Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Ride on Trolley Car 36

But wait, it's not the car 36 you might think:


 It was a beautiful day for a drive in the country, so my wife and I finally drove out to Rockford to ride Trolley 36, a replica open car operated by the Rockford Park District along the river.

The car is powered by an internal combustion engine, and it was assembled in 1985 or so by some local businesses of various sorts under Park District direction.   The motorman described it as a Rube Goldberg device, but it seems to provide the service it was designed for pretty well.  Top speed is not great, which is just as well as it operates down the middle of the street for part of the trip.  It is the only street running this side of Kenosha I know of.

The operation uses the name "Rockford and Interurban" as seen on the letterboard.  The number 36 was chosen because the original R&I went out of business in 1936.  They say it's based on a 1905 Brill design.

The controls are unfamiliar, to say the least.

The trip starts at this replica station building (L), and nearby is the single track carbarn (R).  The car operates over about two miles of a little-used UP (ex C&NW) freight branch.  They generally run only one train a week on this branch, on Wednesday, so interference is no problem.

Before the trip starts, Motorman Joe gives a safety talk and explains the schedule.

 Rolling out onto the street, as seen from the curb:

 And a view of street running from inside.  Nobody seems to take the car's approach very seriously.  Just like downtown New Orleans....


Farther north, along the river the car lays over by the big Park District greenhouse. 

Most of the line runs through a riverside park, so it's actually rather scenic.

And today they were holding a regatta on the river, so there was a lot of activity, and we saw several racing shells going back and forth.

 And some more views of street running from the car, this time heading south:

This was the last day of operations for this year, so maybe I've played a dirty trick on you.  Sorry.  But there's always next year. 


Randy Anderson said...


The chrome plated controls look like something that you would find on a boat.

David Church said...

Looks like one set of my boat's throttle and clutch controls. From the lines, looks like this is a hydraulic drive car.

Looks really neat

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago; I heard that they had a fire in the engine compartment of that "trolley car" I am glad to hear that it is running again. At least it runs on tracks; we have fake Cable cars here in the City of san francisco and the tourists think they are riding in the real thing!

Thanks for a good show.

Ted Miles
IRM Member

Randall Hicks said...

Thanks, guys, that explains it. The equipment for the car was donated by various local companies such as Sundstrand and I don't know who else, so they used whatever was familiar. I didn't recognize the controls because whenever I've gone boating, there are usually just two controls, both made of wood.

Anonymous said...

I googled for something interesting to link about the KD Line, and ended up looking at a picture of a Fairbanks-Morse powered Sheffield on the Woodstock & Sycamore, and a brief online history of Marengo's interurbans.

So I guess there's a prototype for everything - are there any preserved internal combustion powered trolleys?