SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum Board is hoping to rally community support to restore and preserve the antique trolley displayed outside the museum.
The artifact is the last remaining trolley in the state, and is falling victim to corrosion related to age and exposure to the elements.
The electric-powered Trolley #115 was once in a fleet of five cars that provided a sophisticated public transit system around the town of Sheridan as well as the outlying coal mines and Veterans Affairs facility — back then, it was called the Fort Line — between 1911 and 1926. When it had carried its last load of passengers, it ended up abandoned in a field near the Country Club for decades.
A local committee picked it up out of the field and reconstructed the car as a community project in 1976. While the trolley’s base, steel structure and two seats are the original backbone of the artifact, the wood and windows were completely redone with an earnest effort at maintaining historical integrity of the piece. Since then, the example of old-time mass transit has been a crowning item of the Sheridan County Museum’s collection.
Part of the Bicentennial Committee’s work included setting the trolley on a railroad truck, the best available resource at the time for the restoration project. In this case, “truck” refers to an undercarriage and a set of wheels.
The railroad truck is shorter in length than the trolley’s original truck, and so the body of the trolley extends out past the base on each end.
The car also has engines on both ends of its carriage. Today, the short undercarriage combined with the weight distribution on both ends of the car is causing the trolley to bow.
“It’s basically in trouble again, and we need to reconstruct it,” Curtiss said. “Our intent is not to take it back to the original — that would be impossible — but to make a facsimile of what it would look like.”
The slight curve of the trolley, combined with obvious sections of wood damage, can be corrected with some community involvement.
The good news is the Sheridan College Welding Department has prepared a new stand for the trolley, complete with facsimile wheels, to support it appropriately. All that’s needed now is materials, labor and a workspace to finish the refurbishing.
“We need to do the rest of the renovation so it doesn’t keep bowing and so we can get it on the new base,” Curtiss said. “We want to stabilize it. We want to get new wood, new windows and new steel.”
Like the Bicentennial Committee’s original restoration project, Curtiss said she’s hoping to make sure trolley upkeep stays a grassroots endeavor.
“Saving the trolley began as a community project, and we’d like to keep that idea going,” Curtiss said, adding the project has unique importance in illustrating Sheridan’s heritage.
“Important to the history of the state of wyoming and Sheridan itself are the transportation corridors,” Curtiss said, referring to fact Wyoming’s settlement history revolves around establishments of the railroads and even the Bozeman Trail. She said the Sheridan trolley system is another key story to settlement in the west.
“You can look from the bigger transportation corridors down to the microcosm of the transportation corridors in Sheridan.
“It helps us tell the story of transportation within our city,” Curtiss said. “It gives us a way to talk about the importance of transportation within the state of Wyoming.”
Curtiss said once she has materials, volunteers and a location to complete the project, she hopes to apply for grant money to help fund the renovation.
Sheridan history buffs who are interested in getting involved by either donating materials and time or providing a workspace for the project can get more information from the Sheridan County Museum.