A Viola resident is working to bring history alive for young people.
Gene Fabryka is nearly finished building a life-sized children's trolley. On Monday, April 22, the completed project will be on display at the Oregon Agricultural Show before moving to the Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks.
"I felt we needed a children's exhibit based on how popular they are at the other museums," said Fabryka, who is also president of the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society.
He started working on the project two years ago. "I took the plans of an actual trolley and did them at half scale, since kids are basically half scale adults," he said.
Total construction costs came to $1,500. Fabryka often used recycled wood and donations. Benefactors include the city of Lake Oswego, the Rebuilding Center in Portland, True Value Hardware in Brooks, Gilford's Floor Covering in Gresham, Jean LeValley-MacDougall, Mildred Fabryka and Evan Burroughs.
The project also features an authentic trolley bell that the young riders can ring.
Fabryka looks forward to seeing children interact with the trolley. "Reaching them as kids is an important way to inspire them as adults," he said. "It will help spark kids' imaginations and get them to think about history. Trolleys were once the major transportation system before the automobile. They were how people got around."
This isn't the first project Fabryka has completed to engage children with the railroad. In 2015, Fabryka published "Pumpkin Patch Trolley," a story that follows two young friends as they ride a museum trolley to a pumpkin patch, which transports them back in time.
"Both (the book and the trolley) are an appeal to get children interested in museums, and having something for kids to interact with," he said.
In the future, Fabryka hopes to facilitate a pumpkin patch trolley exhibit at the Powerland Heritage Park museum.
Fabryka has been interested in trolleys and railroads since he was in high school. Previously, he was involved with building model trains, which he said were good preparation for building the children's trolley.
"When you build the models, you learn a lot of construction skills," he added. "I like the look of the old trolleys. It's the appeal of the old steam engines and the Victorian era aesthetics that grabs my attention."
He finds the work rewarding. "There's a sense of helping to save history for future generations, and give people a chance to have that experience," he said.
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