Shoreline trolley up and running for first time since 1950s

Photo: @ReneeChmiel

EAST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A trolley damaged by two hurricanes and out of commission for decades is up and running again. The Shore Line Trolley Museum will be revealing the restored car this weekend.

During Hurricane Irene the water came all the way up to the trolley’s bumper. The salt water then corroded the motors underneath the car.

George Papuga has been putting the finishing touches on Car 865 these past few days. He’s been around trolleys his whole life

“I was still here when the trolleys were running back in 1947,” he said.

Papuga headed the restoration of Car 865. He’d nearly finished restoring it when Hurricanes Irene and Sandy hit.

“The water was up to my belt buckle,” he said. “It’s pretty sad when you go alongside your project after 8 or 10 years of work to see something like that happen.”

The car was built in 1905 and hasn’t run since the 1950s. After years of hard work the trolley is no longer at the end of its line. The next part of its journey is just beginning.

It wasn’t easy or cheap, however. Papuga estimates it cost between $75,000 and $100,000. FEMA helped pay for it, and all of the work was done locally.

Now the museum is trying to make sure its trolleys will be safe in future storms.

“We have put together some barn space above the 500 year flood plain so that we will be able to protect our cars in case of anything,” said Shaun Winton, Director of the Shore Line Trolley Museum.

FEMA is helping to pay for repairs on more than 50 other trolleys at the museum. After working on Car 865, Papuga is hoping to be in the driver’s seat of another project.

“It’s unbelievable. I’ve done some other cars in the past, but this is one of the nicer ones,” he said. “I’m tickled to death. I’d like to do another one.”

The car will be dedicated at the museum on Saturday at noon. Though it is Members Day at the museum, it is open to the public.

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