2010 Pennsylvania Trolley Museum Excursion
On Sunday June 6, 2010, 37 seven members and guests of the Akron Railroad Club paid a visit to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, Pennsylvania.
Last winter our “fearless leaders” put out a request for activities the club might partake in 2010. I made a suggestion for a coach charter to the trolley museum in southwest Pennsylvania and offered to organize it. They liked the idea and proposed it to the membership at a spring meeting. Happily, the membership accepted it and I went to work on the logistics for the trip, including booking the visit to the museum and chartering the highway coach.
The scheduled Sunday morning arrived as did a nasty thunderstorm in the wee hours, which left the winds brisk and the sky cloudy. It was not a very inviting way to begin an outing. We departed from our Independence rendezvous point on the advertized aboard a Southeastern Trailways highway motor coach chartered through Great Day Tours. Unfortunately there were no interurbans available for the trip but our motorman, I mean driver, Walter, gave us a fast, comfortable ride throughout the day.
After a second passenger stop at the New Horizons Christian Church in Akron, we began the main leg of our journey to Washington. Besides conversations, the trip en route featured DVDs on the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban, Cleveland transit and other trolley venues.
We made brief refreshment stop near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border then continued until arriving at 1 Museum Road at 11:30 am, a half hour early. Take that Amtrak.
We were greeted by my friends Scott Becker, the museum’s CEO, and Dave Carpenter, the lead car operator instructor. We were escorted into the visitors center to watch a brief trolley orientation video and listen to Scott discus the museum’s history with some Q&A afterward.
Our carriage awaited, a very bright orange car No. 4398, which was spotted on the shop track for our exclusive boarding. The 4398 was built for Pittsburgh Railways by the St Louis Car Company in 1917 and is one of the four original cars in the museum’s collection. This car had just completed a full scale restoration in which the roof had been literally jacked up and a new car built under it.
Dave filled the motorman’s seat and with two firm stomps on the floor gong and a twist of the controller brought the noisy traction motors alive and 4398 was officially on its first revenue trip since restoration. ARRC had the honor of providing the first paying passengers. Our westward trek took us along the former Pittsburgh-Washington Interurban line paralleling the Pennsylvania & Ohio Central Railroad, that was once part of the Jerry Jacobson railroad empire.
About a mile down the track we arrived at McLane Loop. This former city car trackage transplanted from the big city has a very tight 37-foot radius, which caused the familiar trolley squealing song as we traversed it. A short bit of backtracking, we diverged through a wye and chugged up a hill to the four-year-old Trolley Display Building. A beautiful 40,000 square foot steel structure, the TDB features wide concrete aisles and plenty of bright lighting.
We disembarked from the 4398 and divided into two groups. David and Scott put on their docent hats and lead us on a very informative tour of more than 40 cars ranging from horse-drawn to modern elevated trains. Other points of interest included the Pit Annex where trolleys do a kind of high-wire act 6 feet overhead to allow repairs to their undercarriages and the state-of-the-art substation that provides the 600 volts DC to bring these classic vehicles alive. The PTM now boosts an impressive solar panel array that contributes to the museum’s power grid.
Our leisurely and thorough inspection of the TDB took about an hour. Once back onboard, Dave put the 4398 through its paces on an express run east to the Arden Loop two miles away. The second half of the railway passed the county fairgrounds and is built on a former mining railway branch. This is a very pleasant journey up to a wooded glen. Of course the mandatory photo-op was performed at the loop.
We returned to our starting point for a short tour of the original car barn and had a chance to view the Cincinnati 2227 and private car Toledo that PTM acquired from the defunk Trolleyville collection. We had seen the Pittsburgh 4145, also from the Trolleyville collection, earlier at the TDB.
For our second ride, Dave and Scott pulled out the fire-engine red and cream Pittsburg Railway No. 1711. A 1949 St. Louis-built PCC streamliner, it was a big difference from the 1917 car we had been riding. The 1711 was quite fast and comfortable.
Time was running short so a “short turn” option was offered and several members of the group chose to ride a third car while the rest continued on a full circuit with the PCC. Those who remained aboard the 1711 were treated to another photo opportunity at Arden Loop and disembarked at the Fairgrounds stop to record a meet with a birthday party car.
No. 78, which most of the ARRC entourage rode, was built in 1931 by Brill for the Red Arrow Lines in Philadelphia. It has served commuters from West Philly to Media and Sharon Hill. This car boosts dark maroon paint and very comfortable overstuffed brown leather seats. I bet the Philly commuters miss this plush ride compared to the Japanese cheese boxes they endure today on SEPTA.
Like all good things our visit at PTM came to a too-soon close. Farewells were reluctantly passed among Scott, Dave Carpenter and our motley crew.
A short hop to a nearby Eat ’n Park provided some well-deserved down time for the hungry travelers. Then it was back aboard the coach for an express trip west to Akron and north to Cleveland. Scenes of the steam days on the New York Central and Baltimore & Ohio flickered on the coach TV monitors, providing a nice background for us to chat some more or check our eyelids for holes.
It was a very successful outing and I’m happy to say I didn’t hear one negative comment. Oh yes, the weather stayed dry for us and even brightened up a little.
If you missed this trip, I recommend planning a visit to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum for an interesting and fun day with the trolleys. Better yet, maybe encourage the club to plan another outing where you can enjoy the experience with like-minded kindred spirits.