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Benefits With Friends: Trolley fans ride the rails

by Becca Martin-Brown | July 28, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
The restored trolley No. 224 that once rode the rails in Fort Smith in the early 20th Century trundles down the tracks toward the trolley station near the Fort Smith Trolley Museum.Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/DAVE HUGHES

The Fort Smith Trolley Museum, in cooperation with the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, will host "Trains, Trains, and More Trains: Come and Have Dinner With Us" on Aug. 27. The fundraiser for the nonprofit museum will include a scenic 70-mile round trip through the Boston Mountains from Van Buren to Winslow and back, along with dinner.

The story of the streetcar begins in Fort Smith in 1883, when the Fort Smith Railway Company offered the area's first public transportation via three mule-drawn rail cars. The last electric streetcar ran on Nov. 15, 1933, and the cars and track were soon scrapped. It wasn't until 1985 that the Fort Smith Trolley Museum opened; it began operating a short streetcar line in 1991.

Museum Board Member Henry Moore says the museum exists on donations, volunteers, the fees for riding today's restored streetcars and fundraising events like the A&M Railroad excursion.

"Ridership on the streetcars has been down since the pandemic, so we're hoping to raise $4,000 or $5,000 to pay things like insurance costs," he says.

Boarding will begin at 4:45 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Van Buren depot, and departure time will be 5 p.m. Tickets for the Silver Feather dome car will be $150 per person; tickets for the dining cars are $130; and coach tickets are $80. The menu for the dome car and dining cars includes a choice of roast beef with roasted potatoes and green beans or a grilled chicken breast on a bed of wild rice and green beans. Meals for the coach car will include a box dinner of either a beef or chicken sandwich with all the trimmings. A silent auction will be held on the trip back from Winslow.

To purchase tickets, visit www.fstm.org and select your car and meal choice. This will send your purchase over to PayPal for secure processing. Tickets may be paid for via debit or credit card in addition to using a PayPal account if you desire.

-- Becca Martin-Brown

[email protected]

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