Historical tours of the Klamath Falls downtown area will be offered this summer on a trolley built to resemble the town’s original streetcar that operated in the early 1900s.
The Klamath County Museum has restored its replica of the streetcar, and will conduct the hour-long tours on some Thursday evenings through the summer.
The “Old Trolley Days” tours will focus on what the town looked like when the original trolley ran. At that time, there were few brick buildings in town. Livery stables were common in the downtown area, as there were very few cars on the road.
The tours will begin at the county museum at 1451 Main Street, and include a stop for refreshments at the Baldwin Hotel Museum before returning to the county museum.
Cost for the tour is $15 per person, with proceeds to benefit a museum reserve fund that was tapped for more than $15,000 to make repairs to the replica trolley last year.
“We found that we had to completely replace the undercarriage of the trolley that was built by museum staff and volunteers 40 years ago,” said museum director Todd Kepple. “It has a new chassis, brake system and steering system, and the old Volkswagen engine has been replaced by a battery-powered electric motor.”
Prepaid reservations are required for the tours. Reservations can be made online at klamathmuseum.org.
The original streetcar in Klamath Falls was a horse-drawn vehicle that ran on rails laid in Main Street, starting in 1907. Although the city hoped to have an electrified streetcar system similar to San Francisco, it never grew beyond the one trolley car.
The trolley ran from the train station along Main Street to Conger and California avenues. It was abandoned after just a few years, and the tracks were torn out.
“Although our streetcar system never amounted to much, the community has always been fascinated by the idea,” Kepple said. “Museum Director Harry Drew found a set of plans for the original streetcar more than 40 years ago, and worked with volunteers to build a new one from the ground up.”
The replica model was used in numerous parades and other special events, but was put in storage after concerns about safety began to mount.
Museum volunteer Terry Sandusky took on the task of addressing the safety concerns and other mechanical problems last year.
“Terry took a frame from an RV, an electric motor from an old forklift, and a pickup truck transmission he found in a junkyard to create a new undercarriage and power train,” Kepple said. “We consulted with an engineering professor at Oregon Tech to determine how much battery power we needed, and that turned out to be our biggest expense.”
The trolley is available by appointment for anyone who would like to book a tour for special events. For more information, contact the Klamath County Museum at (541) 882-1000.