July 4, 1997, updated November 3, 1997
Glowing in the warmness of the afternoon sun, Connecticut Company
Car #775 posed for photographers and onlookers in front of the
Sprague Station building, as the "Parlor Car", #500 pulled up
behind it. 775 had just hours before emerged from the restoration shop,
having completed a 6 month mini-restoration into a more accurate
Car 775 was built in 1904 and was originally numbered 193. It was part of a small order of 15 cars assigned to the line that would later become the trackage of the Shore Line Trolley Museum. A reorganization of the roster numbers of the Connecticut Company in 1915 re-numbered the car to 775, which the car carried until abandonment of service in 1947. The car was then acquired by the museum.
Car 193/775 has been a staple of the museum's operating fleet since then. In the last major restoration of the car, completed in 1977, the car was depicted in its 1904 paint scheme and renumbered 193. With 20 years of wear and tear, it was becoming obvious that the car needed a new paint job, at the very least. This was the impetus to re-evaluate the historical accuracy of our restoration in view of new facts that were discovered over the course of the last two decades.
Under the guidance of Master Mechanic Ted Eickmann, museum member/volunteers began the process of carefully documenting all aspects of the car's appearance and mechanical configuration over its service career. Given the equipment installed on the car, it was concluded that the most accurate restoration possible would be to depict the car as it ran between 1937 and 1942.
As the well-heated 193/775 was needed for December operations, work
began at the close of the 1996 operating season. All exterior paint was
stripped with a heat gun. Dings and divots in the underlying wood sheathing
were repaired if possible, otherwise the bad sections of wood were replaced
with identical material. The exterior was sealed and sanded smooth.
Damaged window sash and latch mechanisms were repaired. Interior woodwork
was sanded and re-varnished.
Car 193 was operated as a two-man car, with a motorman and conductor, and folding leaf doors. By the 1930s, car 775 had been converted to a more economical one-man operation. Now, various long-dormant devices relating to one-man operation were restored and reactivated, such as door levers which allow the operator to open and close the leaf doors from his position, and a cord to allow the passengers to stop the car in an emergency.
The bulk of the work on the 775 restoration was done by Ted Eickmann and a small core group of museum member/volunteers, with dozens of other member/volunteers contributing time to the project as well.
On July 4, 1997, at 1:45 PM, museum President Lou Shavell cut the ribbon
and officially proclaimed car 775 to be open for visitor service.
Car 775 followed Connecticut Company Parlor Car #500 on a ceremonial first
trip to Short Beach. The motorman, Bob, is a long-time member of the
museum and the last surviving member who was also
a ConnCo trolley motorman in "real life." He reports that he never
did get a chance to run 500 in passenger service during the ConnCo days,
although he has operated it at the museum on several occasions.
At 2:00 PM, Bob released his brakes and led the procession towards
Short Beach. Car 775 followed a few minutes behind. Since Car 500 is
only used on very special occasions, it had been years since regular
visitors had a chance to ride on it. The lucky visitors on this day
remarked on the smooth ride and exquisite interior detailing of 500, which
was, after all, the private car of the President of the Connecticut Company.
When both 500 and 775 reached the platform at Short Beach, 1.5 miles later,
visitors were given the opportunity to switch cars so no one would
miss their chance on either car.
At the conclusion of the ceremonial first trip, car 500 went back into the barn to its usual display position, and car 775 entered the regular service rotation, where it has continued to prove a reliable and popular service car.