Long before the G Line was even an idea, Arvadans would take trips into Denver aboard the trolleys that rode along the Denver Northwest trolley line.
Now, nearly 71 years after its final trip of the line, the last of those trolleys is coming back to Arvada, where it will serve as both a testament of its past and an icon for its future.
That last trolley, which is called the .04 trolley, was constructed in 1911 and would serve the area until July 4, 1950, when it departed shortly before midnight on its last run into Denver. It remains one of the last vestiges of the Denver metro area’s electric rail system, which once consisted of nearly 300 miles of tracks.
“The .04 trolley was in service on these lines for nearly 40 years and played an integral role in the development of Arvada as a commuter suburb,” said Stephen Padilla, the grants administrator for the city of Arvada. “In wintertime, it was often the only way to get to downtown Denver through the deep snow.”
But in the years since that final run, the trolley has traveled a rocky road. It was first purchased by someone who used it as hunting cabin in the 1970s before ending up being displayed for awhile in Denver’s original Forney Museum of Transportation.
The trolley was later slated to be disposed of before railroad historian Wally Weart purchased it and donated it to the Denver Tramway Heritage Society. Since then, it has been in storage at an RV lot in Denver.
It very well could have continued to stay there, too, if not for the grant the city of Arvada received from History Colorado in 2013 to do a historic structure assessment of the trolley, which had fallen into disrepair over the years.
Based on that assessment, the city was able to apply for and ultimately receive a second grant to fund a process to restore the trolley.
That process, which has involved adding a new canvas roof, doors and seats to the trolley while adhering closely to historical regulations governing how historic items such as the trolley should be restored, is now expected to be completed by the summer.
“For restoration the maximum amount of salvageable material was retained and everything that was original that could be kept has been kept according original specifications,” said Padilla. “Things that had to be replaced, such as the doors, were done to original specification.”
Olde Town Display in works
With that restoration process nearing completion, the city of Arvada is now making plans to welcome the trolley back to Arvada, where it will be displayed in a small park site off of Grandview Avenue just east of Olde Town Arvada.
“The goal is to really integrate this into Olde Towne and make it a part of Olde Town,” said Bob Couri, president of the Britina Design Group that has been hired to design the new trolley display.
According to Couri and Arvada landscape architect Mike Lee, the trolley will be placed in the small park space just north of Grandview Avenue between Saulsbury Street and the Wadsworth Bypass. That site was chosen, Padilla said, because it was the site of the track the trolley once rode on.
The trolley will be placed in a new canopy structure to provide it some protection from the elements and will be surrounded by landscaping as well as plaques or other markers that will display about the trolley’s history and significance.
The Denver Tramway Heritage Society has also donated tracks and railroad ties the trolley will be placed on, although it will not actually be operable.
Lee said the city currently has a survey up on its Speak Up Arvada public input website, where residents can weigh in on the design of the canopy and other aspects of the project.
Once the survey closes, the city will come up with a final site plan and go through the city’s approval processes for new construction. From there, the project will be put out to construction bid with Lee hoping for construction to be completed by the end of the year.
While the restoration was paid for by grants matched by the city, the construction of the display is being funded by the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority, Padilla said. The AURA has previously provided funding for other significant projects, including the Grandview Bridge and Olde Town Plaza.
“It’s going to just be part of all of the amenities and all of the important sites of interest that Olde Town has to offer the public,” said Lee.