Historic Issaquah trolley car departs for restoration in Iowa

March 13, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Don McWhirter, with the Issaquah Valley Trolley Project, lops overgrown brambles at the railroad track beside the Darigold plant so the trolley could be moved March 12 onto a tractor-trailer for the trip to Iowa for restoration. By Greg Farrar

The historic trolley car on display at the Issaquah Train Depot departed the station March 12, as the long-planned effort to restore and run the car in downtown Issaquah inched ahead.

The 87-year-old Lisbon No. 519 trolley car left for Ida Grove, Iowa, and the Gomaco Trolley Co. — a trolley car manufacturer and restorer. If the restoration plan unfolds as scheduled, the trolley should return to Issaquah in September.

Organizers plan to operate the trolley on weekends and during special events, such as ArtWalk and holiday celebrations.

The nonprofit Issaquah Valley Trolley Project is spearheading the $744,700 restoration. The city oversees and administers the grant dollars used to fund the trolley project. Issaquah also owns the downtown railroad corridor.

In 2001 and 2002, trolley group organizers leased a trolley from a Yakima organization, and ferried passengers in a successful test.

“We are so excited to see the project moving forward,” said Barbara Justice, Issaquah Valley Trolley Project organizer and trolley operator. “More than 6,000 riders came aboard in 2001, when we operated using a car leased from the Yakima Valley Trolley. We can’t wait to start up again — this time using our own streetcar.”

Delays related to funds and restoration kept a schedule for the trolley project in limbo for a decade.

The departure for Iowa came a year after leaders authorized another company to restore the trolley car.

The trolley project inherited a pair of 1920s trolley cars from Aspen, Colo., in the early 2000s. The vehicles once ran on streets in Lisbon, Portugal, and came to Issaquah after Aspen voters rejected a 2002 ballot measure to support a trolley project. The unused trolleys awaited restoration for years in downtown Issaquah.

How to help

The nonprofit Issaquah Valley Trolley Project is a volunteer operation. The organization needs streetcar operators, conductors, mechanics, volunteer coordinators, website managers, fundraisers, event planners and more. Call 391-8186 or email trolley@issaquahhistory.org to learn more.

Organizers also needed the city to sign on as the certified acceptance agency, or administrator, for federal grants for the project.

In March 2011, City Council members awarded the restoration contract to Mukilteo-based Advanced Construction, but the company later defaulted on the contract. The city then negotiated a settlement to release Advanced Construction and select the next-lowest bidder for the restoration project.

The council authorized $744,700 for the trolley project in a November decision. The most recent contract calls for Gomaco Trolley Co. to rehabilitate the aging trolley car.

In the initial restoration phase, Lakebay-based Coast Rail reconditioned the railroad track from the historic Issaquah Train Depot to the East Fork of Issaquah Creek. If funds permit after the car is rehabilitated, plans call for track restoration from the creek to Northwest Gilman Boulevard.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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3 Responses to “Historic Issaquah trolley car departs for restoration in Iowa”

  1. John Watt on March 15th, 2012 2:13 am

    They need to consider hanging wire over this little streetcar line. I have some experience of this, having built at least a half mile of overhead for a museum in Oregon. It is good that Issaquah is proceeding with the restoration of their car, and the Gomaco folks are really good at this.

  2. Rich on March 15th, 2012 5:08 am

    $750,000 to fulfill a railbuff fantasy? How can a Portuguese trolley in Issaquah be considered “historic?”. Why can’t these train nuts be content with their model train layouts in their mothers’ basements?

  3. News Roundup: Reforming - Seattle Transit Blog on March 15th, 2012 11:47 am

    […] not transit, but the Issaquah Trolley is headed to Iowa for […]

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