Manheim Historical Society’s trolley being repaired

By on July 8, 2015
A photo of trolley #35, which was used on the Manheim Line by the CTC. (Provided by Ron Reedy)

A photo of trolley #35, which was used on the Manheim Line by the CTC. (Provided by Ron Reedy)

 

Manheim Historical Society’s restored 1926 Birney trolley can usually be seen as part of its open house activities on Sunday throughout the summer. Rides on the last operating trolley in the county have been offered, weather permitting, for several years. But it’s has been sidelined this summer and that means no rides along the 300-foot long track in front of the restored railroad station at 210 S. Charlotte St.

While repairs are made to the two motors that provide its power, the trolley is shrouded in a protective covering behind a fence. It’s parked in front of the barn that normally serves as its home.

“Trolley rides were a big draw for our open houses. We attract a mix of ages — some people remember riding trolleys, but for most people sitting on a trolley and riding the short distance is like living a bit of history,” said Tony Greiner, the organization’s treasurer, “People have been disappointed this summer to find out that the trolley isn’t operating. We’re hoping that the trolley is back in operation by September.”

The trolley hasn’t operated since late last summer.

“It took some time for our trolley committee to determine the problem. We then had to find a shop that could repair the motors,” explained Mike Hollinger, chair of the organization’s maintenance committee.

The trolley body was lifted and the electric motors were removed on March 23 in what the organization calls the “big lift.” Hollinger said that Greiner Industries provided technical support and steel beams for the lift, and J.G. Baker Inc. provided tools and equipment to assist the organization’s volunteers with the effort. The electric motors were delivered to a Lancaster repair shop on May 26. Hollinger said that the winding wire on each motor is being replaced. However, the gauge of the wire is not commonly available today, so it has to be specially made. The bearings are also being replaced. Like the winding wire, they also need to be specially crafted and are in the hands of a local machine shop.

“The trolley is an antique, and so are its parts. They can’t be just ordered or picked up off the shelf, so it takes time,” Greiner said.

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.

Manheim Historical Society volunteers Mike Hollinger (right) and Doug Shaw discuss the placement of timber for hacking and lifting the trolley body to remove the motors. (Photos provided by Manheim Historical Societ)

Manheim Historical Society volunteers Mike Hollinger (right) and Doug Shaw discuss the placement
of timber for hacking and lifting the trolley body to remove the motors. (Photos provided by Manheim Historical Societ)

In 1990, the derelict trolley was obtained by the Manheim Historical Society from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. A group of society members led by the late Ben Hershey, the late Bill Althouse and the late Charles George painstakingly restored the trolley to its original appearance and operating condition. Last year the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County presented with a historical marker plaque to the trolley. Joe Patterson, executive director of the preservation trust, said that the plaque designates the trolley as a historic property.

Hopefully the trolley will be up and running by September so that guests at the railroad station open houses can again have that living history experience.

For more information about the trolley, the Manheim Historical Society or to make a donation, call 665-7989 or visit manheimpa.com.

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

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