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BEACON Senior News

Pikes Peak Trolley Museum revisits public transportation’s past

Jul 01, 2024 03:21PM ● By Marti Benson

An original Pike Peak Cog Railway car, #17 "Aspen" is in great shape and available for hosting group events, birthday parties and meetings.

The Pikes Peak Trolley Museum and Restoration Shop is serious about the past.

Located in the four remaining bays of the 1888 Rock Island roundhouse in the historic Roswell district of Colorado Springs, there’s no glitzy gift shop, snack bar or T-shirts proclaiming, “I rode the PCC!” Instead, it focuses on vintage streetcars that once shuttled residents around this city and others to work, attractions and family gatherings. 

The first car donated to the museum, the Colorado Springs and Interurban car #59 is currently undergoing restoration.

Upon seeing these streetcars restored to their original splendor, visitors can easily imagine riding in one from downtown to Old Colorado City or even Manitou Springs, as people did a century ago. 

The museum also showcases historic photos and artifacts and intricate model railroad layouts. Guests can also enjoy a short ride on the 1948 Presidential Conference Car (PCC), guided by a certified motorman, and benefit from the knowledge of tour guides who share their passion for railway history.

The museum is equally serious about the future. 

Since its formation in June 1982, the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation manages the museum with a mission to restore and operate historical streetcars and electric railways in the Colorado Springs area. Their goal is to offer cultural, historical and educational experiences for anyone eager to explore transportation modes of the past. 

The extensive collection of vintage trolleys and train cars on the museum’s property offers a picturesque setting for photo shoots and plein air painting classes. A recently updated conference room retains its original stone wall, windows and ceiling, which still shows soot marks from steam engines, making it a unique setting for meetings. 

Additionally, retired Pikes Peak Cog railway car #17 is available for hire and has become a favored spot for parties. 


At the Trolley Museum, everyone is a volunteer.

“We have positions for anybody and everybody,” said Director of Operations Ron Oatney, 82.

John Cusack, a former flight mechanic for Air Force C-130 planes who later worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), found his passion in the museum’s restoration shop after retiring. 

John Cusack, left, operates the restored Birney Car #135.

“I just like coming down here and getting under a 100-year-old streetcar,” quipped Cusack. “I like working. It’s my therapy.”

The museum provides a diverse range of volunteer roles suited to various interests and skills, from office work and woodworking to electrical tasks, painting, groundskeeping and guiding tours. Volunteers have the flexibility to take on multiple responsibilities or focus on just a part of one, allowing each person to find their niche.

“We’re always looking for people who want to have fun and have a passion for history,” said John Haney, 84, co-founder of the museum and author of several books about trolleys.

His wife Betty volunteers as the office manager. Despite her background in medical technology and her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer, she’s comfortable working in areas outside of her professional expertise, such as bookkeeping and accounting.

“We worked in our careers for a long time. We didn’t have a choice then,” said Betty, 80. “Everybody here works where their gifts are, doing what they like to do.”

Oatney agrees. With over 40 years in print advertising, he was ready for a change when he joined the museum. Although the previous management thought he would make a great photographer, Oatney said, “I’ve taken a million photographs. I don’t want to take another one. I want to paint, fix, sand, build.”


In 2023, the museum was honored with the Excellence in Crafts and Trades/ Stewardship award from the Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs for the restoration of Birney Car #135.

John Cusack was a crucial part of the team of volunteers responsible for restoring Birney Car #135, the last of its kind to operate in North America in revenue service, which last ran in 1951.

Cusack was a crucial part of the team of volunteers responsible for restoring Birney Car #135, the last of its kind to operate in North America in revenue service, which last ran in 1951. 

Now, this historic streetcar is on track to run on the museum’s rails for the first time in over 70 years. 

Dave Lippincott, the museum’s president, fondly recalled, “When Cusack fired up the Birney, it reminded him of the boat ‘The African Queen,’ with its loud chug-chug-chugging!” 

John Kenney, 73, and John Floria, 73, are rocking the restoration of the Colorado Springs and Interurban (CS&I) car #59. This majestic streetcar was built in 1901 by the LaClede Car Company of St. Louis, Missouri. It was the first car in the museum’s collection and one of only two remaining original CS&I cars. 

Floria struck gold—or yellow—on car #59. While stripping off the old paint on the exterior, he saw an outline of something. He proceeded very carefully and uncovered the original car number, details and paint.

“It’s amazing working in here,” marveled Floria, a retired construction superintendent who moved to Colorado Springs to be closer to his kids.

Like an archaeological dig, every discovery at the museum is a thrill for all the staff.

“We find all sorts of stuff around here,” said Kenney, the museum’s vice president of restoration. “And I don’t care how many times we go through a pile of junk, we find something new every time.” 

Vice President of Restoration John Kenney and volunteer Jonathan Hutchison at work inside the restoration shop.


The museum isn’t just run by Betty and a bunch of “gray-haired old guys,” as Oatney put it. 

It also thrives with the energy of younger volunteers like Ryan Kricker, Elli Auguston and Jonathan Hutchison—all in their 20s— who share a love for history. 

Regardless of age, the ultimate dream for these passionate volunteers is to see trolleys operate on the streets of Colorado Springs once again. Wouldn’t that be grand?


Pikes Peak Trolley Museum and Restoration Shop 
2333 Steel Drive, Colorado Springs
Open: 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Wednesday - Saturday
Tickets: Seniors & Active Military $7; Adults $9; Children 5-12 $5; Under 5, free

Membership: $40-$100/year