Take a ride back in time

By Anthony Welch

It may just be Colorado Springs’ best kept secret, but the Pikes Peak Trolley Museum and Restoration Shop, located at 2333 Steel Dr. just south of Fillmore near Interstate 25, is a must see for history buffs and railroad enthusiasts alike.

The museum, operated by the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation, is open 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for active military and seniors and $3 for ages 3-11.

Marti Benson, director of outreach for the museum, moved to the neighborhood and discovered by chance. She took a tour and immediately became hooked on the history.

“I came down for a tour and never left,” she jokes. “I don’t come from a railroad background. Was a flight attendant. Aviation was my first love. There’s so much history here. I was drawn to the volunteers, because I do a lot of genealogy for my family. That led me to local history. I didn’t know this was Roswell, Colorado.”

The museum is located in what was once Roswell, Colorado. A rail town, Roswell was annexed into Colorado Springs in 1909, according to Benson. The museum is housed in what once was a roundhouse. Museum-goers can still see part of the original stone roundhouse on the north end of the building.

Founded on June 30, 1982, the foundation’s mission has been to preserve the history and artifacts of the Pikes Peak region’s street railways. The donation of CS&I Car #59 to the foundation, one of only six remaining Laclede cars, began the additional mission to restore to the streets of Colorado Springs and neighboring communities an electrified, full service rail transportation system using historic and vintage streetcars.

In 1995, the board voted to acquire nine Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) PCC cars, which were delivered that year, according to the museum’s website. The intent was to restore these cars for street railway operations in Colorado Springs. Subsequently, the Foundation was franchised by the city to operate such a system as the Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway.

Over the ensuing years, considerable effort has been expended by museum volunteers to preserve and maintain both the heritage and vintage trolleys as well as the 1888 Rock Island Railroad Roundhouse, valuable legacies of Colorado Springs history.

Regis Larouere, who’s been volunteering and giving tours at the museum for 19 years, has always considered himself a street car buff.

“I was born and raised in Pittsburgh,” he said. “I’ve been fascinated by trolleys all my life.”

Larouere and his wife fulfilled a 15-year dream to live in Colorado Springs and moved here 21 years ago.

“I came down (to the museum) in 2000. I knew about trolleys. All I needed to do was expand on that,” he said. “I do a lot of online research. Learning things about the history of Colorado Springs has been a fantastic second career. One of my favorite expressions is when you do this, you have to have passion to stay with it.”

Volunteers like Larouere are vital to the mission of educating people about the history of street cars, Benson said.

“Every day I’m here, I say I attend ‘Regis University,’ because he has so much knowledge and I’m a late bloomer to all of this. So I’m learning from all of them. I share in their passion in preserving local history,” she said. “As you can see, some of our folks are a little older. When they’re gone, what happens? So I walk around and record their tours and put it all on CDs. Cities grew up around street cars. I’m blown away by the history and what we have here.”

Benson added that the museum is always looking for new volunteers. Positions available include: tour guide, streetcar operator, grounds keeping, mechanic, electrician, woodworker, painter and metalworker.

Anyone with an interest in the history and operation of streetcars in the Pikes Peak region come join us,” she added.

For more on the museum, visit https://coloradospringstrolleys.com or call 719-475-9508.

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