City ready to part with trolley cars |

City ready to part with trolley cars

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen will apparently give its six trolley cars to communities that will use them, rather than sell them to a local man who has no immediate plan to put the cars into service on a transit line.

Aspenite Kip Wheeler told the Aspen City Council Monday he is willing to pay $2,500 each for the cars through his company, Personal Cipher Card Corp. He was a backer of the Aspen Street Railway Co.’s proposed trolley line, which voters rejected in last week’s election.

“They’re irreplaceable, they’re valuable. I can’t see the point of just giving them away,” he said before last night’s discussion began.

Wheeler said he would find a place to store the cars, eventually restore them to operating condition and then get them back into use “somewhere.”

“I have no desire to turn them into chicken coops or flower pots,” he said.

The council, too, was not interested in turning the trolleys into stationary objects that serve something other than their intended purpose.

They rejected a suggestion to use one as a kiosk at the end of the Hyman Avenue Mall, along Galena Street, forcing the relocation of the sculpture and fountain located there now. Andrew Kole, a member of the Commercial Core and Lodging Commission, said the group wanted to explore that option before disposing of all the cars.

As an alternative, he also suggested using a trolley as a concession stand at the high school football field.

Instead, the council voted 4-0 to reaffirm its earlier directive: Dispose of the cars, preferably to places that have trolley lines in place and can put them to use. Councilman Terry Paulson, an ardent trolley supporter, was absent.

“This is not a particularly easy decision for me,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “But I think the time has come that we make a decision on this.

“We may make a decision tonight that we will regret down the road,” she conceded.

Wheeler questioned why the city was willing to give away assets that he is willing to pay for, and suggested the council would violate Article 2, Section 2 of the Colorado Constitution by doing so. City Attorney John Worcester said he’d have to read the provision before responding.

Citizen Jerry Bovino also questioned the city’s willingness to give away the cars.

“If I had something of value, why would I give it away when somebody is willing to pay for it?” he said.

Actually, Issaquah, Wash., is willing to purchase the trolley on display at Rubey Park for $2,000, according to Assistant City Manager Ed Sadler. That sum would reimburse the railway company for its costs in the cosmetic restoration of that car. The group received a $20,000 grant for the work, but spent an additional $2,000.

That car is a $22,000 asset that belongs to the city, Wheeler argued. “I’m offering you $2,500 for it. I’ll write you a check tomorrow,” he said.

But Councilman Tom McCabe questioned the wisdom in keeping any of the cars now that voters have spoken, noting the criticism the council endures if it ignores the public’s wishes.

“As a City Council, we gave away our rights when we put them to a vote,” he said.

Sadler said Issaquah wants two of the cars and has indicated it could remove the one at Rubey Park in the next few weeks. Wanganui, New Zealand, also wants two, and Tucson, Ariz., wants two, including the one stored at the county dump, which is in the worst shape, but is the oldest, built in 1899.

Four cars are stored at the city’s Cozy Point Ranch. Depending on the weather, it’s possible some of them could be hauled away yet this year; otherwise takers would have to come for them next spring, Sadler said.

Although Wheeler is interested in buying the cars, the council’s priority for their disposal is to give them to communities that will pay to haul them away and that will put them into service.

“You don’t have a trolley system to run them on,” Councilman Tony Hershey told Wheeler.

The Aspen Street Railway Co. imported the cars from Lisbon, Portugal, in 1978 in the hopes of putting them to use on an in-town trolley line. They were later given to the city. All were built by the J.G. Brill Co. of Philadelphia. Five were assembled from kits in Lisbon in 1925 while the sixth dates back to 1899.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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