Who's Going To Insure It?

Back in the 1990's, Paul Benoit, Astoria's city planner, had a great drawing/rendering of the future Riverwalk and trolley tracks. The artist had also drawn a trolley on the tracks. I thought that idea of the Riverwalk with a trolley would be something great for the town. One day I got a crazy idea and thought maybe there is a trolley out there somewhere that we can get for Astoria. Problem was our budget was zero. But I figured that someone where this was a broken-down trolling that needs to be rescued. After six months of dialing for trolleys, with the help of Willis Van Dusen, the mayor, we found a trolley in Gales Creek, Oregon. How crazy was that, only 80 miles away. Four of us guys drove out there and actually rode the trolley on the full set of tracks and even rang the bell. The owner of this train/trolley farm, was different to say the least. This was overwhelmed and was in dire financial straits. He also was losing his lease. His country landlord asked him to please remove all of his stuff from the few acre site. This guy didn't know what to do. The trolley we were interested in was owned by, of all places, the San Antonio Art Museum. I contacted them and they told me that they had paid a good deal of money to have their hundred-year-old trolley transported from Texas to Oregon and then even paid money to have it refurbished. I told them that the trolley was alive and still ran but there had been very little work done on restoring it. I also told him that they needed to come pick up their trolley because the train guy was being evicted.

The museum people in San Antonio realized their problem. We convinced them that Astoria had 4 miles of tracks in the city along the waterfront and boy, would we love to have a trolley running on those tracks. Without many options the museum decided to let us lease it for one dollar a year until they figured out what they could do with their long-lost trolley. I, knowing that the city of Astoria may not be very keen on a trolley with all of its problems, had it leased to Robert H. Jacob and/or the city of Astoria. The city obviously had some real questions, such as, who's going to own it, who's going to fix it, who's going to run it, who's going to pay for the insurance, who's going to maintain it, and where would they keep it. Cities often think like that.

Thank God for go-getters and visionaries like Jim Wilkins, Willis Van Dusen, and Paul Benoit. While the community was hesitating, these characters went to work. Jim assembled all of his construction equipment, somehow delivered the trolley on a low-boy trailer to Astoria and plopped the trolley on the tracks. Willis then went about organizing fundraisers and he and Jim basically pushed that trolley idea on the to the community's lap.

Today after 13 years, this trolley has become an icon for Astoria. The real heroes of the trolley are the amazing group of volunteers that day after day, year after year have maintained, ran, and operated this machine since the beginning. It's a great community success story.