By BARRY LANK
ANGELENO HEIGHTS — Then one day, you find yourself responsible for a 96-year-old trolley car.
That’s where Chris Wabich’s life is now, as he becomes the latest person to spearhead a cause – going on 70 years: Figuring out what to do with an old streetcar that used to run between Angeleno Heights and Downtown L.A.
“For me, it’s one of those ‘right things to do’ for my local community,” said Wabich, a professional drummer whose work turns up with Ludacris, Sting, Leonard Cohen and the soundtrack for Malcolm in the Middle. “It always has been. Also, it once ran in front of my house, so I feel a connection to being responsible for it in some way.”
Specifically, the old No.1030 Yellow Car ran in front of Wabich’s house before he was born — from 1920 to June 1946 as part of the A Line operated by Los Angeles Railway Corp. Shortly after the trolley was retired and sold for scrap, a collector named Ray Younghans and a friend bought it from the salvage yard for $100.
But what do you do with an old streetcar as its tracks get torn up or buried? You can’t exactly fix it up and cruise around town.
So the car stayed at Younghans’ friend’s place in Pasadena for 10 years, then moved to Younghans’ home in Cypress Park until his death in 2001. Ultimately, it then wound up with Bruce Lash of Angeleno Heights, his partner David Goldsboro and other volunteers who eventually included Wabich.
Lash had a vision of putting the car back into service. In an L.A. Times article from 2004, the nonprofit group, Angeleno Heights Trolley, Inc., described plans to build a 5-1/2-mile rail loop between Angeleno Heights, Echo Park and Downtown. All they needed was about $15 million.
Well. That didn’t happen.
Finally, last year, Lash passed the reins to Wabich, who’d always had a more modest vision.
“My idea was always to get the trolley ‘show ready’ so that it could immediately be used to further fund raise,” Wabich said. “With the shift in strategy, there has been so much support, and I’ve gotten the idea that the local community does want this. They do want a place where they may have a coffee and sit in the trolley near where it once ran.”
Wabich now has a Go Fund Me page to finance restoration and liability insurance, and to get the streetcar to an MTA lot in Downey.
“MTA has offered to store the trolley for free as long as we insure it,” Wabich said. The paperwork for all that is getting straightened out, he said.
Thus the tradition — and the old No. 1030 Yellow Car — keep on rolling.
Barry Lank grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, then went away for a seriously long time. He has worked in TV and radio, and currently helps produce The Final Edition Radio Hour.
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