Mystery trolley car found hidden inside N.J. house getting a new life - nj.com

2022-06-15 15:09:16 By : Ms. Julia Wu

Contractors transport the trolley to its location in Farmingdale, New Jersey.Courtesy of Liberty Historic Railway

Three years ago, a pair of developers started renovating a Hamilton house and found something unbelievable inside — a full-size trolley car.

The house had been built around the mysterious 108-year-old trolley car, which everyone agreed should be saved.

But they discovered saving a piece of history was easier said than done.

After years in storage and uncertainty about its future, the trolley car is now on its way to being restored, its new owners said. The vehicle was warpped in plastic and transported to its new home in Farmingdale last week.

“What was amazing was just how remarkably intact it was, and because it was inside a house, structurally what’s left was actually very solid,” said Eric Strohmeyer, a volunteer on the project.

The former property owners, developers Marc Manfredi and Brandon Breza, discovered the trolley in the middle of their Hamilton Township home in 2018.

The later discovered the trolley’s original owner obtained the trolley car in the 1930s, soon after the Trenton trolley line stopped running. He reportedly used the car to make a house for his son, who had fallen on hard times.

Inside view of the trolley car in 2018 as it was being removed from a Hamilton house. The house was built around the antique trolley. (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media)Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media

Over the years, additions were made to the home, creating rooms off the trolley to expand the living space. Eventually, the trolley car was surrounded by a traditional house, located in a traditional neighborhood near the lake at the Grounds for Sculpture museum.

The developers said they tore down the walls of the house and extracted the trolley from inside. Many of the car’s original features were intact, including the windows, shades and door.

“We knew we had something great here,” Breza said in 2018. “We knew we had a valuable artifact of history.”

The trolley car used to sit about 50 people at a time and travel throughout Mercer County.Historical Society of Pennsylvania - J.G. Brill collection, All rights reserved

The car originally seated about 50 passengers on trips around Mercer County. Its exterior had rounded edges that made it look like a “Mr. Rodgers classic streetcar,” Strohmeyer said.

Liberty Historic Railway, an organization that supports transportation preservation projects, bought the trolley and is funding most of its restoration, according to director and vice chairman J.R. May.

The organization is relying on donations and grant money to fund the rest of the restoration, which will cost nearly $1 million, May said.

“It’s much easier to find a home for something that looks halfway decent than to find a home for something that’s a dream,” he said.

Contractors will restore the trolley at its new Farmingdale location by repairing weather damage and alterations from when it was inside the house, Strohmeyer said.

“What was amazing was just how remarkably intact it was, and because it was inside a house, structurally what’s left was actually very solid,” he said.

May said he expects it to be a few years before the trolley is fully restored. Members of Liberty Historic Railway are still deciding where the trolley will go afterward, he said.

“Finding people to work on it and rebuild it and ultimately see it operate, it’s all a big challenge, which I enjoy,” May said.

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Camille Furst may be reached at cfurst@njadvancemedia.com. Find her on Twitter @CamilleFurst.

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