EXCELSIOR, Minn. — Motorman Joseph McCormick finished operating his last route with Wisconsin Railway Light and Power Co. streetcar No. 10 in Winona, Minn., in the early morning hours of July 22, 1938.
“The bell was clanged loudly, windows broken, and seats upset as the car went east on Main Street and then switched for the last time south on Johnson Street,” according to a story in the July 23, 1938, Winona Republican-Herald newspaper. After the end of service, the car was sold to a local family who used it as part of a cabin.
The bell clanged loudly again Nov. 29 on No. 10, when volunteers with the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, who have been working on a 13-year restoration of the car, took No. 10 out for its first test runs. After a few runs in the yard at the museum’s Excelsior Streetcar Line, No. 10 went onto the main line to stretch its legs. It made several round trips and handled and rode well, museum personnel said. It was the first time the car has operated since that last day of service in July 1938.
Streetcars in Winona, in the southeast part of the state across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin, were originally operated by the Winona City Railway Co., with a horse car line opening in 1883. It was electrified in 1891, and went into receivership in 1896. It was reorganized as the Winona Railway & Light Co., and by 1907 had 6.52 miles of track. The Wisconsin Railway & Light & Power Co. was organized in January 1913 and included the La Crosse (Wis.) City Railway and the Winona Railway & Light Co. in its acquisitions early that year. The company proposed constructing an interurban line to connect the two cities but no work was ever done.
No. 10 was part of an order for four cars, Nos. 9 to 12, built by the St. Louis Car Co. and delivered in spring 1914. The car operated in Winona for 24 years, and after 61 years being used as a cabin, a children’s play area, and for storage, it was sold to the museum in 1999. Restoration work began in 2003.
No. 10 is a rare example of a single-truck streetcar designed for use by a small city system. It is unique in that it has a steel frame and exterior surfaces but the interior is all wood. As far as is known, there are no other cars like No. 10 in restored and operating condition in a transit museum.
Museum restoration crews took great care in reconstructing the car. As much original material was used as possible, and any wood or metal pieces that needed replacement were carefully replicated using the original pieces as patterns. Workers achieved a major milestone in December 2015 when they repainted the exterior of the car in its original orange and white colors and remounted the headlights.
Over the winter months, volunteers will install a permanent floor, seats, grills along the lower windows, numbers, and lettering to complete the restoration. No. 10 will begin service on the half-mile streetcar line in Excelsior in the summer of 2017. Two other cars, Duluth Street Railway No. 78, built in 1893, and Twin City Rapid Transit No. 1239 built in 1907, also operate on the line.