Pennsylvania Trolley Museum celebrates 50th anniversary
For Robert Jordan, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum has provided a 47-year chapter to his life, starting when he was in high school.
Jordan, president and chairman of the museum's board, has done every kind of volunteer duty at the Chartiers, Washington County, museum ever since he joined a group of people who would spend their weekends at the museum helping with trolley restorations and other duties. Jordan met his wife, Mary, soon after he began working at the museum, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on June 23. The celebration will be marked by special activities June 22 and 23.
What is behind the trolley passion shared by so many? Jordan said it's the nostalgic charm, the memories and the materials of the streetcars.
“They're big, and they're powered by electricity,” said Jordan, who remembers the trolley tracks right behind his childhood home in West View. “I like anything electric and anything on steel wheels and steel rails.”
The museum celebrated the anniversary June 21 with a luncheon attended by about 200 people, including elected officials from the county, state and federal level who spoke about the trolley museum's significance. Several people presented museum officials with certificates and plaques. U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy, a Republican from Upper St. Clair, presented the museum with a congressional citation.
“So much of what we have with our cars is a memory,” Murphy told the audience. “Memories are just memories when you don't have something to see, feel and touch.”
Now, with the museum and its trolley cars, the younger generation has something physical to learn by, and not just a memory, he said.
Scott Becker, the museum's executive director, said that this golden anniversary was a long time coming for staff, volunteers and community supporters.
“It's very exciting,” he said. “We've worked so hard to come to this point. It's just exciting to see it all come together.”
On June 23, 1963, Washington County commissioners cut the ribbon to open the museum, which attracted 30,000 visitors in 2012, officials said. A group of trolley enthusiasts, the Pittsburgh Electric Railway Club, saw the street railway system declining, and created the museum as an effort to preserve the trolley era for future generations.
Originally, the museum was named the Arden Trolley Museum. It sits on the interurban trolley line that connected Pittsburgh to Washington through the Western Pennsylvania countryside.
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7824.