Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Lake Shore Electric Auction

Another bit of news the last couple of weeks has been the final official announcement of the auction at the Lake Shore Electric Railroad Museum. A brief bit of background is in order..

In the late '50s, Gerald Brookins of Cleveland, a lifelong railfan, purchased a number of interuban and streetcars with the idea of preserving them and operating a museum. Over the years, the collection grew to a total of 30 different pieces. This equipment was operated at a museum called "Trolleyville", in Olmstead Falls, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. The museum was unique in many ways, one of the more unique factors is that the museum was essentially located within a trailer park (also owned/operated by Mr Brookins) and acted as something of an internal rapid transit system for the park.

After many years of operation, the trailer park was sold (approx 6-7 years ago) and Trolleyville was forced to find a new home. A rather ambitious plan was adopted, Trolleyville was reformed as the Lake Shore Electric Railway, with a plan to move the collection to the downtown Cleveland lakefront, and establish and operate a trolley musuem as a downtown attraction. The site chosen is very close to existing attractions such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Browns stadium, etc.

Long story short, the recent economic downturn was just perfectly timed to hit the LSE group about as hard as they could be hit. After moving all of the collection to Cleveland (the streetcars and smaller interurbans to a lakefront warehouse location, and the heavy interurbans stored on Cleveland RTA property), they struggled for much of the last 5 years to raise funding to make their plans a reality. In the end, they simply ran out of time, and mounting debt with minimal resources of repayment forced their hand.

As a result, the entire collection is being offered for sale. The collection is only being offered to 501(C)(3) operations, private "collectors" are excluded from the sale.

Of particular interest to readers here are the "Chicago" cars. The collection has a total of 10 interurbans that originated in Chicago. Two of the last three remaing Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric cars (306 is currently in the IRM collection) are available, the #303 and #304.

There are also a total of 8 CA&E cars. This includes the only existing CA&E steel Pullman, the #409, the only existing steel CA&E St Louis cars (the 450 series), #451, #453, #458, & #460.
Also available are wooden CA&E cars ##36, #303, & #319.

Needless to say there is quite a bit of interest around the country for your various local museum groups to acquire any/all of this collection. As a result, most of the likely suspects are acknowledging their interest, but keeping specifics very quiet to not tip their respective hands to competing interests (It is an auction after all)

In the end, this is a large collection, and it will take a lot of money and support to bring them to any museum. I encourage anyone interested to contact their museum and make their donations, money talks and no amount is too small.

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