• New Orleans trolley line parts come to Ohio

  • General discussion related to all railroad clubs, museums, tourist and scenic lines. Generally this covers museums with static displays, museums that operate excursions, scenic lines that have museums, and so on. Check out the Tourist Railway Association (TRAIN) for more information.
General discussion related to all railroad clubs, museums, tourist and scenic lines. Generally this covers museums with static displays, museums that operate excursions, scenic lines that have museums, and so on. Check out the Tourist Railway Association (TRAIN) for more information.

Moderators: rob216, Miketherailfan

  by steve heister
 
Article from the Medina Gazette 6-26-06

New Orleans trolleys’ loss is county’s gain

A little bit of old New Orleans will be reborn in rural Medina County, thanks to Hurricane Katrina, and the efforts of local railway enthusiasts. If you are a rail buff, or a back-roads driver like me, you know about the Northern Ohio Railway Museum at 5515 Buffham Road in Westfield Township. Otherwise, it's one of the best-kept historical and cultural secrets in the area.

Founded in 1965, the 42-acre museum has constructed a mile of track and three large buildings to house its collection of historic trolleys, streetcars and interurban cars — most from the northern Ohio area. The campus is located along two miles of the former Cleveland and Southwestern Railway electric interurban railroad.

There are three restored cars on display at the museum and many other cars and pieces of equipment that are works in progress. The oldest car in the collection dates to 1895, the newest to 1967. There's a detailed description of NORM's holdings on its Web site. It, and especially the museum itself, are worth a visit.

In addition to Katrina's devastating human impact on the Gulf Coast, the 2005 storm wrecked much of New Orleans' infrastructure, including its three trolley systems. Two rail lines survived, but their modern, vintage-looking cars were destroyed in the flooding.

The third, the St. Charles Avenue line, which was comprised of cars dating to 1924, was destroyed. While the cars themselves survived the hurricane, the overhead line that supplied power to the cars was heavily damaged and had to be replaced. As it happens, the line already was scheduled to be reconstructed. Hurricane Katrina simply accelerated the project.

As the overhead wires of the St. Charles Avenue line were being dismantled, the city realized much of the unique hardware was still serviceable. So, New Orleans decided to make the parts available to museums. Several across the country expressed interest, but only NORM was able to act on the offer. The museum had one month to remove the parts. That's when museum volunteers and Westfield Town-ship residents Jerry Haumschild and his son, J.J., rented a heavy-duty truck, picked them up, and hauled them home.

Because the nonprofit historical and educational museum is staffed by volunteers and funded strictly through its 180 members, donations and grants, the gift is a tremendous addition, said NORM's fund-raising director, Steven Heister.

"All these parts are very expensive," he said. "Having that hardware advances us quite a bit." The St. Charles line contained five miles of double track and NORM got most of it.

Trolleys run on electricity, Heister explained — 600 volts of direct current, to be exact. The rail carries the negative current and the wire suspended above the track, which connects to the car, carries the positive. If you've been a Cleveland Rapid Transit passenger, you've seen how the system works. There are different types of lines, but the basic technology has not changed in more than 100 years, said Heister.

As you would imagine, the overhead power lines require an intricate system of insulators, hangers and clamps. It's this myriad of key, vintage hardware the museum was able to get. It's currently being cleaned and refurbished by volunteers and someday will be integrated into a demonstration trolley line at the museum.

Once upon a time, the interurban system was a part of everyday life in Medina County, providing public transportation to and from communities all over Northeast Ohio. Living in the age of the automobile, as we are, it's difficult but wonderful to imagine being able to hop an electric train in Seville and ride it to Cleveland and back for an Indians game or a trip to the store.

There's sometimes a little sadness to history, when items that once were in use and in motion are put under glass for display only. There is much to be learned by studying them, don't get me wrong. But, to be able to look on as authentic trolley lines are painstakingly restored for public use again here in our own back yard is all the better.

It's hard to say something good could come out of the death and destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to the hard-working dreamers of the Northern Ohio Railway Museum and a gift from the good city of New Orleans, at least one thing did: A little living history in Medina County.

For information, call 330-769-5501 or visit http://www.northernohio.rail
way.museum. The museum is open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays through the end of October.


Gladden may be contacted at 330-721-4052 or [email protected].