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Connecticut Company 500, a street railway parlor car at the Shore Line Trolley Museum
The Shore Line Trolley Museum, located in East Haven, Connecticutmarker, is the oldest operating trolley museum in the United States. It was founded to preserve the heritage of the trolley car. The museum encompasses the Branford Electric Railway Historic District, which was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The museum includes exhibits on trolley history in the visitors' center and offers rides on restored trolleys along its track. The ride includes a tour of the museum's historic trolley collection.

History

The museum was incorporated in August 1945 as the Branford Electric Railway Association (BERA), a non-profit historical and educational institution. The Connecticut Company (or ConnCo), which operated most of the streetcar lines in the state of Connecticut, had been making plans since the early 1930s to abandon its "F" route, cutting it back in stages from its long-time terminus of Stony Creek until by April 1946 it ended in front of the post office in Short Beach, its original terminus when the line was opened for service on 31 July 1900. The last revenue car to operate under ConnCo auspices left Short Beach shortly after midnight on March 8, 1947, at which time BERA took possession of the remaining 1.5 mile portion of the line on private right-of-way between East Havenmarker and Short Beach. Over the following year the museum moved virtually its entire collection at the time, including a number of just-retired ConnCo streetcars, onto its property via the existing and still-electrified track connection with Connecticut Company.

After ConnCo severed the track connection in 1948, BERA was on its own. The 1.5-mile line started out as double track but one of the tracks was torn up and sold for scrap to raise money. Eventually 20-year bonds were issued by the museum and its fortunes improved. In 1957 an impressive visitor's center, named for traction pioneer Frank Julian Sprague and known as Sprague Station, was built out of brick at the East Haven end of the line with help from funds donated by his widow.

Over the intervening years, BERA's collection has grown to become the third largest collection of electric railway equipment in North America. It has an unparalleled collection of equipment from Connecticutmarker and New York Citymarker and operates a variety of streetcars, rapid transit cars and work cars throughout the year. BERA currently does business as the Shore Line Trolley Museum. It is run almost entirely by volunteers, who donate thousands of hours each year to the restoration and operation of its equipment, so that new generations of visitors can learn about the history of the street railway in North America and enjoy a ride on what was once an everyday means of transportation.



Highlights of the Collection

  • Connecticut Company 500, the line's posh business/parlor car
  • Manhattan Railway "G", the oldest preserved rapid transit car in the United States (built in 1878)
  • Interborough Rapid Transit 3344 "Mineola," the personal private car of August Belmont, Jr.
  • Ansonia Derby & Birmingham "Derby," the oldest surviving electric locomotive and the only Van De Poele motor preserved
  • Brooklyn and Queens Transit 1001, the first production PCC streetcar built
  • Third Avenue Railway System 220, the oldest operating streetcar in the United States (built in 1892)
  • Hudson and Manhattan 503, the only restored H&M "black car"


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