A piece of Dayton history came home today as the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) unveiled the return of one of the agency’s original Christmas trolleys—#559 a 1948 Marmon-Herrington TC-48. Famous for its simulated fireplace, Santa seat, and reindeer mounted on the roof, the trolley rejoins RTA’s electric trolley fleet just in time for the holiday season.
The historic trolley ran along Dayton roadways as a special Christmas bus from 1977 until 1988, when it was retired to allow the agency to operate ADA-compliant vehicles. It was then donated to San Francisco Municipal Railway in California, to be a part of their historic vehicle fleet, where it was used as a holiday bus. RTA CEO Bob Ruzinsky felt it was time for #559 to come home, and worked with Daron Brown, RTA’s director of maintenance, and Pat O’Malley, RTA’s fleet manager, to make it happen.
The road back to Dayton wasn’t an easy one, Ruzinsky said, as getting the trolley shipped back to Dayton during a national truck driver shortage proved a challenge. While RTA was able to successfully have ownership of #559 transferred over, San Francisco did not have a process for delivering the vehicle more than 2,300 miles to Ohio. RTA utilized its relationship with Kiepe Electric, the maker of RTA’s NexGen electric trolley buses, to broker a deal to have the vehicle transported home. Kiepe managed a similar endeavor when it delivered RTA’s 45 NexGen trolleys from California to Georgia for production, and then to Dayton for final delivery.
“We are very thankful to San Francisco Municipal Railway and to Kiepe Electric for helping deliver this piece of history back to Dayton,” Ruzinsky said. “With our 50th anniversary celebration ahead in 2022, this felt like the right time to bring #559 back home”
The 1948 Marmon-Herrington TC-48 will be stored at RTA facilities during the year, but will make treks out onto Dayton roadways again for special runs during the holidays, Ruzinsky said.
The #559 trolley is part of a long-standing tradition in Dayton that was started in 1965 by W.W. (Bill) Owen, president of City Transit Company, the forerunner of the present-day RTA. The #559 trolley was painted and illustrated by Blommel Sign Co., and features a simulated fireplace, Santa seat, loudspeakers on the roof playing recorded music suitable to the season, and team of stuffed reindeer along with a non-smoking chimney mounted on the roof. The chimney is a nod to an infamous 1968 design, which had a chimney placed on the roof which included a hidden smudge pot to produce smoke. However, this design set the roof on fire, so that experiment was not repeated.
Since 1998, RTA’s holiday bus designs have utilized diesel vehicles rather than trolleys. “It will be fantastic to have an actual historic Christmas Trolley join our diesel holiday bus in the future” Ruzinsky said. “Think about it, this bus first hit the streets in 1948, 73 years ago”. Welcome home #559.