Defunct trolley cars going to Charlotte

Howard Gore, with CBC Demolition, tears the roof off an old house on Apollo Street that was created back in the 1930s by attaching two old trolley cars together. The trolleys were bought for $40,000 by Ashley II of Charleston LLC last month. The trolleys soon will be relocated and restored.

Two landmark but neglected Charleston trolley cars that had been attacked by vandals and the elements are getting a new life in Charlotte.

The owners of the cars have given the pair to a group in the Queen City which plans to restore them for possible active use or historical display.

“Anybody who is a trolley fanatic, the ultimate goal is ... operating on rails,” Charlotte developer Greg Pappanastos said last week.

Pappanastos is a past president of Charlotte Trolley, a non-profit that wants to rekindle its service after a long absence in a city that has accepted its popular light rail system.

Pappanastos said he wasn’t sure how soon or how much of the cars can be restored since both factors depend on money and finding or re-making accurate period parts.

All the gears and the drive features are long gone, along with practically all the interiors.

The cars have a unique Charleston history. In 1938, the electric street-trolleys that once moved people around the city stopped running downtown.

That’s when local resident Jake Varner spotted the cars in a storage shed and saw an opportunity.

He decided to join the two parts together, side-by-side, under a single roof. He added a porch and moved in. The space was decidedly tight since each car measured only about 280 square feet.

Varner, his wife and growing family eventually left for a bigger home. But the “trolley car house,” as it came to be known at 13 Apollo Road, survived as part of a quiet neighborhood off Savannah Highway.

The residence stayed in place until December 2005 when it was sold for $40,000 to the since-halted Magnolia Development project.

After the move from West Ashley, the condition of the cars fell into disrepair. They eventually ended up being stored on an open Neck Area construction field where windows were broken and surfaces were tagged by spray paint.

Craig Briner, manager of the land around where the cars had been stored, said the pair was given away in the hope they could be brought back to their historic period condition.

“We just wanted to get them somewhere where somebody would fix them up and use them,” he said.

The cars have been moved from the Neck Area and should begin moving on trucks toward Charlotte this week.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.