City seeks buyer for little-used trolley

 Town won 26-seat trolley from MDOT in a contest held about 10 years ago

By Linda Gittleman
Morning Sun (Mount Pleasant)

ALMA, Mich. (AP) — At 20 years of age, Alma’s trolley is in good shape.

Its engine and transmission are in good condition and it only has about 76,000 miles on it.

But it needs some body work, said Randy Sumner, Alma’s Dial-A-Ride Director.

“We have all new wood for it, but it needs to be trimmed out,” he told The Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant.

All in all, it needs about $16,000 in repair work.

“The city commissioners decided that it’s in the best interest of the city to sell it,” Sumner said, noting that the use does not equal the repair cost.

So requests for bids were sent out.

But nobody, it seems, wants the trolley.

The 1993 Chance 26-passenger seat trolley was originally owned by the state, Sumner said.

About 10 years ago, the Michigan Department of Transportation held a contest of sorts and Alma submitted a letter outlining what it would do with the trolley if it “won.”

City officials stated that they would use it regularly as a bus and it would also loan it out for special occasions. Alma was awarded the trolley.

“Eaton County Transit rented it every year,” Sumner, said, as did a few other counties at various times.

It was hoped that the trolley would bring more visitors to the city.

In addition to the regular runs most often made in the spring and fall, Alma’s trolley was put into use taking people around the city for the then annual tour of lights during the Christmas season, he said.

“We’d take 400 to 500 people on those (weeklong) tours,” he said.

It was also used in local parades and before the state outlawed it, the city rented it out for private parties and occasions, such as weddings.

That kind of rental brought in some needed money for the trolley’s upkeep, he said.

But interest in the tour of lights dwindled for one, and maybe interest in the trolley itself diminished as well.

It has wooden benches.

But it also has a diesel engine, air conditioning, brass railings, leather holding straps and mahogany trim.

Last month, the city sent out the request for bids to the groups and agencies that have bought buses from the city in the past.

There were no takers.

So now, the city will extend the search for bidders by sending out bid sheets to casinos and tourist spots like zoos or ski resorts.

“These things cost $300,000 to $400,000 and people might think it’s too expensive but they’d be surprised. They might be able to pick it up fairly cheap,” Sumner said.

The trolley has been removed from service, MDOT has been informed and regular Dial-A-Ride buses will be used at the city’s “Come Home to Alma” Christmas event, he said.

“It’s not been a huge draw,” Sumner said. “But you don’t know how much you’re going to miss something until it’s gone.”


  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »