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Gaston's Belmont May Be The Next Stop For Charlotte's Historic Trolley Cars

Two of Charlotte's historic trolley cars could be up and running again — this time in the Gaston County city of Belmont. That's under a proposal under consideration by the Mecklenburg County Historic Landmarks Commission at its meeting Monday night.

The two cars have been sitting in storage since at least 2018, and some commission members have proposed lending the cars out to a group in Belmont that's working to restore historic trolley service there.

The group, named Belmont Trolley, is led by local real estate developer Rob Pressley. He has a vision of cleaning up a three-mile stretch of historic trolley tracks that run from downtown Belmont to Belmont Abbey College and running streetcars along the route, which dates back to 1916.

Pressley's group is also making plans to build a 6,000-square-foot vintage trolley barn where the tracks start behind Main Street. He envisions the trolley stop as an event space and history exhibit that also houses up to three historic streetcars.

He said restoring trolley service could draw more tourists and development to the area, and the trolleys could be used to teach Belmont's history as a textile town. From 1916 to 1932, trolleys carried passengers and workers back and forth from the textile mills to the Piedmont and Northern Railway line that runs through Belmont's downtown.

The city of Belmont is also considering plans to build a greenway along the rail line for pedestrians and cyclists.

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Nick de la Canal
Rob Pressley, president of Belmont Trolley, stands at the site where his group plans to build a 6,000-square-foot trolley stop.

Pressley's group has already purchased one historic trolley car that's undergoing restoration, and he says he's open to accepting the two additional trolley cars from Mecklenburg County if the commission decides to lend them out.

"If we want to celebrate those cars and get those cars out of warehouses and clean them up and get them back on tracks, this is the best and fastest opportunity to do that," Pressley said.

If the Mecklenburg County Historic Landmarks Commission decides to pursue the idea, it could vote Monday to start discussions with Belmont Trolley and start hammering out the details for transporting the two cars.

The two Mecklenburg County trolley cars are known as Car 85 and Car 1. The former, built in 1927, was the last original electric streetcar to run in Charlotte. The latter was built in Philadelphia in 1907 and later acquired by Mecklenburg County.

Pressley said Belmont Trolley needs to raise more than $2 million to complete the project. The group has secured support from the Belmont City Council, which has pledged $300,000 over five years for the project, plus an additional $100,000 from the Belmont Travel and Tourism Board over five years.

The group is planning to launch a capital campaign for the project this fall. With several additional donations from private individuals and companies, Pressley said the group still needs to raise about $1.5 million.

Pressley said he's confident his group will raise the money and get trolleys up and running through Belmont by the end of 2022.

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