'Miss Brackenridge' out of retirement at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum
"Miss Brackenridge" is rolling once again.
The newly restored West Penn Railways streetcar No. 832 that rolled through the Alle-Kiski Valley was unveiled June 1 at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington County.
Car No. 832, manufactured in 1929, was one of a group of 12 purchased to upgrade service on the Allegheny Valley Division. Put into service on Valentine's Day in 1930, the mostly aluminum and steel trolley was christened "Miss Brackenridge" in honor of the town in which it ran. It featured leather seats and lower operating costs. The streetcar was used until 1937 serving the Allegheny Valley towns of Aspinwall, Blawnox, Springdale, New Kensington, Tarentum, Brackenridge and Natrona.
Two individuals who traveled on the streetcar when it was on the road attended the unrolling – John Swindler of Lancaster who lived in Edgewood and Arthur Ellis of Upper St. Clair. Swindler took the newly refurbished streetcar for its first ride.
"This brings back a lot of memories," says Swindler, who has a photo of himself as a 7-year-old in front of the streetcar. "It reminds me of my next door neighbor John Baxter, who operated it. It is so nice to be a part of this day."
"I am so glad to see it come back," Ellis says. "I remember riding it so many times. It's fun."
Upon the end of its service, this car and its 11 sisters were moved to Connellsville to serve on West Penn Railways Coke Region routes in Fayette and Westmoreland counties. It arrived at the museum in 1954.
The restoration process began in 1965 and after a considerable hiatus became the focus of intense restoration in 2010 when it was shipped to Brookville Equipment Corp. which overhauled the car's body shell, wiring, air piping and undercarriages. Its traction motors were overhauled by Traction Motor Services of Irwin. The work was funded by a Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant, administered by PennDOT, and by individual contributions.
Trolley cars were vital to the growth of 20th century America. Their high-speed efficient transportation systems allowed people to live much farther from work. Cities expanded along trolley routes and many of today's thriving suburban communities owe their existence to these trolley lines, says Scott R. Becker, executive director of the museum, which was formed in 1953.
The museum's goal is to preserve and pass down the rich heritage to future generations, says Becker.
The rolling out of the streetcar was held in conjunction with the museum's On Track for the Future Campaign. The campaign is raising funds to construct a new Welcome & Education Center, Trolley Street and Barry Stout Park at the museum's east campus.
There are three phases:
Subphase one which includes the Wexford station relocation and restoration, land donation for an access road, a trolley platform expansion and the restoration of streetcar No. 832 at an estimated cost of $6 million. Suphase two consists of an expanded trolley station complex on east campus, trolley street, a new welcome and education center and a parking lot for an estimated $5.5 million. Subphase three encompasses campaign costs, a construction project manager, sales and development associate and museum program and operating needs for an estimated cost of $2 million.
The museum has $10 million toward the immediate campaign goal of $13.5 million through funds raised and a challenge grant from the Allegheny Foundation.
"This project is real," says Robert L. Jordan, museum president. "People have been asking me if it is 'shovel ready?' and it is. It is going to happen. It is moving along."
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.