Aspen trolley ready to roll in Tucson |

Aspen trolley ready to roll in Tucson

Janet Urquhart

Work is well under way on what will likely be the first of Aspen’s former trolley cars to run on a line in more than three decades.

Volunteers at Old Pueblo Trolley in Tucson, Ariz., hope to have the mechanical components of the car running before the year is out, though the trolley isn’t expected to make its debut before next spring.

“I want it running by November, but it won’t have an interior or floor, so it won’t be ready for passengers,” said Eric Sitiko, superintendent of maintenance and restoration for Old Pueblo, a private, nonprofit operational transit museum.

The mechanical parts were in surprisingly good shape, according to Sitiko. The trolley company has spent about $10,000 to repair the motors, he said.

But the interior of the car, which was among five trolleys Aspen stored outdoors for years under tarps, was in disastrous shape.

“It needs a whole restoration,” Sitiko said. “It had 30 years of rat droppings and squirrels living in it and all that nonsense.”

The critters chewed up all the wiring, among other things.

Old Pueblo Trolley is recreating the trolley roof and re-staining the car’s interior surfaces. It will have a new floor and newly upholstered seats that have been salvaged from another car of its era.

“It’ll look like a brand new car, but it will still be 90 percent original,” Sitiko estimated.

The car’s undercarriage, built to run on 900-millimeter tracks, must also be rebuilt to fit Tucson’s track, he said. It will be painted red and green, with gold lettering. The interior will be red and tan.

The trolley is being refurbished to replicate cars that once ran in Prescott, Ariz. The trolley company’s goal is to run replicas of trolleys or streetcars that once ran in five Arizona cities that had street railway systems, Sitiko said.

Tucson was one of three cities that each received two of Aspen’s cars earlier this year after city voters rejected a proposed trolley line in town last fall.

Sitiko and a colleague were in Aspen last month to salvage more parts from the second car given to Tucson – one that has been stored unprotected at the county dump.

What’s left of the car will soon be trucked away, but Sitiko said he doesn’t believe it can ever be operated, given its condition.

“The wood was very, very soft,” he said. “You can put your finger through most of it.”

It’s possible that components of the car could be used to make patterns to manufacture replicas of the trolley, Sitiko said.

Issaquah Valley Trolley in Washington also received two cars from Aspen. It is raising funds to restore the cars, as well as one it acquired from San Francisco, according to its Web site.

Attempts to contact Wanganui, New Zealand, about the status of two cars it shipped from Aspen were unsuccessful.

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