Treat yourself to a ride in our tram!

Jim Reeve leads a tram tour.

The Ephraim Historical Foundation has sponsored historical walking tours for many years, but our jaunty little tram is much newer.

Some years ago, it became apparent that many people were eager to hear the history of Ephraim and see its scenic beauty close at hand, but were unable to walk the 1.5 miles of our walking tour through the historic district.

Our board members and office personnel discussed the problem in 2008, and the idea of having a battery-operated tram was born. Paul Burton, EHF member and former president, offered to do the research needed to find just the right vehicle for Ephraim.  He felt it should be eye-catching, easy to drive, and able to carry several persons. He found a company in Florida that sold elongated trams in various lengths, but they were a bigger expense than board members felt EHF could afford at the time. Paul, and his wife Fran, offered to donate half of the cost, and their offer was gratefully accepted.

Paul Burton gives a tour in the tram.

Before submitting an order, Paul measured the slope of each of the hills the tram would have to navigate (Highway Q, Anderson Lane, Moravia Street’s south end, and the Moravian Church’s driveway) to learn whether this little vehicle was capable of managing a 20% grade. The company assured him that it was, so the next step was to view a tram first hand.

Don Nelson, a long-time EHF member and also a former president, was in Florida at the time, so Paul asked him to go to the company and see a tram in person. He did, took a ride, and was convinced it would do the job for EHF, so the order was given! The men felt it was important to choose the right look. The trams were available with different appearances, including a regular golf cart, but they chose one that appeared to be an old fashioned vehicle, complete with a horse rearing up on its hind legs as a hood ornament.

The original tram hood ornament.

There was a stir of excitement at EHF when our new tram finally arrived in 2010. The tram company had contracted with a private mover to personally deliver it from Florida to Ephraim aboard a flatbed trailer, pulled by a small pickup truck.  (The trip was an ambitious job for a pickup truck- said truck lost its transmission along the way and the driver had to replace it before continuing the journey!)

The tram was encased in a framework, or cage, of 2 x 4’s, and covered with sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrapping material for protection on the journey. Don had mentioned that he didn’t want to have to scrub off hundreds of Florida bugs when the tram arrived. Paul said the whole thing was rather comical to look at.

It was a bit of a puzzle to extract the tram from its cage before getting it down the ramp to ground level. When that was accomplished, Paul read the owner’s manual, noted that the batteries were in place and already charged, ready to perform. Paul, Don, and Tad Dukehart, another EHF member and a current tram driver, took the first ride, with Paul at the wheel. Paul has taken on the routine care and maintenance of the vehicle, so Don says that Paul is now not only a grandfather, but a tram-father!

The unloading of the tram. Photos by Sal Jacobson
The unloading of the tram. Photos by Sal Jacobson

According to the tram manual, the little vehicle was made in China; therefore all the units given in the manual are metric.  We hope our conversions are correct.

Horsepower: 5.5

Length of time to recharge: 8-10 hours

Top speed: 25 mph

Dimensions: 16.6 feet long x 4.6 feet wide x 6.6 feet high

Range: 40-50 miles on a full battery

Minimum turning radius: 20 feet

The tram under cover.
The tram under cover.

Although the tram is stored in a garage throughout the winter, there is no garage available at the Anderson Barn Museum for the summer months. Therefore a way to recharge to the batteries each day and to protect it from the elements had to be devised. A pretty little roadway of grass and pavers was laid on the east side of the Anderson Barn Museum. After each use, the tram is backed in on this little roadway, a heavy-duty electrical cord is plugged in to recharge the batteries, and several tarps are placed over the whole body of the tram to keep rain off.

A full tram with driver Tad Dukehart.
A full tram with driver Tad Dukehart.

Volunteers were sought to be tram drivers. One of the requirements is that each driver’s own car insurance will cover them while acting as tram driver. (EHF has its own insurance on the vehicle of course.) Another requirement is that all passengers and the driver must wear their seat belts. Even though we never attain the speed the manual says is possible, safety is our first consideration. Actually, if the tram has a full load of 8 people, including the driver, it is doubtful if it travels as fast as 15 MPH.

The tram's current hood ornament.
The tram’s current hood ornament.

The morning tram tour follows the same route as the walking tour, so no visitor need worry that they will miss out on anything. The Ephraim tram tours begin at the EHF barn at 10:30 AM, Tuesday through Saturday. Click here to learn more about tour dates and times. The ride will take you south through downtown Ephraim, turning left on Moravia Street, then going north as far as the Pioneer schoolhouse. The riders disembark and go into the schoolhouse to learn about its history from the docent of the day. They are also invited to enter the Goodletson Cabin. After this, they board the tram once again for the return trip down Moravia Street and Anderson Lane, arriving back at the Anderson Barn.

After a few years of use, the hood ornament began to fall off regularly. For some reason, the horse simply couldn’t stay attached. Paul was able to obtain another hood ornament, this time a dog, and it has remained in place. The dog is actually from a Mack truck!

Three years ago a second tram tour was begun. It is called the Heritage Tour, and it departs from the barn on Tuesday afternoons at 1:30. This trip goes directly to the Ephraim Moravian Church, where its history is told. It continues to the Historic Iverson House, and lastly to the Moravian Cemetery.

Our guests all seem to enjoy these tram rides and this way of learning Ephraim’s history, so we suggest that all you readers avail yourselves of this opportunity. Tickets are available at the Anderson Barn Museum.

Driver John Held on a tour. Photo by Tad Dukehart.
Driver John Held on a tour. Photo by Tad Dukehart.