MINNEAPOLIS - The only thing rarer than a 1915 streetcar, is a 1915 streetcar with a 20-year-old driver.
Rarer still: a 20-year-old driver with 20 years of experience.
“I was told my first trolley ride was when I was about two weeks old,” smiles Andy Jacob, from behind the controls of the 1915 trolley run by the Minnesota Streetcar Museum.
Andy had a leg up on the other two-week-old motorman wannabes. His grandpa was already a driver.
“From the old generation to the younger generation,” Andy’s grandpa, Jerry Olsen, laughs. Jerry isn’t kidding. His own grandfather was also a streetcar motorman for the Twin City Lines in the early 1900s.
Today, Andy is the youngest volunteer motorman on the Como-Harriet Line which runs near Lake Harriet, one of two historic street car lines operated by the Minnesota Streetcar Museum.
“I'd have friends in high school and they'd see me in the motorman's seat and they'd go, ‘You do this?” recalls Andy.
The Como-Harriet Line consists of one mile of track, with no turnaround. Meaning Andy drives the trolley going north and then turns control over to his grandpa who drives the trolley backwards to the other end of the track.
“We’re very comfortable together,” Andy says warmly.
As a young boy Andy visited his grandfather on the trolley several times a week. “When I was in about third or fourth grade he said, ‘Would you like to come along on a shift?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’
The partnership gained steam when Andy turned 18 and could become a volunteer motorman himself.
“One of the trainers said, ‘You are really good at this, you’re a natural.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve had nine years of training.’”
Most of their days together on the rails have been good memory-makers for Andy and Jerry. But a day came last summer, both grandpa and grandson would rather forget.
Jerry was connecting two street cars with a heavy metal tow bar, when one of the cars suddenly rolled forward, crushing his hand.
Andy, who was standing behind his grandpa, helped keep him calm as they waited for paramedics.
“We talked and he never lost consciousness,” Andy says.
Adds Jerry, “He was right there, and he was my rock at that time.”
Jerry credits surgeons at Hennepin County Medical Center for saving his hand. He spent a week in the hospital, and several more weeks recovering in a care facility.
He still attends regular therapy sessions at TRIA Orthopaedic Center. “I’m starting to make a useful hand out of it,” Jerry says.
This summer that hand was back at the streetcar controls.
“I’m happy right here,” says Jerry. Just another sentiment grandpa and grandson have in common.
(© 2016 KARE)