Trolley museum receives $50,000 grant

June 6, 2014
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
R. Scott Davis, left, power and signal department manager for the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, Marco Fumagalli, North American president of Ansaldo STS in Pittsburgh, and Ellen McLean, CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, get ready to turn on the power to the trolley museum’s new signal system at the Arden Valley end of the trolley run Friday morning. Order a Print
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Chris Walker, a volunteer operator with the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, guides car No. 1785 to the end of the trolley run, where dedication ceremonies were held to turn on the new signal system. County Commissioners Harlan Shober and Diana Irey Vaughan presented the museum with a $50,000 check through a Washington County Tourism grant. Order a Print
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Dennis Cramer, volunteer dispatcher with the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, radios ahead for track clearance at the end of the trolley run where dedication ceremonies were held to turn on the new signal system. Order a Print

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, the Washington history hub on wheels, is on the fast track to expand beyond its 51-year run.

Museum staff formally accepted a $50,000 tourism grant from Washington County Friday. The money will be used to develop a master plan for maximizing use of current museum facilities and for expansion plans.

For the master site plan, director Scott Becker said the museum will hire L.D. Astorino Co. of Pittsburgh, which designed PNC Park and a Vatican chapel.

“The opportunity to have this grant is really about the next 50 years,” said Becker.

The museum received a large chunk of the county’s $285,900 in new tourism capital and marketing investments, made possible by a 3 percent tax on hotel rooms.

Becker said the trolley track that runs past the county fairgrounds will stay the same, but he’d like the signal system to be expanded. Local government officials and museum volunteers gathered Friday to celebrate the Arden Valley signal dedication – a “new” system of traffic signals installed along the tracks.

“New” by the museum’s standards is 1928, to be exact. Rust, mice and cobwebs were no deterrent for volunteers, who have been toiling away for years to refurbish the Union Switch and Signal trolley system. The museum received a $5,000 grant from Ansaldo STS in 2011 for the project.

Signals were donated when the Overbrook line through Saw Mill Run Valley was discontinued in 1993. Becker said the new system is more authentic and user-friendly than the previous one, and it also senses the presence of approaching streetcars.

“It’s really an amazing system,” Becker said. “People look at signals, and they’re really an early computer system. It counts how many cars go in, and how many go out. It’s really pretty clever.”

County Commissioner Harlan Shober spoke of the importance of preserving history and said, “Every time we take a step forward … we have to take a step backward into history.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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