Museum brings back electric trolleys

November 11, 2009 3:40:05 PM PST
Back in the 1920s and '30s, an electric trolley ran from Elgin to Aurora and back again. But 74 years ago the trolleys were replaced by buses, and it was assumed they would never return -- until Tuesday. If you've been waiting since 1935 on Highway 31 in South Elgin for your electric trolley to arrive, your wait is over. The 86-year-old electric car is back thanks to the Fox River Trolley Museum. Car No. 304 spent the last 74 years in Cleveland as transportation and as a museum piece.

"One of the original cars, the electric trolleys, that ran between Aurora and Elgin until 1935 is finally returning to the Fox Valley. [It's] coming home," said Ralph Taylor of the Fox River Trolley Museum.

It's not easy moving and unloading 37,000 pounds of steel transportation history. But they do it inch by inch until it is at last moving along the only stretch of track left from those days in 1935. The trolley museum owns the track now and this is where No. 304 will be reborn and spend the rest of its days.

"History is being lived again. We have a living history opportunity here and it's a big, big thrill to be part of that," said Don MacBean of the Fox River Trolley Museum. "I never thought, never thought, we'd ever see these cars back on this line again."

The car, of course, will never run the distances it once did, but it will be taking museum visitors on short rides as early as next spring. And it will look much different then after restoration.

Why save and restore old 304? Well, first, of course, it is history. But besides that street cars and electric trolleys were the transportation of the everyday worker -- the people who built this area.

"It took countless thousands of people to work to play. Like to the courthouse, to the watch factory in Elgin," said Robert Bresse-Rodenkirk of the Fox River Trolley Museum. "These were the cars the everyday person took."

In 1935 it rode off into the sunset. Now it's coming back into the sunrise again.


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