PA: An Old Trolley Car Arrives in Berks County for Restoration

July 24--When trolley service ended in Scranton on Dec. 14, 1954, officers of the Scranton Transit Co. hid Trolley No. 505 in a car barn to prevent it from being ravaged by souvenir hunters.

They couldn't, however, protect it from the ravages of time.

On Wednesday morning, the rusting metal superstructure of the once-fashionable trolley arrived at an Ironworkers Local 420 facility in Jefferson Township to begin a saga of rebirth.

At the Reading-based union's site, a training facility for apprentice ironworkers, No. 505 will begin what could be a lengthy process of restoration.

"Our journeymen and apprentices will do the basic metal work to prepare it for further restoration," said Gary Martin, Local 420 business manager. "It's a great way for our apprentices to learn the trade."

The trolley left the Electric City Trolley Museum Association in Scranton Wednesday about 8:30 a.m. Atop a flatbed trailer, it arrived in Jefferson Township about 11 a.m. to the delight of a handful of trolley enthusiasts.

The museum association owns the car. David Biles, the association's curator, said the trolley was built by Osgood Bradley Car Co. of Worcester, Mass., in 1929 and was in service in Scranton until 1954.

The association, Biles said, has undertaken a $350,000 fundraising campaign to pay for the restoration, dubbed Project 505. With private donations and grants, he said, the campaign is approaching the $100,000 mark.

Plans are to ultimately run the trolley on the association's 10-mile excursion line at Steamtown, a National Park Service train museum in Scranton.

Jim Wert, Project 505 director, said the trolley is of historic significance to Scranton, which initiated America's first viable electric trolley line in 1886.

"This is the only surviving trolley of the Scranton Transit Co.'s last fleet," said Wert, a retired United Methodist minister. "It was one of the last trolleys to run in Scranton."

Though efforts were made to preserve No. 505, the passenger car languished in a series of private collections, salvage yards and museums before being acquired by the trolley association in 2012.

When it was at the former McGee Transportation Museum in Bloomsburg, the Electromobile trolley survived Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. The storm wiped out the museum, but spared No. 505.

The late Ed Blossom, who restored trolleys in a car barn near Topton, was instrumental in saving No. 505.

"We have Ed's vision to thank," said Wert. "It was Ed who first realized the trolley's historic significance."

In its heyday, during the Great Depression and World War II, No. 505 shuttled workers and shoppers into downtown Scranton on the suburban Green Ridge line. During World War II, it was painted in a patriotic motif.

Passengers rode in comfort on leather seats next to large windows that offered a panoramic view. The car held 42 passengers, but historians say it was not uncommon to have riders standing in the aisle.

Exposure to the weather for six decades reduced No. 505 to a rusting 30-foot-long metal hulk. Including its end platforms, it was originally 42 feet long.

Vital parts, including its four Westinghouse electric motors and wheel assemblies, have survived. So have seats, windows and wood trim, which were removed and stored in the 1970s.

Curtis Campfield of Sinking Spring, who oversees the Local 420 training program, expects about 22 apprentices will work on rebuilding the trolley.

Apprentices Tom Foulds of Allentown and Andrew Heffner of Minersville, Schuylkill County, helped unload the trolley.

"The apprentices will be doing pretty much everything: welding, grinding and fabricating," Campfield said.

Biles, 74, a retired Bieber Tourways bus driver, gazed in amazement as he watched ironworkers unload the trolley from the flatbed.

"It's been our long-time wish to have No. 505 brought back to life," he said. "Today, that process began."

Contact Ron Devlin: 610-371-5030 or rdevlin@readingeagle.com.

Copyright 2014 - Reading Eagle, Pa.

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