Designer offers to resurrect Aspen’s trolleys
A local designer has offered to take Aspen’s six deteriorating trolley cars off the city’s hands and restore them to their original grandeur for display around town.
Terry Olson, who first expressed an interest in the historic trolley cars after reading an article about their slow deterioration in The Aspen Times Weekly last summer, recently submitted a proposal to the city.
He is expected to appear before the City Council at its Feb. 5 noon meeting to discuss his proposal. Olson also provided the city with an artist’s sketch depicting the restored cars.
Olson, a designer with a business called Old World Interiors and a custom cabinetry shop in Carbondale, has proposed restoring all six cars for display as art around Aspen. They would not, however, be operational. In a letter outlining his plan, Olson said he would commission bronze sculpture artists to create four to six life-sized pieces for each trolley, like a waving conductor and people getting on and off the cars.
The cars would be privately restored, owned and maintained at no cost to Aspen, according to Olson’s letter.
“I think it would be a great thing for the city,” Olson said yesterday. “Those are classic old cars – they’re like Rolls-Royces sitting out there. I think they could be a real asset to the city.”
Olson’s letter also indicates he would “do a PBS documentary” on the Aspen trolleys that would trace the history of the cars to their roots in Portugal, where all but one of them were made.
Olson declined to discuss his plans to finance the undertaking yesterday but said he would outline the specifics of his proposal for the City Council next month.
“As an artist,” he said in his letter, “the joy that I get from a project such as this is beyond words and is worth much more than I would make from it.”
Olson said in the letter that he could have the trolleys ready for display within a year.
Though the trolley cars have been rotting away since the late 1970s, Olson said in his letter that they were well made – “like a fine, antique car.” The cars were imported from Lisbon by a group of locals, organized as the Aspen Street Railway Co., who envisioned the cars moving along a set of tracks to provide a unique form of in-town mass transit.
The trolley group’s vision never gathered momentum, though, and they eventually sold the cars to the late Michael Hernstadt, who donated them to the city. Only one car ever saw use – as an information booth at Rubey Park – though discussions about a trolley line in Aspen have resurfaced several times over the years.
Late last year, the City Council decided not to budget $40,000 in matching funds to reanalyze the feasibility of putting the cars into service but made no decision on the fate of the cars.
One of the cars is now deteriorating at the county dump. The other five are rotting into the ground at Cozy Point Ranch.
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