Sunday, November 04, 2007

Shoreline Trolley Museum 2007

In a basic hunt for cool things to do on a Sunday besides toss away more cash on trains either at shows or via eBay, I decided to grab my kids and head out to the closest (and one of the greatest) trolley museums. I do feel lucky, there are two within an hour of my house that are both absolutely top notch. If I drive even further I could go to more museums as well as the Brooklyn Transit Museum. 2.5 hours gets me to Steamtown (which is also unbelievable).

What got me this time was that I saw so many prototypes for so many great standard gauge trains. I got an authentic look at a Steeple Cab restoration in progress. Steeple Cabs are really growing on me. I also got a look at the prototypes for 10 series cars (yep, they have them at the Shoreline Museum in CT). What actually really threw me for a loop was the freshly rennovated PCC Streetcar fully brought back in mint/original factory condition. The green paint on this thing was still fresh and it was absolutely gorgeous. Really, standard gauge trains were inspired by real one's and don't give me any of that stuff about how standard gauge colors were "out there to attract female buyers in the 20's". That might have been true however reality is just as interesting; the colors on this PCC car are just phenomenal. They were bright, crisp and something you just don't see ever. Go ahead and click on it, this thing is a absolutely amazing. Here's the front:

Blow it up and take a look at it. It's no suprise that the last one of these rolled off the line in Europe in 1997! I wish American cities had these today. The lines are graceful and they had every convenience plus. Makes our current plastic based buses look like turds.

And speaking of current manufacturing, I was glancing around while I was riding on the streetcar and noticed something. Metal and wood. Tons of it. No plastic. God I love that! Natural materials plus materials that were built to last. Check out this seat:

The bulk of the inside of the trolley was either wood, wicker or metal (probably some kind of iron). The museum stipulates that all internal items must be authentic, no "sort of" reproductions or "good enough". Has to be spot on or it isn't going in the car and the car will sit idle until the real item shows up or is made.
Speaking of real items, here is a Steeple Cab in restoration:

This Steeple was made in Canada. They have two of them at the Shoreline Museum. The other one was out in the yard. This one is undergoing a full restore. I was watching the guys do some work on the pickup. Restoring these old trains is hard work, it looks immensely gratifying though. It seems very expensive, most of the items require custom manufacture although it looks (to me at least) that when a restoration is done, it is as good or better than the original and will last many years longer. Hindsight is one of those funny things in real trains and in toys. I can see why Voltamp cranked out their Steeplecabs. I was about 6 inches from this train because there was no room in the machine shop and it cuts an imposing figure. It is fairly rusty up top and much of the wood still needs to be replaced however it will be something to see when it is complete. I was told that this Steeplecab was for the most part scrapped however one young man had dedicated many hundreds of hours to it and got it running over a period of years. Kind of makes our toy trains seem kind of simple and easy in comparison.

More tomorrow.



Anonymous said...


If you are interested in trollys and steeple cabs, you need to see the Illinois Rail Museum in Union Illinois, about 90 minutes west of Chicago. They have one of the biggest trolly and steeple cab collections arount.


Anonymous said...

Sacramento removed its street cars in the late 40's and early 50's. I wasn't around then, but the pictures of them look pretty cool and the system ran throughout town. Now we have a "light rail" line that functions largely the same; it works but isn't awfully attractive :-( .

There also used to be an interurban electric line that ran from San Francisco to Sacramento and then due north to Chico. Also, of course, long gone.


Standard Gauge Blogger said...

Hey Guys,
How about some pictures? I will get out to that trolley museum in Union, IL!!