Route 66 in the News

Trolley Testifies to Earlier Era

2009-10-17 09:15:25

SAPULPA, Okla. - The Maggie M stands as an icon of the old Route 66, recalling the days when she glided across gleaming rails, whisking carefree passengers to and from Tulsa.

Those were the days, of course, when many communities offered trolley or interurban rail service, giving residents a form of affordable and safe transportation.

The Maggie M, an electric trolley, met that need in Sapulpa for years, and today she proudly sits alongside the Tulsa Sapulpa Union Railway offices at 701 E. Dewey Ave.

For the legions of school children who visit the trolley on field trips, the Maggie M is a curiosity.

However, for those who love retracing the old Route 66 and its sights, the trolley conjures up images of happier, simpler times.

"Catoosa may have the blue whale, and Foyil may have the totem pole, but we have the Maggie M," said Russell Crosby, the railway's general manager.

Although she looks to be in near-pristine condition, it wasn't always that way for the Maggie M, which was built in 1919 and saw service until 1933.

When volunteers began working on her, the Maggie M was nothing more than a deteriorated hulk that for years had sat neglected in a field.

It took an army of local volunteers among them Crosby, James Hubbard, Don Diehl and Woody Naifeh to save and refurbish the Maggie M.

After 11 years and the expenditure of $65,000 in donations, the trolley still needs more work in what has become a community labor of love.

Yet, for now, the Maggie M has the appearance of a grand and proud lady, sitting on makeshift tracks under a canopy roof, complete with well-dressed mannequin passengers sitting on wooden seats and peering out her windows.

But this Sapulpa showpiece would never have been possible without the generosity of the late Charles Brooks and his wife, Shirley Brooks, who presented the trolley as a gift to the community in 1997.

Shirley Brooks said her father, M.A. Bennett, took possession of the trolley in 1933 and used it as an office at his service station in Sapulpa.

About 1944, she said, the trolley was moved to her parents' property, where her father used it as a tool shed and workshop.

Over the years, the interior was stripped, and time took its toll.

Brooks said she and her husband approached Sapulpa officials in 1996 about donating the trolley in hopes it could be restored for history's sake.

The trolley was offered to the Sapulpa Historical Society and Creek County commissioners, but there were no takers.

Brooks said she and her husband then contacted the Sand Springs Museum.

But it was the late Sapulpa historian James Hubbard who fed local interest in the trolley and galvanized a community effort in 1997 to help restore the car to its former grandeur.

The city of Sapulpa kicked in $10,000 from its centennial fund to help in the restoration, and other donations soon followed.

In 15 months, volunteers had restored the trolley enough for the city's centennial celebration in March 1998.

Shirley Brooks will always remember that bittersweet moment as she watched, with tears in her eyes, the weather-beaten Maggie M being lifted by crane from its field onto a flatbed trailer, en route to its new home.

The trolley went by No. 375, but for her restoration she was renamed in honor of Brooks' mother, Margaret, who went by the name of Maggie.

On Saturday, a celebration will be held to mark the continued restoration and the return of the Maggie M to a place of honor along historic Route 66.

~Manny Gamallo, Tulsa World


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