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Museum Celebrates Centennial

The Shore Line Trolley Museum celebrated the centennial of its historic Branford Electric Railway on Saturday July 29th 2000.

Dana Bowers, a local member for more than 30 years, was the Master of Ceremonies, which began in front of the Sprague building in the early afternoon with the unveiling of the Trolley Towns Connecticut web site. G. Ernest Anderson, a 25+ year member from Madison CT, and Director of Educational Outreach, addressed the crowd. He thanked the Southern New England Tele-communications Company (SNET) and the Connecticut League of History Organizations who provided grant funding for the project. The funds were used to award scholarships to a pair of students from East Haven High School: Mark Bendel and Sean O'Brien. Ernie thanked both students and their teacher, Jim Schroeder, and presented complimentary memberships.

Branford First Selectman Unk DaRos {left-center} and East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo {right-center} jointly cut the ribbon opening the new Connecticut Trolleys exhibit, with {l-r} John Koella, Bill Horne and Jane Bouley assisting -- Ken Rosen photo

The project was executed collaboratively with the Connecticut Trolley Museum of East Windsor. Troy Sulser, Executive Director of CTM, spoke about the importance of local heritage and of inter-museum cooperation. Jeff Hakner, technical coordinator of the project for Shore Line, talked of the growing potency of the Internet as a means of promoting educational outreach.

Museum members, dignitaries and guests then boarded one of two Connecticut Company trolley cars in front of Sprague station: car 775, built in 1904, and car 1911, built in 1919, both of which saw many years in passenger service on the Branford line. Branford's First Selectman Unk DaRos was invited to operate 1911, while his East Haven counterpart, Mayor Joe Maturo, took the controls of 775. George Papuga and George Boucher were the pilots. The two-car move operated over the 100 year-old line to Short Beach, recreating (save a few hundred feet), that first trip on July 31, 1900, then returned to the carbarn area.
East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo {right} is guided by George Boucher in operating Connecticut Company car 775

From the platform of Lynchburg VA open car 34, the first car to be owned by the museum, various people addressed the large crowd. John Koella, one of the founding members of the museum, recalled its nascent days and the struggles of its volunteers to preserve the Branford Electric Railway, to collect and restore cars from many cities, and to establish a functioning museum out of the meadow grass. He spoke of the museum's three key assets: its superb collection, its scenic line with much local flora and fauna, and its dedicated members. He thanked the many donors over the years who have made the museum grow, in particular the Sprague family which funded the construction of the museum's Sprague Visitor's Center in 1957.

Museum Vice-President Bill Young, another 40+ year member, set the mood of a century ago by telling the crowd the news events, songs and prices of the day. He explained how the trolley allowed, for the first time, the common person to live beyond walking distance from work, and how that boomed communities such as East Haven and Branford into suburban towns.

Bill Horne of the Branford Land Trust recognized the museum's involvement in the mid-1990s in preserving adjacent Beacon Hill, which is now a protected wildlife area, and pointed out the many interesting nature experiences to be had along the trolley line.

Jane Bouley, Branford town historian, likened the museum's collection of trolley cars to antique treasures that can connect future generations to the experience of daily living of a bygone era. She mentioned that her own parents courted on the Branford trolley.

East Haven Mayor Maturo and Branford First Selectman DaRos both addressed the crowd and stressed the importance of volunteerism and community involvement, recognizing the strong volunteer spirit at the museum. Both town officials expressed their appreciation of the museum as a major asset of their community.
Branford First Selectman Unk DaRos addresses the crowd from the platform of Lynchburg open car 34 -- Ken Rosen photo

Each town was presented with ceremonial posters -- ``Trolleys in Branford'' and ``East Haven Trolleys'' -- in appreciation of the support they have given to the museum. Then both town officials jointly cut the ribbon at the doorway to the museum's first barn, the Quonset hut, and unveiled a new barn-wide exhibit, ``The Connecticut Trolley''.

The exhibit replaces the usual cars on display in Barn 1 with a special Connecticut-oriented selection. Entering the building, the visitor sees the world's oldest commercially-operated electric locomotive, the ``Derby'', built in 1888. Open car 401, of 1906 vintage, and Birney car 2350, built in 1922, illustrate two extremes of passenger-carrying capacity. The opulent Connecticut Company Parlor Car 500, built in 1904, is on display along with ConnCo 1802, built in 1915. The latter car is undergoing restoration, and the interior has been used as a gallery. Photographs are mounted in the windows down the length of the car, and along the outside of the car below the windows.

The interior of the barn has been decorated with flags and bunting, while the corrugated metal walls have been hidden from view with a clever imitation of construction site planking, pasted to which are reproductions of historical advertising posters. There are two video screens in the barn running continuous videos of ConnCo trolleys.

The museum extends its thanks to all the members and friends of the museum who helped to make the day a success.

The Shore Line Trolley Museum
17 River Street
East Haven, CT 06512
(203) 467-6927

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Last Updated: /articles/ modified at Mon Aug 7 19:36:36 2000