Philly organization lends a hand to Manheim’s restored trolley car

By on April 25, 2018


Nine members of the Friends of the Philadelphia Trolleys visited Manheim on April 14 to help make the railroad station trolley ready for the 2018 tourist season. Shown (left to right) are Bill Monaghan, George Rich, Mike Lawson, Chris Powell, Jerry Sateriale, Andrew Nawn, Jerry Evans, and Matt Nawn. John Boyle is missing from the photo.

For many people, a ride on a trolley is a thing of the past. That past comes alive with the Manheim Historical Society’s restored 1926 Birney trolley.

It’s housed in a trolley barn at the organization’s Manheim train station complex, 210 S. Charlotte St. On Sunday afternoons over the summer, weather permitting, visitors can take a ride back in time as the trolley travels along the 300-foot track in front of the train station.

According to the society’s records, Birney Trolley #236 was first owned by the Conestoga Traction Company, Lancaster. It was one of 41 trolleys, or streetcars, that was in service within Lancaster. It was used on a run from Lancaster to Rocky Springs Park, an amusement park that was located south of the city and along the Conestoga River.

When trolley service stopped, the trolley was abandoned. In 1947 it was acquired by the Lancaster Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Lancaster Chapter NRHS records indicate that it was the last regular car (trolley) to be operated over the three-mile Rocky Springs run. The trolley was later donated to Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum.

Jerry Sateriale, Matt Nawn, Andrew Nawn, and George Rich take Manheim Historical Society’s restored 1926 Birney trolley for a test drive.

In 1990, the car was acquired by the historical society. It was painstakingly restored in the 1990s by a group of historical society members that included the late Ben Hershey, the late Charles George, and Bill Althouse. It received a historical marker plaque from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County in 2014, and the two motors that provide power to the trolley had a major overhaul in 2015 and was back in service a year later.

Since then, members of the Friends of the Philadelphia Trolleys have helped society volunteers keep the trolley operating. Nine members of the trolley organization worked on the trolley Saturday, April 14. They included Matt and Andrew Nawn, John Boyle, Jerry Evans, Mike Lawson, Bill Monaghan, Chris Powell, George Rich, and Jerry Sateriale.

These volunteers rebuilt the door cylinders and worked on brake valves, breaker boxes and controllers as well as some other minor repairs.

John “Ike” Eichelberger, chair of the historical society’s maintenance committee, said the society hosted a luncheon for the volunteers, and they also took a ride or two on the trolley.

“They are a great resource for us,” he said. “They traveled a bit to help us, and it’s greatly appreciated.”

Mike Lawson completes some technical work inside the trolley.

Matt Nawn, a member of the trolley group’s board, said the organization’s main focus is Philadelphia trolleys, and it provides grants to organizations that are restoring trolleys with a Philadelphia connection. The organization’s members, who include retirees from the transportation industry that had operated and/or worked on trolleys, also provide technical support for trolley restoration projects as well as physical support for organizations such as the Manheim Historical Society.

“What makes the Manheim Historical Society’s trolley unique is that it’s not part of a collection at a trolley museum, said Nawn “It’s interpreted as part of Manheim and Lancaster County history, and it’s located at the restored train station that serves as a transportation museum.”

Nawn said his interest in trolleys began as a child growing up in Upper Darby Township, which borders west Philadelphia

“My grandmother didn’t have a car, so when she took me shopping we used public transportation such as the trolley. I also rode a trolley to school,” he explained, “There was a trolley barn in my neighborhood, and I would walk or ride my bike to see what went on there.”

Nawn said he first became aware of the Manheim Historical Society’s trolley when his wife, Beth (Shaffer) Nawn as a student at Millersville University. He was a student at Villanova University at the time, and got to know Ben Hershey on visits to see Beth.

“I met Ben Hershey, and he showed me the trolley. I’ve had a few rides on it over the years, and when the society needed some technical assistance after the motors were overhauled three years ago, our trolley organization was glad to help,” he said. “We’ve been providing assistance since then. It’s wonderful to be able to help an organization like the Manheim Historical Society.”

Eichelberger said the only thing remaining to be done on the trolley is a complete interior and exterior cleaning, which the society’s volunteers plan to do in the next week or two.

The Manheim Historical Society hosts an open house at the restored train station Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. beginning June 3 and continuing through Sept. 30. For more information visit or the society’s Facebook page.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at

Conestoga Traction Company’s trolley #19 at the northern terminus of the Manheim line on South Main Street in 1913. The power house was demolished a few years ago during the five-points improvement project that added a traffic signal to the intersection of Fruitville Pike/Main Street and New Charlotte Street. The project also widened the intersection (adding turn lanes). The traffic signal coordinates with the gated railroad crossing, the crossing gates or arms were added with this project. (Image courtesy of Kerry Glenn)

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