Pa. trolley museum celebrates 50 years


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Sun peeked through the trolley's open windows Friday afternoon, illuminating the dark wood interior and basket seats, as the car rolled along the track surrounded by sprawling grass.

Friends sat together and asked one another about their grandchildren. Perfect strangers chatted amicably about Thursday night's big basketball game. It became increasingly obvious as the trolley continued along its path what modern day Pittsburgh, consisting mostly of individual vehicles, was largely missing: conversation.

The elderly reminisced about taking the trolley into work or Downtown for fun days in the city with family and friends decades ago. They talked about a different era, one that the afternoon's 15-minute trolley ride seemed to transport them back to.

The group was gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, which had a record 30,000 visitors in 2012. Washington County commissioners opened Pennsylvania's first operating trolley museum on June 23, 1963, after realizing the decline of the street railway in everyday use, said the museum's executive director, Scott Becker.

Former state Sen. J. Barry Stout, honorary chairman of the anniversary celebration, attended the ceremony Friday and said it's important to remember those who came up with the idea for the museum more than 50 years ago.

"We can't forget those people in the '40s and '50s who had a vision to create a living history of street cars," Mr. Stout said.

The nonprofit museum in Chartiers will host visitors through Sunday for trolley rides, tours of the museum and a car show. Also expected will be appearances by Mr. McFeely of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and the Washington Wild Things mascot.

Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $7 for children and free for children younger than 3.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, spoke to the crowd about his experiences with streetcars. He is a native of Western Pennsylvania and, like many of the others at the celebration, said he had memories of riding the trolleys.

"Memories are just memories if you don't have something to feel and touch," Mr. Murphy said, referencing the success of the museum. "I'm very glad we reached this 50th anniversary."

Of the dozen speakers, almost every one thanked the volunteers for their work, which enabled the museum to reach its 50th year. Last year, 150 volunteers recorded 30,000 hours of service to the museum. They are responsible for everything from cleaning to repairing and operating the street cars.

One of the volunteers, Walter Pilof, has been helping the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum for 15 years. The native New Yorker said he has always enjoyed riding trains and trolleys around the city, finding them to be more exciting than driving a vehicle alone.

His reason for volunteering for so long is quite simple:

"I love this place. I want to make sure it is able to keep running."

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Jessica Tully: jtully@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1159 and on Twitter: @jessalynn4. First Published June 22, 2013 4:00 AM


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