Ohio museum grows fleet of historic electric cars
Written by JIM CARNEY, Akron Beacon Journal   
Friday, 20 September 2013 06:11

SEVILLE, Ohio (AP) β€” The stories that these old electric rail cars could tell.

A fleet of more than three-dozen historic electric cars at the Northern Ohio Railway Museum have been joined by three more, including Cleveland's last streetcar.

The museum, which dates back to 1965 and was incorporated in 1976, is seeking several thousand dollars in donations to help pay the $13,000 it spent to move the cars from Cleveland to the museum in Medina County.

The newest cars are a 1914-built car from the former Shaker Heights Rapid Transit that was first used as a streetcar 99 years ago, and two cars from the former Cleveland Transit System's rapid transit.

Over the course of their use, thousands upon thousands of passengers rode in the cars.

The 1914 car β€” known as car 12 β€” was used until 1960 and then was used on trolley charters until the 1980s.

One of the donated rapid transit cars was built in 1955 and the other, a line car used for repairing the electrical line, was built in 1960.

Steven Heister, 53, a member of the museum board of directors, said most of the people working at the 50-acre museum site "aren't railroaders."

Heister works as an engineer for WJW Fox 8 television but drives 65 miles one way from his home in Lake County to volunteer.

There is a group of about 170 who are members and about 10 percent of them regularly work on the old electric cars at the nonprofit organization.

"Some guys work days and they come down in the evenings and some guys work nights and they come down in the day," said museum Vice President Ralph Pfingsten, 73, a retired Cleveland school teacher.

The three new cars were given to the museum by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority "to help preserve rail transit history of Cleveland and Northern Ohio at this Northern Ohio Railway Museum," said Mary McCahon Shaffer, an RTA spokeswoman.

"The cars were simply collecting dust at our facilities and it will be nice to see them restored and used for educational purposes," she said.

And collecting dust they were, Heister said.

In fact, the first order of business will be to clean the three newest cars.

They "need the biggest housekeeping job you can imagine," he said.

The car built in 1914 came wrapped in plastic, or "a baggie," as Heister called it.

It will be put inside one of the buildings on the property to keep it out of the weather during the winter.

The plan is to restore the electric rail cars, he said.

This fall, Heister said, the hope is to put up electric utility poles on the property to be used for an eventual electrical wire system so that the electric passenger cars can be moved on the museum site.

Heister said he really got involved in electric passenger rail when he wrote a paper at Cleveland State University on the Shaker Rapid.

"I got interested in this more and more," he said, then joked about his passion for trolleys.

"You have ruined my life!" he said with a laugh.

The truth, he said, is there is so much work to be done on the museum's 40 cars that even if it had 50 paid workers, "they wouldn't be able to finish everything in 30 to 40 years."

In 2005, the museum acquired several cars from the now defunct Trolleyville USA museum in Cuyahoga County.

The museum is open to the public Saturdays through Oct. 26 and then reopens in May.

___

Information from: Akron Beacon Journal, http://www.ohio.com


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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