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Trolleys head to new homes

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Three more Aspen trolley cars were carted away late last week, leaving one that will likely be hauled away today and one that has been so picked over, it’s apparently not worth taking.

The three cities that stepped up to take the trolleys off Aspen’s hands coordinated their efforts to remove the four cars stored at Cozy Point Ranch near Brush Creek Road and Highway 82.

They had until May 15 to transport the cars, but acted well ahead of that deadline. They were probably anxious to get them out of town before local trolley supporters took some action to prevent their disappearance, theorized Jon Busch, a member of the Aspen Street Railway Co.

Trolley backer Kip Wheeler had contacted all three communities in line for the cars and offered to buy them back, according to Busch. “All the recipients said, ‘No way,'” he said.

Busch realized most of the cars were gone when he drove by Cozy Point on Saturday and noticed only one trolley remaining, with a crane parked next to it.

“I personally think they [the council] will probably be remembered in the future for screwing this up,” he said. “The council may very well go down in history as the one that f***ed up. I’ll do what I can to make sure that no one forgets.”

Representatives from Tucson, Ariz., Issaquah, Wash., and Wanganui, New Zealand, coordinated transport of the cars to their respective locales so they could share the cost of a crane.

A flatbed truck is expected today to cart away the last trolley still at Cozy Point, according to Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.

Issaquah already has one of the Aspen trolleys. Last November, it hauled away the one that had been placed on display at Rubey Park in advance of a public vote on the trolleys’ fate. That car is now pictured on the Issaquah Valley Trolley Web site.

The sixth car, located at the county dump, was headed for Tucson, but much of the car had been stripped in recent months, unbeknownst to the city.

“In the last six months, some things have happened. It’s pretty well stripped,” Sadler said. “I think with all the publicity it got during the election, somebody went and scavenged a good share of it. It’s mostly gone.”

Things like the headlight assembly and the siding have been removed. “Anything that was easy to take off is gone, pretty much,” he said.

Tucson representatives were told to help themselves to whatever remained, but they no longer plan to transport the car, according to Sadler.

The car at the dump was the most historic of the bunch at one time. It was built in 1899; the rest were manufactured in 1925, all by the J. Brill Co., headquartered in Philadelphia.

All six cars were imported to Aspen from Lisbon, Portugal, in the late 1970s by a group of men, including Busch, who hoped to see them put to use on a downtown trolley line. Instead, they wound up deteriorating during years of outdoor storage.

The City Council agreed to give them to communities that would restore them and put them to use after Aspen voters rejected a proposed local trolley line in the November election.

Trolley backers used a $20,000 grant and $2,000 of their own money to cosmetically restore the car that had been on display at Rubey Park. Issaquah paid $2,000 to reimburse the railway group, but Busch contends the city violated the terms of the grant when it gave the car away.

“I think that, more than anything else the council did, was unethical,” he said.

Busch declined to discuss any future action the railway company may pursue over the matter.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]


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