Thomas Jefferson musical cast seeks donations to benefit upkeep of railway car
Even teenagers know “The Trolley Song,” a show tune from “Meet Me in St. Louis.”
But the version they remember may have come from watching the Main Street Trolley Show at Disney World instead of the 1944 Judy Garland film.
Whatever the reason, when Thomas Jefferson High School's musical cast members take to the stage March 13, 14 and 15, they will invite the audience to support the restoration of a real trolley — West Penn Railways Car 832 — at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Chartiers. The cast also will donate the fines that were paid for infractions during the weeks of rehearsals.
Director Sandra Barker's husband, J.B., suggested the Washington County museum as the beneficiary of the musical. The couple used to take their children to see the trolleys when they were young.
“Every year during the musical, we try to undertake some project that enables us to give back to the community, which is always so supportive of us,” Barker said.
In the last four years, organizations were matched with different musicals. Animal Friends was connected to “Beauty and the Beast;” Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and “Oliver;” Sisters Place with “Willy Wonka;” and the Big Brothers, Big Sisters local program with “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
A trolley became a natural symbol for the production's T-shirts and programs. Elementary school students also are participating in a “Name the Trolley” contest.
The West Penn Railways Car 832 was built in 1929 in Cincinnati. The trolley came to the museum in 1954. Museum Executive Director Scott Becker retold the story of its first run.
“It was called ‘Miss Brackenridge' and christened on Feb. 14, 1930,” he said. “Since it was during Prohibition, instead of champagne, they used ginger ale from a local bottler.”
The trolley's route went to Aspinwall, New Kensington and Natrona but was abandoned in 1937. The trolley next traveled to Latrobe, Fairchance, Phillips and South Connellsville, finishing there in 1952.
Car 832, the second trolley the museum acquired, came to the museum in a three-trolley parade, Becker said.
Restoration was sporadic until 2010 when, through a $350,000 grant and private donations, major work was completed in Brookville, Jefferson County.
Its roof and seats were reupholstered, the floor and wiring redone and the motors and under carriage cleaned. The trolley later returned to the museum, so volunteers could complete the work.
“It was a gut rehab,” Becker said, explaining it was much like “gutting” a house for repairs.
The work continues to bring 832 back to its glory days, when it rode the rails in orange and cream with its brown roof and black wheels.
Two representatives from the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum will attend the musical performances and are asking audiences to donate to the cause. They also will offer two prizes: one will be awarded through a ticket drawing; and the other will be given to the student who best names TJ's on-stage trolley.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.