Trolley Museum breaks ground for new welcome, educational center

Brad Hundt

With supporters saying it will bring in more visitors and boost tourism, ground was broken Thursday afternoon for a new 21,000-square-foot welcome and educational center at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Carroll, one of many local elected and appointed officials on hand, said the new facility would “not just teach families about trolleys and railroads, it’s going to open up conversations with parents and grandparents about the history of Southwest Pennsylvania and the nation as a whole.”

Due to be completed about a year from now, the new welcome and educational center will contain the museum’s visitors’ center, a museum store, interactive exhibits, classrooms and space for events. The museum is working with the Carnegie Science Center on exhibits that will emphasize the links between trolleys and railroads to science, technology, engineering and math.

Gov. Tom Wolf was not at the groundbreaking, but sent a video message saying the new welcome and educational center would “help connect our community to its history.”

It is being built following a fundraising campaign that brought in more than $14 million from corporations, individuals and foundations. The museum hopes to raise an additional $2 million to cover the center’s opening and enhance the site’s amenities. The Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh estimated that the welcome and educational center will add $10 million to the region’s economy and create 116 jobs.

“Our campaign did not stop during COVID-19,” said Ray Betler, the campaign’s chairman and secretary of the museum’s board. “The ultimate goal is not to build a building. It’s to educate a diverse group of families.”

The museum is located across from the Washington County Fairgrounds. Established in 1954, it first opened in 1963, and now has a collection of 50 trolley cars.