Not just a Storybook

By The History Detectives Team
28 July 2009
Category: Viewer Mailbag

Friends, your story about the house with what appeared to be a railroad car in the basement brought back a warm memory from childhood.

One of my favorite books was The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer. Published in 1947, this book tells the story of a trolley car driver whose job is phased out when the town switches to buses. He asks the company to give him his old trolley car, and tows it to the end of the line out in the countryside. There he and his family set up housekeeping, and the fun begins.

I am delighted to find out that this beloved story finds its roots in what was actually happening at the time the book was written. An actual "trolley car family" was the first to inhabit the house you profiled in your story.

An online search turns up a citation for an article in the journal Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture entitled "The Machine in the Garden:The Trolley Cottage as Romantic Artifact" by William B. Rhoads. The first page of the article points out that turning trolley cars into dwellings was common. I'm interested to know that there really were "trolley car families."

Thanks for a good program.

Mary T. Rocky Mount, NC

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