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Belmont Trolley project picking up speed

Mar 19, 2020 01:41PM

This architectural rendering shows how the Belmont Trolley Barn will look when completed. The structure will be off Glenway St. in downtown Belmont.

By Alan Hodge

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After five years in the works, the Belmont Trolley project is eyeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel. 

At its most recent meeting, the Belmont city council approved an agreement that will see $60,000 go to Belmont Trolley, Inc. each year over a five year span. The first influx of cash will be used for design and engineering work for the $1.2 million, 4,000 sq. ft. “barn” that will house the trolley and also be a place where special events can be held as well. Future funds will go towards actual construction of the building.

In addition to the public funds from the city, Belmont Trolley is also raising private sector money for the project.

“Funding will be 50/50 public-private,” said Belmont trolley secretary Nate Wells. “When the building is done, Belmont Trolley will deed it back to the city then we will lease it from the city under favorable terms.”

The 1912 trolley is currently housed in the city’s public work building where it is undergoing restoration. Belmont Trolley bought the machine in 2015 for $25,000 from a museum in Canada and had it brought to Belmont on a flatbed truck in October of that year. 

Wells explained what stage the restoration is currently at.

“We  have one set of wheels and motor done and ready to install,” he said. “The other set of wheels and  motor are still awaiting repair.”

Work on the trolley’s wooden exterior and interior has been helped along by volunteer labor such as Boy Scouts from Troop 56. The trolley will use an auxiliary electrical generator  pulled behind the car for propulsion.

According to Wells, no public money has been used for the car restoration. 

“We need about $10k more in funding to get the trolley itself finished,” Wells said. “If we get the money it could be done in six to eight months.”

The one mile long stretch of tracks that the trolley will operate on  runs from Glenway St. in downtown Belmont to Wilkinson Blvd. The past couple of weeks, crews from Queen City Railroad Construction were busy replacing rotted rails and laying new gravel on the rail bed. The NCDOT picked up the tab for that. 

If progress continues as it has recently, Wells estimates the trolley barn could be ready for action in the spring or summer of 2021. 

The trolley will be a coup for Belmont and is the only attraction of its type in the Carolinas. 

“The reaction by people to the project has been positive,” Wells said. “It will set Belmont apart.”