|Donation Recalls Era of Trolleys|
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Ed Patenaude So I’ve Heard
Historian John J. Mrazik was brimming with discovery before his Webster-Dudley Historical Society “Railroads” presentation earlier this month.
“You know Mr. Belsito?” he said. “He had an original trolley car register in his garage and has given it to the society.”
The instrument registered rider dates, transfers and sales, providing managers with a cash accounting system. Conductors pulled a rope, moving the register, and ringing a bell when a passenger got onto the trolley, according to Mr. Mrazik.
Ray Belsito restores antique automobiles from the former Webster Garage on Lake Street. He’s been there several decades, meaning a long time. Although the building was a transfer station for the Worcester & Webster Street Railway and subsequently used as an Oldsmobile agency, the structure was all but cleaned out before Mr. Belsito took occupancy. He was still settling in when a small basement area caught his attention. Access is from an opening at floor level.
“It was full of junk, but I found two (trolley) registers,” Mr. Belsito remembered. “I placed them on a shelf, and they had been there since.”
Mr. Belsito was at a meeting of the Black Tavern Historical Society of Dudley in October when Mr. Mrazik and Carla Manzi, co-authors of “Webster,” an Images of America book, presented slides from the pictorial. There was mention of the upcoming railroads program. One thing led to another, and Mr. Belsito mentioned the trolley registers, offering to donate one to the Webster-Dudley society.
Mr. Mrazik set acceptance in motion and picked up the gift on behalf of the Webster-Dudley Historical group hours before his railroads talk. “It is really something, an extraordinary thing,” he said.
“I gave him the best one,” Mr. Belsito said. “He seemed very grateful and I was happy to find a home for it.”
The register was triggered on the pull of a rope. “The rope had worn off, but a small piece from it was still inside the machine,” said Mr. Belsito. “I set it up on a wire and was going to throw the rope end away, but he (Mr. Mrazik) wanted it because it was history.”
“It’s only about 3 inches long,” Mr. Mrazik said. “It will be preserved because I know where it came from.”
The second register will eventually be mounted on a wall somewhere in the Lake Street garage, Mr. Belsito said, because “it’s part of the history of the building.”
Three lines of tracks led into the trolley transfer station and they’re still there, encased in concrete in the former Webster Garage, Mr. Belsito said.
Time has worn slight ridges in the floor and Mr. Belsito has become adept at pacing the 4 feet and inches between the raises in the concrete, or, more accurately, the width of a trolley car.
The tracks were opposite a pair of big windows and the overhead door in the facade to the garage, to use existing references. A platform was along the other side of the station.
Trolleys were used to bring goods in from elsewhere in Worcester County. The packages were reassembled for delivery to local outlets by the Webster & Dudley Street Railway, a subsidiary or affiliate of the Worcester-to-Webster line. The station also managed deliveries from Webster-Dudley to elsewhere; it was early FedEx.
By the way, a late 1920s Packard-Waterhouse is in the early stages of restoration at Mr. Belsito’s facility. It has a Packard Motor Car Co. engine and chassis, with a custom body by the former Waterhouse Co. of Webster. Three Ford ragtops, a pair of 1931 models and a 1934, are on display along with a 1938 Chrysler convertible.
This story is dated, but what the heck, it’s a Fenway Park report and, as most everyone knows, Red Sox baseball updates are always available even off-season, through something called blogs and podcasts.
It goes back to August, to a Red Sox versus Kansas City Royals game,<
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