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Trolley group reviving heritage

August 21, 2000

Trolley group reviving heritage



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Trolleys ran through Washington and Frederick counties for more than 50 years, carrying people, goods and electricity over rolling hills and down busy streets.

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Now a group has formed with the intent of preserving the history of the Hagerstown-Frederick trolley line, which stopped making regular runs in Hagerstown in 1947 and in Frederick 10 years later.

Three trolley model-makers incorporated The Hagerstown & Frederick Railway Historical Society as a nonprofit group in Maryland in July 1999.

Group president and co-founder Alex M. Postpischil spent a year attending graduate school in Wisconsin. Now he's returned to the East Coast and is working to get the society off the ground.

Postpischil said the group would like to open a trolley museum within the next 10 years.

The society has applied to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status, and should receive a response by the end of the year, he said.

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Gaining tax-exempt status would be a "big boost" for the society because it would make it easier to get contributions of cash and equipment, according to Postpischil.

The society now has six members. Postpischil hopes membership, which costs $20 per year, will increase to 100 in the next few years.

Society co-founder and Treasurer Robert J. Thomas said a goal of the group is to gather information on the old trolley line. Thomas said members are looking for anyone who can help them fill in details, either with their memories or photographs, of such things as the exact route of a certain part of the line or the color of the diesel locomotives.

"In a sense we're doing industrial archaeology," Thomas said.

The third co-founder and society vice president/secretary, David L. Cooper, said that "The goal is to collect as much artifacts and preserve them for posterity. ... It's part of our background and how our country grew. That's what we're trying to preserve."

The group is working with the Myersville Lions Club to support and sponsor the Myersville Trolley Festival. This year's festival will be held Oct. 21-22.

Postpischil said the society is also putting together a calendar.

Trolleys were a popular means of transportation in the early 1900s. In 1909, trolleys made 282 arrivals and departures daily from Hagerstown's Public Square. A trip from Hagerstown to Frederick took about two hours, Cooper said.

Because trolleys were powered by electricity from overhead lines, as trolley lines were extended so was electrical service. Eventually the companies became more interested in the distribution of electricity to residential customers than in trolley service.

The Hagerstown & Frederick Railway Co. was the result of a merger of several trolley companies. In the early 1920s, after additional mergers, the company name changed to Potomac Edison Co. and later Allegheny Power.

More information on the society can be found on the Internet at www.trolleywire.com/.

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