Grant to repair 53 historic trolleys damaged by storms

By:  Jim Shay
CT Post

Historic trolley cars that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene will be repaired and restored, thanks to a $1.2 million federal grant.

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro announced Thursday that the grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will repair 53 antique trolleys at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven.

The damage during Sandy in 2012 followed similar flooding damage sustained during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The Trolley Museum had previously been awarded FEMA funds for the Irene repairs, but the award was delayed when FEMA required the museum to obtain flood insurance for the trolleys. Because antique trolleys are not covered under the National Flood Insurance Program, the award was stalled. The museum sought help from Blumenthal, Murphy and DeLauro, who wrote to FEMA to explain that the flood insurance requirement was not applicable or appropriate in these circumstances.

The museum owns nearly 100 vintage transit vehicles. In addition, the museum archives contain more than 50,000 photographic images, 5,000 books and documents and about 2,000 small artifacts such as tokens, hat badges and ticket punches.

The Trolley Museum has since built two new storage facilities on higher ground where trolleys are stored when there is risk of flooding, both eliminating the need for flood insurance and protecting the trolleys. With future flood concerns addressed, FEMA reissued the Irene award, and has now issued assistance for the Sandy damage as well.

“We are pleased that FEMA and the Trolley Museum were able to reach an agreement that allows for the restoration and repair of these beautiful and historic working trolleys, while also protecting them from future flooding and severe weather. The Trolley Museum has educated and delighted generations of children from across Connecticut, and with this federal funding we can be assured that families can continue to ride the trolleys and experience that same joy for many years to come,” Blumenthal, Murphy and DeLauro said in a release.

“This is huge for the Trolley Museum. This means the cars will be rebuilt and preserved so that future generations will be able to experience riding on a trolley car,” said Wayne Sandford, general manager of the Trolley Museum.