Identifying the 1911 Osgood Bradley Trolley Number 1068

By Dick Shappy

    Several years ago, when we discovered the trolley disguised as a diner in West Warwick, Rhode Island, we knew that we had found a piece of transportation history. After a little research, we learned that we had found an "Osgood Bradley" car which was once part of the great United Electric Railway System (UER) which provided transportation for thousands of people in the Rhode Island community beginning in 1892. After a little more research, we learned that thirty-one Osgood Bradley cars were purchased by the company in 1911, and each was assigned a different serial number. The "Bradley" cars from the 1911 series were numbered 1068 to 1099 and, naturally, before we embarked on the restoration of this car, we were very interested in knowing exactly which car of the series we had found.

    After reviewing photos from the Richard Wanson collection, we learned that the large "8" car numbers could be found at either end of the car's exterior or on the interior bulkhead sections. This would have been easy had these sections not been removed and discarded when the old trolley was converted into a diner. After conferring with the experts at the Seashore Museum in Maine and the Branford Museum in Connecticut, we were told that it was common for the manufacturer to place the serial numbers on the under-carriage or on the interior window sashes. After many hours lying on our backs under the car, we came up empty and could not find the identifying numbers.

    Many months had passed and, although we were not going to let this halt the restoration, we really wanted to find the identifying numbers. In October 2004, the steel building which was constructed specifically to house the trolley was completed, and the car was moved inside. The workers which included steel fabricators and carpenters were given specific instructions to be on special watch for numbers, and to stop work immediately if any were found. Months had passed, and we still had not found the elusive identifying numbers. In mid July, my son, Brandon, and his friend Rob Despres joined the restoration project and were given the tedious job of stripping the many layers of paint that had accumulated in the past ninety years plus. I was away July 27th, 2005 at a vintage motorcycle show in Hebron, Connecticut when I got the call. Chris Brayton was on the phone shouting with jubilation that Rob had "found the numbers"! While stripping paint from one of the few remaining window sashes, Rob spotted the numbers, "1068".


Rob posing at the exact spot where the identifying serial numbers were found. Thanks again Rob!
    We now know exactly which car we have, and are currently compiling all the information we can find pertaining to #1068. We already know that #1068 was delivered to Rhode Island on December 14, 1912, and was put into service on the Broad Street line where it remained until 1939.