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Introduction

Welcome to the Vintage Trolley Web Site! 

This site provides an overview of Vintage Trolley (a.k.a. Heritage Trolley) operations in North America . From these pages you can visit the impressive variety of systems now in regular operation, as well as learn about proposals for new systems. Each page contains links to websites covering the individual systems, so additional information is always close at hand. New information is being added continuously, so please check back regularly. Contributions are always welcome.


 

What is a Vintage Trolley? 

For purposes of this web site, a Vintage Trolley is a regularly-scheduled operation using genuine historic or replica electric railway cars in an urban environment, which is operated independently from an established railway or trolley museum. The cars run on rails and operate electrically from overhead wires or from a mobile generator.  We won't be completely strict with this definition, but we do think you'll appreciate reading about all of the locations covered.

 

A Vintage Trolley operation strives to provide an authentic historic trolley experience that mixes urban transportation with visitor entertainment. In many cases, the Vintage Trolley lines are operated as part of the local transit system, and in other cases by a local non-profit organization, or by some combination of the two.  

 

Why are Vintage Trolleys Being Built? 

While each system is different, a couple of common themes have emerged. The development of a Vintage Trolley operation is usually driven by economic reasons, typically the desire to help focus economic development along a particular corridor. A trolley can be an excellent way to circulate people between local attractions (and parking areas), and at the same time, the trolley ride itself becomes part of the experience, further enhancing the attraction. Vintage Trolley systems have an excellent track record of helping attract investment because the fixed nature of the trolley infrastructure implies permanence- it's something that's going to be there for a long time, a significant advantage over rubber-tired alternatives. Quiet, pollution-free electric trolleys also blend in well with the community, and their moderate schedule speeds let the passengers enjoy the ride, taking in the local landscape as they travel. 

 

Vintage Trolley systems are also much less expensive to build and operate than conventional rail systems, costing as little as one-tenth as much as a modern Light-Rail system. For this reason, some cities are using a Vintage Trolley operation as a precursor to a new light rail system, offering a low-cost "demonstrator" line that can later be incorporated into a larger system. 

 

For more background information on Vintage Trolley, check out this excellent summary of Vintage Trolley characteristics from the CNU Transportation Tech Sheet series. Also, the May 2001 issue of Railway Age had an excellent article on Vintage Trolleys. For a more in-depth look at modern streetcars and vintage trolleys in the context of urban planning, take a look at "Bring Back the Streetcars, A Conservative Vision of Tomorrow's Transportation" by Paul Weyrich and William Lind, available in pdf format on the National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates website.

 

Replica Cars

One of the most exciting aspects of today's Vintage Trolley systems are the replica trolley cars that are now being built in increasing numbers. Several companies are now offering replica trolleys, custom built to suit the customer's requirements. To date, the Gomaco Trolley Company of Ida Grove, Iowa has dominated the market, but there are now other companies offering to build similar products, and New Orleans has built its own cars. Costs for these custom-made vehicles currently range around $700,000 for a double-truck car, about double the average cost of a new bus, but still less than half as much as a modern light rail vehicle. 

 

Go to the Replica Trolley Cars page for a complete roster of all replica cars built to date, with facts and figures on each. 

 

 

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John Smatlak photos 

 

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