It's a busy start to the new year for the .
The museum, a portion of which sits in East Haven and Branford, continues its ongoing recovery effort after most of the nonprofit organization's historic trolley cars.
The museum takes care of 95 cars in all — with 46 more than 100 years old — with 59 operational before the storm. And close to 90 of those cars received some sort of damage during the storm, with only cars 948, 850, and 357 completely escaping Irene.
Since then however, museum volunteers have been hard at work repairing and bringing them back online, one car at a time.
"And so far, it's actually going better than we thought it would," Wayne Sandford, the trolley museum's general manager, told East Haven Patch.
"By the spring we're hoping to be fully operational, with our whole line open and running," Sandford said.
Schultz Electric Offers to Help
The recovery effort has been greatly assisted by the New Haven-based Schlutz Electric Group, which stepped forward shortly after the storm to offer their assistance.
It can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 to repair each individual trolley engine, which weigh about one ton a piece, and some 500 hours to fix.
"They offered to rebuild the motors for us, which is just unbelievable," Sandford said of Schultz. "We're just overwhelmed with their generosity."
In addition to tapping into its own reserves, museum officials have also been working with federal and state agencies to secure grants and other funding sources to ensure its volunteers have the money needed to fully complete their repair on the damaged cars and trolley track.
'Elevating the Collection'
As the trolleys are being repaired, the museum has been full steam head with its fundraising efforts in its drive to build two new barns needed to safely store the trolley cars above the salt marsh plain.
"We need to stop this cycle of disasters happening," Sandford said.
The goal of the campaign, called "Elevating the Collection," is to reach $2,000,000. So far, the museum has raised some $240,000 or 12 percent of their goal.
In addition to donations, Sandford said there is another easy way to assist the museum's recover and fundraising effort.
"By joining the trolley museum and becoming a member," he said. "And you can also give a membership as a gift."
New Haven Trolley Study
Shore Line Trolley Museum leadership is also encouraging a "full public dialogue" on the New Haven streetcar study.
New Haven currently is considering the development of a modern streetcar line that would connect three of the city's highest-growth districts: downtown, the Yale-New Haven Hospital Medical District and Union Station.
The initial 3-mile line will serve as an alternative mode of transportation, with the opportunity to be expanded regionally to Hamden and West Haven.
The city of New Haven was recently offered an $800,000 Federal Transit Administration grant to help continue the study, if the municipality's Board of Alderman can match those funds with the remaining $200,000 needed.
"We also urge that the New Haven alderman accept the Federal Transit Administration grant and begin the process of study to explore the viability of bringing the trolleys back to our city," Sandford stated in a press release.
The Old Connecticut Company
The Shore Line Trolley Museum operates a portion of the old "F" trolley route of the Connecticut Company, which provided service from downtown New Haven, through East Haven and into Branford.
Through the study of this line, our collection of trolley cars, and other documents in our archives we have true understanding of the ways in which streetcars shaped the face of our community, museum officials said.
In 1900 the coming of the trolley heralded Branford and East Haven’s entrance into the modern era as it allowed residents to commute to New Haven for work. For nearly five decades, the trolley provided clean, fast, affordable, reliable public transportation.
Museum officials said they believe that the trolley car still has the power to reshape our cities. They point to places like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle have all integrated trolley cars into modern city life, which "have reaped countless benefits by doing so."
"We welcome a visit by the New Haven officials to our Museum for a private tour to see the trolleys up close," Sandford said. "City aldermen are personally invited to the museum for a detailed briefing with members and volunteers who have expert knowledge of how streetcar systems can benefit our modern cities.
In addition to studying the history of the trolley the Shore Line Trolley Museum is committed to the education of future railroad workers, and is developing programs to ensure that there is training available for people studying to work on our public transit systems.
Msuem officials said they hope that these programs will provide a benefit for the future of streetcars in New Haven.