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Saturday, November 23, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Aspen's trolley loss is Issaquah's gain

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

The Issaquah Valley Trolley project, which briefly had a successful run on borrowed wheels, desired a streetcar to call its own.

Today that wish will come true, thanks to a failed ballot measure in Colorado.

Voters turned down a plan to create a permanent trolley line in Aspen, freeing up six of that city's cars.

The Eastside town is getting two.

The first car is scheduled to arrive sometime today. It will be kept under wraps until noon Monday, then moved into the trolley barn beside the historic Issaquah Depot. The second car will probably be shipped in May of 2003.

The price was right — nearly free.

The group will pay the approximately $6,000 transportation cost per car and $1 for the title. It also covered a $2,000 debt remaining from a $22,000 restoration. The second car has not been restored.

Issaquah Trolley completed a yearlong trial run in May on a car borrowed from Yakima. The trolley ran each weekend from downtown to the Gilman Village shopping area and, after carrying 5,000 passengers, was declared a success.

The car arriving today was made in 1925 and ran in Lisbon, Portugal, until 1978. It is similar to the Yakima trolley.

Aspen had six trolleys, five unrestored, but a Nov. 5 ballot measure to pay for a permanent line was defeated, according to The Aspen Times newspaper.

"The day after the election failed, an Aspen official asked if we wanted two of the cars," said Craig Thorpe, spokesman for the Issaquah Valley Trolley project.

Two others are expected to be given to a trolley group in Arizona and two will go to New Zealand.

The unexpected gift has not derailed the effort to get a San Francisco trolley.

"That's still happening," said Thorpe. "The City of Issaquah and San Francisco are in agreement, they're still working out the details."

All three cars are narrow gauge, which means the undercarriages need to be modified to fit the existing rails. To temporarily accommodate the gift, volunteers spent last weekend re-laying 100 feet of track near the Issaquah Depot.

Eventually the Issaquah Trolley Project hopes to run all three cars by battery power as a train between downtown and the Lake Sammamish area. Thorpe said a capital campaign to pay for the entire project, which will include replacing tracks that have been torn up, is expected to be launched in the next month or two.

He couldn't estimate when the new car would be ready to roll.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com.

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