Service could begin as soon as summer
Several years after the old Willamette Shore Line trolley sputtered to its final stop, a new car is nearly ready to roll down the line between Lake Oswego and Portland.
The vintage trolley, a replica of the Council Crest streetcars that ran in Portland a century ago, arrived Tuesday in Lake Oswego.
Two replica cars are actually coming to Lake Oswego on a free lease, through 2018, from Vintage Trolley Inc. in Portland, although only the one has arrived so far. Theyre among four historical reproductions built in Iowa in the late 1980s. TriMet owns the other two, which still run on Portlands MAX tracks a handful of days throughout the year.
Its unclear exactly when Willamette Shore service will return, but Rod Cox, the trolleys general manager, said he hopes it will come online in early summer. The schedule and fare also remain undecided at this point.
For now, workers will be testing whether the new car will work with their existing power source theres no overhead electrical line for the trolley to tap for power, and so it instead is tethered to a generator and training volunteer motormen to run it.
Members of the nonprofit Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society operate the trolley, which runs on a line overseen by a government consortium including the cities of Lake Oswego and Portland, Metro, Clackamas County, TriMet and the Oregon Department of Transportation. The consortium bought the Willamette Shore Line right of way in the 1980s in hopes of preserving the historical rail line for a future mass-transit route, and its members pay dues to cover the cost of maintenance and operations.
The trolley typically travels about six miles through wooded and park-like settings along the Willamette River, over trestles, through a tunnel and past stately mansions before arriving in Portland.
My passengers tell me this is the most scenic rail line in the Pacific Northwest, Cox said.
Local trolley service has been on hiatus since the lines antique trolley car broke down a few years ago. It has been a bumpy ride trying to restore service since then.
When the line eventually reopens, the trolley wont be able to run along the full route because of construction happening at the Sellwood Bridge. Instead, it will go just under two miles, to the Riverwood crossing in the Dunthorpe area, before heading back to the depot just off Foothills Road and State Street, or Highway 43, in Lake Oswego.
In addition to the Sellwood Bridge project, trolley supporters are awaiting the completion of construction work, expected to wrap up by June, on the Elk Rock Tunnel, just north of Lake Oswego.
Were looking forward to having the trolley back up and running, said Brant Williams, director of the citys economic and capital development department. The more historic vintage trolleys running on the line should be a nice amenity and hopefully an attraction.
Dave Rowe has been working on the vintage trolleys since they arrived in Portland in the early 1990s. On Tuesday, looking over Lake Oswegos new addition, he noted that the car is made of solid oak and filled with handcrafted details.
Its built like a yacht, Rowe said.
The replica streetcars have red and cream exteriors with wood concealing their steel frames. Inside, each features plenty of carved oak, brass rails and leather hand grips. The wicker seats have walkover, or reversible, backrests, and theres an optional dry bar that can be installed for special events. The trolley can be chartered for school tours, corporate meetings or special occasions such as weddings. It typically seats up to 40 people.
It was loaded onto a trailer for the trip from Portland to Lake Oswego on Tuesday. At 15 feet tall, it required two pilot trucks and stopped traffic at points along Highway 43, as workers had to maneuver into oncoming traffic to avoid damaging roadside trees.
Two of the trolleys younger operators were on hand this week to welcome the new car to town.
Milwaukie resident Gage Geist, 18, and former Lake Oswego resident Itamar Reuven, also 18, who now lives in Cupertino, Calif., have been volunteering to help operate Willamette Shore Trolley cars for years.
I like the complexity of it, said Geist, who began training as an apprentice to Cox when he was 9 years old. He said working on streetcars requires knowing the mechanics of how things work, along with teamwork, as two-person crews operate the trolley.
I always thought it was fun, added Reuven. When I went to Waluga (junior high school) there wasnt anything to do on the weekends, so I came here one day.
He said apprenticeship has provided an opportunity to practice customer service, discipline and multitasking, skills that could be useful in the career he dreams of. Both Geist and Reuven hope to pilot airplanes one day.
You have to have a passion for it for sure, Geist said.