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An Unexpected Haven

The Shoreline Trolley Museum offers a hands on look at part of our country's heritage.

A great spot to bring your family this summer can be found in East Haven. The is a hidden historical gem, at least it was to me until this summer! Our two-year-old loves trains as I am sure many of your young children do.

I have to admit that I did not have high expectations for it being impressive. We drove past the East Haven Green to the end of the road where the trolley tracks begin. The museum was incorporated in 1945 with the purpose being to help preserve the history of the electric railway, or the trolley. Right next to the tracks was a small brick building that housed some interesting artifacts and documents and also served as the ticket area. We took pictures around the trolley before we left on the ride. Again, we expected a short ride to destinations unknown; what we got was an amazing tour through history.

Our drivers were very knowledgeable about the trolley and its history. They were funny, thoughtful and full of surprises. The trolley we rode had been rescued and restored from the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania in 1889 and kept authentic from the gears to the seats to the advertisements that were posted subway style around the top of the car.

As we started our trip, we soon entered Branford and continued on. The tracks go through beautiful marsh land. The scenery is picturesque, complete with nesting boxes that were housing various bird families.

We also drove by the sheds where other trolleys are kept. The drivers joked that they love taking out different cars and could always be persuaded to change the cars throughout the day. As we made our way to the end of the line and started back, we also discovered that our ticket was good all day. That meant we could get off at the sheds and take a tour, have a picnic lunch or just hang out and then catch another trolley back. We opted for the tour and we were not disappointed.

Being a reading and writing teacher, I was most interested to see that housed right in our own modest town of East Haven was the car that inspired the famous play by Tennessee Williams–A Streetcar Named Desire. Our guide brought us through the first trolleys all the way up to when they went out of style in many cities and buses took over. In fact, today's modern bus routes were once trolley routes.

Parenting Pointers

  • Trolley rides depart every half hour starting at 10:30 a.m. The final ride is 4:30 p.m.

  • Check the website for their calendar of events (there are free days and special rides too!).

  • Children under two are free, ages 2 to 12 are $5, adults are $9 and seniors are $7. Teachers and military receive an additional discount so have your ID handy!

  • Remember, the fare is good all day so your trip can last for as long as it suits your family. (We went to the little water park across from the beach afterwards on a hot day.)

Many cities today are revitalizing their trolley system to bring a sense of nostalgia and beauty back to the United States. I would highly encourage you to take some time and visit the Shore Line Trolley Museum. It is easy to see that these people love keeping a part of our country's heritage alive and have a unique enthusiasm and passion for it. Wherever you might travel this summer, if there is a trolley available, take a ride and experience a part of our history.

Parent's Homework

Before going to the museum, take a short tour around their website. Regardless of age, the whole family will find something surprising and entertaining about this part of United States' history.

Leigh July 30, 2011 at 01:13 AM
The Johnstown car, though historic, was built some 45 years after the flood. The people who run trolleys are motormen or operators, not drivers. Trolleys are stored in carbarns, not sheds.
Krista Surprenant July 30, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Thanks for the corrections- I am not up with all the lingo- just had a fantastic time with my family at this great idea for a day outing!

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