Bellaire Historical Society
Bellaire, Texas

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Bellaire Historical Trolley

The Story of a Trolley
(a fairy tale)

Once upon a time in the City of Bellaire lived a very wise woman named Martha Lane, who knew how to pronounce, as well as spell, the word ‘sesquicentennial.’ Martha was a City Council Member and knew that the State of Texas was beginning preparations to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Martha asked the City Council to establish a Bellaire Sesquicentennial Committee and in February of 1983 the Council adopted a resolution establishing a Sesquicentennial Coordinating Committee of the City of Bellaire, which was one of the State’s requirements in submitting an application for the organization of a Texas Independence Community. Martha and Barbara Young were chosen by the City to be co-chairmen of this committee. In 1984 the committee incorporated and became one of the first sanctioned sesquicentennial committees in the State of Texas. Martha served in this capacity until 1985 and the Council appointed Moppy Gay to fill the vacancy.

All interested persons were invited to join this group and there was soon a good-sized membership of residents and business people, all wanting to make a contribution in some way for the big celebration.

The committee wanted to make a significant historical contribution to the city, a fitting memorial to the early days of Bellaire and, after several meetings, the decision was made that a fitting memorial to present to the City would be a trolley like the one that used to run in Bellaire from 1910 through 1929. Its purpose was to bring prospective buyers to Bellaire and to make Bellaire accessible from Houston. A brochure mentioned a 30 minute trip from Houston, though there were those who remembered it sometimes took more like 2 hours for a round trip. There was only one trolley in service at a time and it was #124, dubbed the Toonerville Trolley. A search committee was formed, with Moppy as the chairman. As it turned out, trolleys were hard to come by because so many had been scrapped for metal during the war, but persistence paid off and, in the early Spring of 1985, after a worldwide search, Moppy & Bob Gay found a suitable U.S.A.-built J.C. Brill trolley which was shipped to O’Porto Portugal around 1904, and was still operating. Like Bellaire’s #124 trolley, it had a clerestory, arched windows and heavy double-truck wheels, but was four windows shorter. The trolley was 7’4” wide, 34’ long, 11’2” high and weighed 32,000 pounds. Inside, the doors and window frames were carved mahogany. Both the single and double rows of seats were reversible. Much of the hardware was brass and had the original split-cane seats. On the opposite sides on each end there were bins for sand to be used on the tracks in icy weather and the car could run in either direction, with the motorman moving from one end to the other, both having identical controls. This trolley was most like the one that ran in Bellaire, but the cost was $39,200. The committee had no money, but lots of faith in its ability to raise funds, so a group went to Interfirst Bank of Bellaire and pleaded their case, and the bank gave them a $50,000 line of credit based on a couple of individual signatures. With the promise of funds, the trolley was purchased and arrangements made for shipment.

New rails were purchased from the Galveston Train Museum at a cost of $350 and a reinforced concrete slab and an open shelter in the form of an old fashioned trolley station to serve as a depot were designed at a cost of $11,000. The slab and rails were readied, and the trolley was delivered by the Spanish Line Shipping Company from Portugal to Barbour’s Cut at the Port of Houston in August 1985. The Port of Houston honored the arrival of its first trolley with a reception and buffet. All Houston, Bellaire and LaPorte city officials, together with the Port Commissioners and Harris County officials and members of the Bellaire Sesquicentennial Committee were invited. Metro provided a bus to bring some of the Bellaire contingent to the reception. There were about 150 attendees, and the Good Times Brass Band entertained the crowd before the ceremonies began. Then Mayor Sam McKinney gave the opening address, and Louise Ware who was a member of the Metro Board as well as a member of the Sesquicentennial Committee spoke about transportation then and now. The Port Commissioner presented the City of Bellaire with a plaque welcoming the trolley to the Port of Houston, and the Houston agent for the Spanish Line presented the bill of lading for the trolley which had been bronzed and made into a plaque. This was the first known sesquicentennial event in Harris County.

In September 1985 the Port of Houston delivered the trolley from Barbour’s Cut to Bellaire amid much fanfare and placed the trolley in the spot on the esplanade where it is still in place today. The shelter was constructed under the watchful eye of Juliann Wohlford who was the treasurer at that time, repairs were made to the inside and outside of the trolley and it was repainted green and gold after much discussion of the color of the original trolley. The trolley project was now complete and the committee had done its job.

At a ceremony in December 1986 the Sesquicentennial Committee presented a certificate to the Mayor of Bellaire dedicating the trolley to the City of Bellaire. For several years thereafter, the Bellaire Historical Society took care of the maintenance of the trolley until that responsibility was eventually taken over by the City.

The trolley was paid for with lots of pennies, nickels and dimes from school children, huge garage sales, several fund raisers, including a dinner with Ray Miller, raffles, and sales of sesquicentennial memorabilia such as T-shirts, caps, cookbooks, posters, decals, playing cards, lapel pins, if people would buy it, we would sell it. It was also paid for by many donations from individuals, corporations and organizations, and that was just the cash part of it. As an example, San Jacinto Savings donated $15,000 which provided the exterior refurbishing, fencing, landscaping and two wrought-iron benches. Hundreds of volunteer hours went into raising money, cleaning and replacing hardware, planting and maintenance. So many individuals gave their time and talents to helping in many ways, from washing windows and cleaning the trolley inside and out to pigeon control. The committee had booths at every event held in Bellaire from 1983 through 1986. At one Halloween carnival it had three booths. People lined up to volunteer and the trolley would not be here today as a reminder of our history had it not been for all those volunteers.

The fact that we have this wonderful trolley today is nothing short of a miracle, and rather like a fairy tale, but it shows what a group of dedicated tenacious volunteers can do when they make up their minds to tackle a project and see it through to the end. ~

Bellaire Historical Society