BACK ON RAILS --
February 1, 2001
News Staff Reporter
in Buffalo for a decade, a dozen old
trolley cars from
Cleveland are finding new life at last -- but not here. They're
headed to Brooklyn.
The NFTA wants to sell the trolleys
it bought in 1990 as part of an ill-fated effort to extend Metro
Rail service to the Tonawandas. It now appears that they will be
going instead to a Brooklyn
entrepreneur who wants them for a light-rail idea of his own. "It
sounds like we have a deal here, and it comes at a serendipitous
moment," said Robert Diamond, founder of the
Brooklyn Historic Railway
Diamond wants to use the 52-year-old cars to create a light-rail
line that would link the Red Hook neighborhood of
Brooklyn to the borough's
downtown and from there to a waterfront park planned near the
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officials insist that
their decision to sell the aging
trolley cars does not mean that the idea of extending the
Metro Rail along an abandoned railroad route to the City of
Tonawanda is officially dead.
"I don't know if the sale of these cars is a statement about the
Tonawanda turnout or any extensions," said Lawrence M. Meckler, NFTA
executive director. "It's more about the condition of the cars.
"The condition is such that, even if we'd consider an extension,
we'd want something more reliable that would require less
The NFTA spent $ 88,000 to buy, ship and store the dozen cars from
the Cleveland transit system 11 years ago. The idea at the time was
to fix them and create a relatively inexpensive extension of Metro
Rail from the LaSalle Station to the City of Tonawanda.
The cost of the project, which would have used former Conrail
tracks, was estimated at $ 26.5 million. The NFTA, however, was
unsuccessful in enlisting the necessary support from communities to
subsidize the route, and the idea was shelved in 1992.
The cars have been stored since their arrival in the South Park Yard
Shop complex inside the old DL&W terminal. Metro Rail mechanics
managed to repair one of the
trolleys for test runs, but the other 11 have remained
In recent years the NFTA has tried to sell them, but until Diamond
came along, there were no takers.
"We were on a fishing expedition to see what kind of money we could
get for them," said James Nagle, acting general manager of the NFTA
Rail Division. "They're not getting any younger sitting there, and
we had to do something with them."
Diamond has agreed to pay $ 1,000 for each for 11 cars -- the NFTA
wants to hold on to one -- but the big issue to be resolved is how
soon he can move them to Brooklyn.
NFTA officials want them out as quickly as possible. If the timing
can be resolved, the matter could be considered by the NFTA board by
"If we can come to terms on the schedule for removal, I'd hope board
members would approve it," Nagle said.
Diamond, who described himself as financially independent, already
owns four other vintage trolley
cars, including an 1897 model from Oslo, Norway, and has built a
half-mile demonstration track in Red Hook.
He hopes to find enough community support to win a $ 200,000 federal
transportation grant this year and obtain the necessary city
approvals for his grand plan to bring his
trolley route to the
"I do this because I want to," he said.
GRAPHIC: News file photo;
A dozen old trolley cars
such as this one were purchased from Cleveland by the NFTA in 1990
for what proved to be unfulfilled hopes for extending light-rail
service to the Tonawandas.