(June 7, 2013) After a multi-year hiatus, a Jeep-powered tram is coming back to the Boardwalk as a replacement for the motor car destroyed in a bizarre fire two weeks ago.
The City Council voted unanimously this week to approve the purchase and modification of a Jeep CJ to be used to pull passenger cars, on the recommendation of city Public Works Director Hal Adkins.
Using a Jeep replacement was by far the most effective option in terms of price and service, Adkins said, as they are seemingly the only type of vehicle that is both commonly available and able to make the tight turns necessary at the Boardwalk’s 27th Street terminus.
A freak fire on Sunday, May 26 at the Whiteside Building, the facility between South Division and South First streets that the city uses for storage and maintenance of Boardwalk amenities, took out one of the motorcars that pull the tram. Officials said the fire erupted in the car’s engine compartment after it had been refueled.
“There was really nothing left [of the tram], so there’s nothing to tell you as far as what caused the fire,” Adkins said.
With peak ridership times for the trams fast approaching, the city is in a hurry to find a replacement.
Jeeps have been used in the past to pull tram passenger cars. Some years ago, however, the city sold its Jeep fleet and switched to tram motorcars built specifically for that job by Trams International. While the initial cost of these vehicles was higher, they are more streamlined, easy to navigate and have wheelchair accessibility.
The cost of the motor cars when first purchased was $99,000, Adkins said, but their current price has risen to $130,000. The turnaround time on receiving new cars is also estimated at 35 days.
Jeeps are cheaper and faster to get, Adkins said, with an ideal model – a white, two-door CJ with a soft top – having been offered to the city by Barrett Jeep in Berlin at a price of $28,100. An additional $10,000 of modifications, such as the installation of air tanks to power the passenger cars’ brakes, will be necessary but can be done in-house by Public Works mechanics in a few days.
This precludes the city from doing anything other than buying the vehicle outright.
“No one will lease you a Jeep and allow you to do all of the modifications and then return it,” Adkins said.
However, the vehicle could have a useful life beyond just being a stop-gap. If the city replaces its tram fleet in 2015 as scheduled, Adkins said, the Jeep could be given to the Ocean City Beach Patrol.