Wildwood Boardwalk set to retire 5 original tram car trailers

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File photo by Bill Barlow File photo by Bill Barlow
SID plans to purchase five new ones this year

WILDWOOD—The eight tram cars on Wildwood’s boardwalk transport 600,000 people between 16th to Cresse Avenue each summer, and for the first time since 1939, five of those car trailers will be retired.

“These are not museum pieces or classic car pieces. They are workhorses,” Patrick Rosenello, executive director of the Special Boardwalk Improvement District, said Tuesday. “For some of those workhorses, it’s time for them to take a retirement.”

The SID plans to spend $90,000 on five new tram car trailers this year, the first time new trailers will be constructed since 2007. Prior to 2007, when the SID purchased five other trailers, no new additions to the tram car fleet had been constructed since 1963.

The trams made their first appearance in 1939, when The Greyhound Bus Company custom built the five original trains for the New York World’s Fair that year. They were called the “Greyhound Trackless Trains.”

In 1949, Wildwood businessman Gilbert Ramagosa purchased the tram cars and put them into service on the boardwalk on June 11, 1949. At that time, a 10-cent fare was charged to ride them. Those five trains have run on the boardwalk ever since.

In 1963, a Camden metal shop custom built three more tram cars to add to the fleet.

Rosenello said that the five trailers to be retired have been in service since the tram cars were first used at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. 

“They have operated every single summer since 1949 on the Wildwoods’ Boardwalk,” Rosenello said.

Some of the trailers will be used for parts, but others could be seen in the George F. Boyer Museum, or in some sort of display.

“We have been contacted by a lot of people over the years,” Rosenello said. “There’s a demand for those cars to be used in a museum or as a display, but at this point in time we are haven’t determined the appropriate setting for them.”

The SID has operated the tram cars since 2004. At that time, the private, non-profit bought the tram cars from a group of business owners that had operated the cars since 1994. The business owners had purchased the cars from Ramagosa, who died in 1995.

Each of the cars run on an electric engine, and the five original engines are turning 75 this year.

While that’s an anniversary worth celebrating, Rosenello says the time may be coming to purchase new engines for the cars. Because the electric engines have such unique specifications, the engines will have to be custom made or modifications of an existing electric engine. Those are likely to cost over $125,000, Rosenello said.

But, reinvesting in the cars and maintaining them is an essential part of the district. 

“The tram cars are a very, very important part of the image of the Wildwoods and the economic situation on the boardwalk,” Rosenello said.

The new trailers are set to deliver in April and will most likely make a debut come Easter weekend, which falls late this year. They will then run on the two-mile boardwalk daily until the last weekend in September. The price of the one-way trip will remain the same as last year, $3.

Besides the tram car purchase, the SID is also providing a $30,000 grant match to renovate bathrooms at Youngs Avenue. The $400,000 grant, which was awarded to Wildwood earlier this year from the Department of Community Affairs, is to make the bathrooms ADA-compliant and rehabilitate them.

The total SID assessment on boardwalk businesses this year is $310,000, with $55,000 coming from an assessment on North Wildwood businesses and $255,000 coming from Wildwood businesses.

North Wildwood was set to vote on introducing the SID budget at its council meeting Tuesday night, and Wildwood’s Board of Commissioners could introduce the budget at their Feb. 12 meeting.

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