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Saturday: 10AM - 5PM

Sunday: 1PM - 5PM

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Saturday: 10AM - 5PM


Fort Smith Light & Traction Birney Safety Car #224


The first electric streetcars were open-platform cars, which meant that passengers were exposed to the cold, heat and rain. Even more unlucky was the motorman, who had to stand outside! The Birney Safety Car was an enclosed car that made its appearance in Fort Smith in 1919. A "safety car" is designed with a "dead man control," which stops the car and opens the door if the motorman does not continuously exert downward pressure on the control handle or foot valve.

Not only were they enclosed, under-the-seat electric heaters, assuring toasty comfort in cold weather, heated the safety cars. Our restored trolley is true to this original feature, and it is quite welcome during the winter cold snaps!

In 1933, Fort Smith Light & Traction closed its doors and scrapped all of its cars. The motors and wheels were removed for salvage, and the bodies sold off to any buyer. Car #224 became a diner in Ashdown, Arkansas with the name "Street Car Cafe." Later, the body was sold to Louis Hennick in Shreveport, Louisiana.

After the publication of a history of the Fort Smith streetcar system, written by Charles Winters and published by the Fort Smith Historical Society, car #224 was discovered listed for sale in an antique journal. Interested citizens formed a non-profit organization - the Fort Smith Streetcar Restoration Association - and purchased the car. This soon led to the donation of another Fort Smith car body, #205, from Mulberry, Arkansas. The cars arrived in July/August of 1979 and restoration work began.

In order to raise money for the Association, the restored body of #205 was put to work as an ice cream vendor at the annual Riverfest, and was displayed in Fort Smith parades, mounted on rubber tires. Then in 1984, a broken-down Birney Safety Car from Kansas City, #1545, was acquired for its wheels, motors and controls, allowing #224 to be fully restored.

After six more years, thousands of volunteer hours, and the knowledge and encouragement of rail museums across the country, and due to the generous outpouring of private and corporate donations, Fort Smith's car #224 finally ran under its own power once again on Christmas Day of 1990, using the museum's power supply. A dream had been accomplished, but it was just the beginning.

With the completion of the necessary overhead wire system to carry the 570-volt DC current, the car officially began operating May 19, 1991. It made its first run from the Fort Smith Trolley Museum 1,200 feet to the Old Fort Museum, and back, riding on abandoned Frisco Freight Systems spur track. Since then, thousands of riders have had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the history of Fort Smith and street railway systems from the glossy wooden seats of #224.


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