Issaquah Valley Trolley rides bring back railroad history

The Issaquah Valley Trolley has begun its summer round trip rides from the depot to Gilman Boulevard

A piece of Issaquah history is once again back in service to provide round-trip rides in Olde Town. Issaquah History Museum’s Trolley 519 began its summer operations on May 11.

The trolley runs round-trip rides every weekend from the Issaquah Depot Museum to Gilman Boulevard. Erica Maniez, executive director of the museum, said the Trolley service is a volunteer-run operation to serve as both a tourist ride and an educational opportunity about the history of the city.

The all-volunteer Issaquah Valley Trolley organization began service as a seasonal tourist ride in 2012. In the first few summers, Maniez said, the trolley could only run to Front Street and back, but work on additional track access expanded the path down to Gilman Boulevard.

In 2002, the Issaquah Valley Trolley group purchased three cars from Aspen, Colo. One is an interurban car from San Francisco, and the other two were streetcars from Lisbon, Portugal.

Trolley 519 is one of two 1925 streetcars built in Portugal. It has 24 passenger seats and while it used to be powered through overhead lines along the track, it now runs from a 600-volt electric engine.

Restoration efforts were heavily funded through federal and local grants, and a large piece of funding also came from the original bidder of the refurbishment contract. Jean Cerar, a volunteer for the trolley operation program, said the first choice company defaulted and their surety company paid $220,000. Combined with the grant funding, the surety payment was able to complete the funding for restoration.

The trolley began its service along the Issaquah tracks briefly in 2012, and for a full season in 2013. Two years later the East Fork rail bridge was completed allowing the trolley access down to Gilman Boulevard.

Maniez said that while the trolley itself isn’t from Issaquah, it allows visitors and residents to get a sense of what railroad use in the city was like and how important the railroad was to the development of the city.

“Changes in transportation have really had a significant impact on Issaquah’s growth,” she said.

Issaquah started out as a sparsely populated farming town, but when the railroad was brought to the town in 1887 access to nearby coal deposits in Squawk Mountain became much easier.

“Within a couple years, the town developed very quickly and became a coal mining boom town,” she said.

Maniez also said plans are being made to create a trolley stop at the end of the line on Gilman Boulevard to offer one way trips. The process is still in the early phases but fundraising efforts will begin soon.

Conductors on the trolley will be taking people through the history of the railroad in Issaquah all summer as the trolley service is open every weekend from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Sept. 29, 2019.

For more on the trolley, go online to

Conductor Tom Gilchrist says the trolley is ready to begin it’s first trip of the season. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo

Conductor Tom Gilchrist says the trolley is ready to begin it’s first trip of the season. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo