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Irene and the Trolley Museum

Museum members assess the damage to this Connecticut Company car number 775, which has been operating on the museum tracks since it was built in 1904.

On Sunday, August 28th, Hurricane Irene raced along the eastern seaboard and pounded Connecticut with widespread damage. The Trolley Museum was directly and seriously affected. By far, the most extensive damage is to the electric ``traction motors'' which propel the cars, and are mounted to the axles, hanging just a few inches above the rail.

The museum had been flooded in the past, including the infamous winter Noreaster of December 1992. The flooding created by Irene surpassed that by at least 6 inches, making this the worst flood since the museum came to the site in 1947. Temporary remedies instituted after the 1992 flood, such as raising the track elevations in some of the barns, simply were overpowered by this storm. The museum's Board of Trustees has known that a long-term solution is needed.

In March of 2011, the museum's Board of Trustees took action, and began a Capital Campaign called Elevating The Collection. It will raise $2 million for the construction of two new buildings on the site which will store the bulk of the museum's invaluable trolley collection above the 100-year flood elevation. Had these buildings been in place when Irene struck, the trolleys would have been completely protected


We appreciate the support of the public by patronizing the museum. Thanks to that support, and the support of our members who made a donation to the flood relief fund, we have been able to repair a number of cars and return them to service to be enjoyed by our visitors. Additional cars will be repaired during the 2012 season.
The same trolley 775 was repaired and running in late November. J. Higham photo

A Bigger Threat

In September 1938, 9 years before the museum was founded and came to the Branford trolley site, a Category 3 hurricane struck Connecticut, passing almost directly over the future museum site. The surge from this storm brought water levels almost 4 feet higher than Irene. The damage that another storm of this magnitude could cause to the museum's trolley collection, stored in its current buildings, is unspeakable. Although the probability of such an event happening in any given year is low, it will happen again. If there is one thing that Hurricane Irene reminded us all, it is not to be complacent.

To Higher Ground

When the Capital Campaign is successfully completed, the museum will have two new buildings in which to protect its collection. These buildings will be at sufficient elevation, and engineered to withstand high winds, so that even if the Hurricane of 1938 were to visit us again, the cars within would be protected.

The new buildings have been designed, engineered and cost-estimated. Approval has been granted by the Town of Branford. We are ready to build now!

How Can I Help?

Consider making a commitment to the museum's Capital Campaign Elevating The Collection. Read more about the campaign and contact us to get involved:
or (203) 467-6927.

Some Irene Photos

View looking due south (railroad east). Note the picnic tables and benches which are flooded to the seat level. Dennis Pacelli

Cars 6688 and 775 were moved to higher yard tracks in front of these trolley barns but still did not entirely escape the flooding. Dennis Pacelli

View looking due north. Flood waters cover both mainline tracks to a depth of 3-6 inches. Dennis Pacelli

Museum volunteers used a generator to move this Line Car trolley down the line and repair damage to the trolley wire. Frank Pfuhler

Museum members only may sign on here for even more photos and video

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

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Last Updated: / modified at Mon Jan 30 21:18:59 2012