Shortly after sending my last status report, we found that St. Louis had retained a well-connected local lobbyist to help secure all of the Benson Trolleys for its Delmar Loop streetcar line. The County was being persuaded to accommodate the STL proposal.
We’ve spent most of the intervening months in an all-out effort to save at least some of the vintage cars. It has taken dozens of meetings but finally, with cooperation from supportive staff members at Metro Transit and SDOT, an agreement was reached to keep two of the Benson Trolleys here in Seattle. Three have been sold to STL and will be moved next week. Our cars will be transported on the 3rd if all goes well. We expect TV coverage of the moves so be watching.
Part of the agreement with the County and City required that ‘our’ cars be moved so that the warehouse could be razed. During our negotiations we were successful in getting the County to pay for moving the Seattle cars and the City to pay for their storage for 2 years. We were obligated to find a suitable storage site. Unfortunately almost all available warehouses in Seattle are being used to grow pot so we had to look elsewhere. Companies that have experience in restoring vintage rail vehicles offered to help. Historic Railway Restoration, Inc. from Arlington found sites that meet our needs.
During the time it took to resolve the division of the vintage cars, the City decided that it would proceed with the design of Center City Connector (CCC) based on buying modern streetcars for the fleet. These cars will be similar to those on the First Hill line and will operate on battery power for part of the alignment. This creates a serious propulsion challenge for the vintage cars which cannot accommodate the size and weight of batteries. There are options we’re investigating which will be the subject of future status reports. At least we know the old cars can operate on the South Lake Union line where there is a continuous overhead contact system.
We will shortly be starting a campaign to raise funds for retro-fitting the vintage cars. The non-profit “Friends of the Benson Trolleys” has been registered in the State of Washington and an application for tax exempt status will be filed with the IRS. Meanwhile, we are pleased to announce that MOHAI has agreed to be our 501(c)3 sponsor while we wait for the Federal government to act. A web page is being designed and a video describing the program to preserve and restore the Benson cars is being prepared.
Watch for future progress reports and the start of our funding campaign.