Trolley glow up: the journey of Belmont Trolley’s Car No. 16

Belmont Trolley’s Car No. 16 has a rich history that spans continents and centuries, and its journey to restoration is a testament to the dedication of the Belmont community.

Originally known as “Car 167,” this 1912 J.G. Brill car was built in Philadelphia, PA for the streetcar system of Porto, Portugal. However, its story took a turn when it was acquired by a nonprofit in the early 1980s to run in Portland, OR, but never made it into operation. Later, it found its way to another nonprofit in Vancouver, where it underwent partial restoration and was renumbered as “Car 30.”

Belmont Trolley’s interest in Car 30 was sparked by its history and the opportunity it presented. Despite the restoration work already completed, there was still much to be done to make the car operational. Following a community-wide fundraising effort, the decision was made to acquire and restore the car. It was then boarded up, wrapped, and strapped down to set out on its voyage from Vancouver, Canada to Belmont, NC.  

The arrival of Car 30 in Belmont marked the beginning of a new chapter in its story along with a new name—Car No. 16—to commemorate the year in which trolleys first ran in Belmont. 

Safely stored in the CityWorks building, the car awaited its transformation. 

Scouts working on Car No. 16 restoration

Enlisting the scouts

In January 2020, the Boy Scouts of America Troop 56 arrived at the garage eager to begin restoration work on Car No. 16. 

Their first task was to sand the car body to prepare it for a new paint scheme. They then spent a great deal of time removing nearly two years worth of dust from the interior of the car to begin restoration of the cast iron seats. 

One of the Scouts even made the restoration of the car his Eagle project. This young man worked with some experts to patch the body of the car, replace the roof, refurbish the seat hardware and paint the car in a Belmont-themed livery. 

A special thanks to PME Painting, Tindol Ford,  Rainbow Paint and our dedicated volunteers for their support of this project.

The car is now nearly 90% complete on the cosmetic side, with plans to replace the window glass with modern tempered glass upon completion of the wiring.

A bit more work to do

The mechanical restoration of Car No. 16 is also well underway, with half of the undercarriage already restored. This includes one wheelset, the motor, journal boxes, and the drum controllers. We will soon begin work on restoring one more motor and wheelset, as well as straighten out some of the side frames and other undercarriage pieces. New aluminum resistors will also be made to replace the original cast iron resistors. 

Belmont Trolley has already invested approximately $120,000 in purchasing, transporting and the work already completed on Car No. 16. Completing the restoration will cost an additional $120,000. The total investment on this car matches that of other organizations taking on this type of project, and is a testament to the commitment and dedication of Belmont Trolley and its volunteers and supporters.

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Car No. 16 represents more than just a trolley car; it is a symbol of community spirit and the power of restoration. As Belmont Trolley continues its journey to restore Car No. 16, we invite the community to join in this historic endeavor and be a part of the trolley’s glow up.