The motorman sounds his gong twice. He gives a small brass handle
a twist with the right hand and cranks a massive apparatus clockwise
with his left. His bright yellow trolley, of 1904 vintage, starts
forward down a country trolley line that's been running continuously
The car rounds a curve. A groundskeeper is tending to the flower bed.
Trackworkers are replacing wooden ties and steel rails in the train yard,
driving their spikes with heavy hammers. Passing by the car shop, the motorman
knows hard work is at hand within. A woman meticulously paints the exterior of
a 70 year old streetcar, while a gang of men hoist a thousand pound
electric motor into the air. Out in the yard, cars of all
types are being hostled about, from tiny 4-wheeler trolleys to
mammoth subway cars.
Heading off into the woods, the motorman nods to the signal maintainer,
head buried within a complex network of electromechanical relays, and
to a line worker high above on the overhead wire. Crossing an old
narrow-gauge railway and a small stream, the car reaches the end of
its journey in the little village of Short Beach, and there the motorman
tells his visitors a story.
You see, this is not 1900, or 1920, or even 1970. This is now, and all
of the people you have met thus far, as well as countless others back
at the station, in the exhibits gallery, in the office, and in
the library, are all volunteers. They are all part of living history,
preserving the heritage and artifacts of the electric streetcar and transit
industry. You could be one of them.
Volunteering at the Shore Line Trolley Museum is a great way to meet
new people of like interests, to acquire new (and often centuries-old) skills,
to learn about history, culture, economy and technology, and, just maybe,
to do something a little different as an escape from your daily routine.
Since its inception in 1945, our museum has been a volunteer-driven
organization. There are over 1000 current members, many of whom are
active volunteers in everything from running cars to restoring them to
working on the tracks to tending the grounds. No professional training
or previous experience is required; the museum's training department
provides thorough, hands-on instruction.
Shore Line Trolley volunteers come from near and far.
Volunteering is for everyone;
our volunteers range from 8 to 80!
Although some of our volunteers contribute hundreds of hours each year,
even volunteers with just a handful of hours are appreciated
and recognized, through our newsletter, and our annual tabulation of
volunteer hours. While the museum has scheduled public operations on
about 140 days out of the calendar year, volunteers can be found on
the property all year round. Have irregular days off? We can
accommodate your schedule. There are even volunteer opportunities of which
you can take advantage at your home or office!
The Shore Line Trolley Museum is a nonprofit, educational institution
that is recognized under section 501(c)3 of the IRS tax code. That means
that not only are your contributions of goods and funds deductible, your
travel, meal and lodging expenses may be as well (always consult your
Our volunteers apply a set of skills both broad and
deep to meet a variety of challenges. Although some of the tasks
and skills described
below might seem intimidating, remember that most of our volunteers
do something completely different in their "day jobs". We don't
require previous experience of any sort. Our training department provides
a program of "continuing education" to broaden and sharpen our volunteers'
skills and knowledge. You'll soon find yourself doing things you never
Here are some of the things volunteers get done
- Public Operations
Our most heavily patronized volunteer activity. Becoming a trolley
operator requires 4-5 full days of training in safe and proper operating
practices, historical background, and techniques for working
with the visiting public, and passing a written and road test. You must
be 18 years or older to operate cars for the public. Additional volunteer
opportunities exist for all ages in the positions of museum guide.
In the Public Operations
Department, you'll have contact with a diversity of visitors of all
ages, backgrounds and interests. You are our face to the world, and
make a lasting impression on thousands of people each year.
- Research, Publications and Archives
One of our greatest assets is information. In the over fifty years that
our museum has been in existence, we have amassed an impressive collection
of information in the form of texts, photographs, drawings and oral
histories. Our research department catalogs, organizes and explores these
materials and produces various publications, from in-house training guides
to books and journals to online works. Being a
Library Researcher demands good writing, computer and communications
skills and a quest for knowledge and exploration.
- Vehicle Collection Maintenance
Volunteers in the shops department maintain and restore our
vintage vehicles. They perform routine and corrective
maintenance on the fleet, such as checking and lubricating bearings and
journals, inspecting and servicing controllers, traction motors and
brake systems, trolley poles and bases, interior and exterior cleaning
and paint touch-up, and even changing light bulbs (it's a little harder than you
Car Restoration entails
a wide range of tasks such as
patching deteriorated wood and metal, fabricating mouldings, surfacing,
painting and stenciling, machining
and casting missing components, installing floors and roofs, restoring
seats and windows, installing and repairing air piping and electrical
wiring, overhauling air compressors, traction motors, trucks and wheelsets.
The Track Department is literally the foundation of our museum.
Track Workers install and renew the track. They perform periodic
inspection and replacement of the wooden ties, spike and tamp,
design and lay new sections of track,
inspect and adjust gauge, switches, guardrails and automatic curve lubricators.
They maintain the subgrade, ballast and drainage systems. Track is
an outdoor sport, physically demanding and often involving heavy machinery,
the perfect antidote for a desk job!
Exhibit department volunteers design and install new exhibits
and maintain and improve existing ones. They have a keen sense of
information presentation and audio-visual design and pride in their
fine craftsmanship. Some exhibits are static displays, some are
dynamic and interactive, some are hands-on and some behind glass;
there are even online exhibits. They all combine
to make our visitors' experiences educational and entertaining.
Line refers to the overhead trolley wire which delivers power to the
cars, as well as the line poles, brackets, span wires, insulators, hangers
and other hardware which supports the trolley. The trolley wire is
15-20 feet above the track, and is energized with 560 Volts, D.C.
Line work is sometimes performed with the wire "live" via a special trolley
car with an insulated working platform. Working in the Line Department
affords breathtaking views of our scenic line and some challenging lessons in
geometry and physics. It's an experience that can't be topped!
- Communications and Signal
Signal Maintainers carry on the heritage of railway signaling
and install, upgrade and maintain the signal system which provides
vital traffic control functions. Signal maintainer is a multi-disciplinary
job, involving anything from changing light bulbs to to hoisting heavy
equipment to painting to complex
electrical calculations. Maintainers work in pairs to check each others'
safety-critical work and the highest standards of craftsmanship must be
upheld at all times. The Comm/Signal Department works in conjunction with Track
in bonding rail joints and special work for signal and traction current return,
and protecting switches, and with Line
to install and maintain overhead cabling. The Comm/Signal Department is
also responsible for the railway telephone, radio, and public address systems.
- Buildings and Grounds
Our buildings shelter the collection from the elements and provide
indoor exhibit space. Maintenance of these valuable resources is
an essential part of museum operations, and our Buildings and
Grounds Maintainers get it done. From hanging huge doors to
painting to lighting design, almost anything is fair game. They also
keep the museum safe and attractive by
maintaining the landscaping, weeding the flower beds and keeping the
- And much more...
There are so many other valuable services that museum volunteers provide
that space simply isn't sufficient to list them all.
How to Get Involved
If you're not already a member of the Shore Line Trolley Museum,
Sign Up!. Then call the Volunteer Support Department
at (203) 467-6927, or email
firstname.lastname@example.org. One of
our volunteer coordinators will talk to you and match your interests
with ongoing projects. You'll also
receive our periodic Volunteer Bulletin via email
We look forward to working with you.