers on a tour of the Chartiers Township museum’s tracks.

This museum attracts mass transit “nerds” from many distances to volunteer as conductors and trolley operators, and they wear that nickname as a badge of honor, said Jim Toepfer, of Warren Ohio, who is steering today a 1932 Philadelphia & West Chester car.

“I really love coming down to this place,” said Toepfer, 31. “It goes back to being a kid. I got hooked on it instantly.”

By mid-afternoon, about 400 visitors had stopped by for this party at 1 Museum Road, which continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and boasts a classic car show and oldies music.

“It’s a good day,” said Scott Becker, the museum’s executive director.

The museum ran 15 cars Saturday, the most ever to be showcased at one time for visitors, Becker said.

The place had just eight cars when it opened in 1963 and since has amassed a collection of 50 trolleys. It also is attempting to raise more than $10 million to expand by creating a old-style Trolley Street beside a recreated Pennsylvania Railways station and new visitor center.

“I think we help make this area unique by adding to the quality of life,” Becker said. “There are not a lot of trolley museums out there.”

Workers here place a lot of love and attention to restoring the museum’s vehicles, and some of them are now in better condition than when they were new.

The museum’s tourism numbers continue to grow, Becker said, as there is some “nostalgia” for old trolleys.

“It’s more about having a fun place to go.”

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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