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Cats at the Trolley Museum
Fort Smith, Arkansas
The Trolley Museum of Fort Smith, in the US state of Arkansas, is dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of electric trolleycars ['trams' in the UK Ed.], rail equipment and associated technology. The museum also has (spring 2014) four resident cats.
Katy arrived first, at the end of 1997. Her name derived from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Company, which used the name 'Katy' in its logo. Subsequent cats also have rail-related names. Katy was a very affectionate and loving animal who liked nothing better than greeting visitors or being in the midst of a group of schoolchildren, purring, meowing and having a fuss made of her. In fact she was so popular that the museum initiated souvenir colouring books and other items bearing her likeness, and she became the official mascot. Sadly, she disappeared during 2002; her collar was later found, so presumably she was cat-napped or else met with an accident of some kind.
Enter Frisco (left) in 2001, a few months before Katy's disappearance; the two got on well together. He was the only male resident for a number of years, and would spend most of his time hanging out in the office with Casey (right). Frisco's name came from the former Frisco Freight Systems, whose motto was Ship it on the Frisco! This very friendly cat, who seemed to like children of all ages, died in September 2011 from an uncertain cause and is buried on the museum site. He was much missed after having been around for some ten years. The Kansas City Southern Railway provided the name 'KCS' for the next arrival, but it's usually shortened to Casey or Cassie. She arrived via the daughter of the museum's founder; the cat was hanging around the house seeking food, but the household was unable to take on another cat, so she was taken to the museum as a new companion for Frisco. Mostly she likes to be left to her own devices and isn't keen on too much human attention.
The beautiful grey Smokey turned up in December 2003 and immediately took up residence in the museum's 199-ton Frisco steam locomotive #4003; she likes to look down from her favourite elevated vantage point until she feels safe. Taking her inside the shed where the trolleys are kept, to give her an indoor home, was tried several times, but she always scooted back to the engine as soon as possible! In May 2004 she produced some kittens and then started coming inside more maybe to get away from the kids! The kits were found homes when old enough and Smokey was spayed.
Chessie, named for the Chesapeake Railroad which was fondly known by that name, dropped in during the spring of 2004, slipping in for food for a while before making friends with the boss and deciding it was a good place to stay. She's one of the most approachable of the residents.
May 2010 saw another new arrival. The fact that he's a 'big boy' brought to mind the Union Pacific railroad (which ran Big Boy locomotives, the largest articulated ones ever built), so he was named Uncle Pete, which was the UP's nickname. He was very thin when he first appeared at the museum and his head looked huge. After he'd been cleaned up and treated for fleas and worms, he started to gain weight. When he came to be neutered he weighed 12½ pounds (nearly 6 kilos), but now tips the scales at about 20 pounds (9 kilos)! Bradley says, 'He is one of the sweetest cats I know. He will stretch and then roll over to be petted. Even if not petted, he will start purring with a purr that can be heard 10 feet away.'
During 2013 a black-and-white female cat appeared at the museum; she had two kittens, but one had died and the other was covered in fleas. The mother became known as Katy 2 and the kitten, duly cleaned up, was named Spike. Unfortunately neither of them was there for long. Spike died from a respiratory infection that he had seemed to be recovering from; although there for only ten days or so, he was loved by all who met him and was missed. A couple of months later, in July, Katy 2 went missing one day; she wasn't wearing her collar and tag at the time, so maybe someone thought she was a stray and took her home.
Then a further cat appeared, a ginger female which is unusual and made herself at home, first in the carbarn and then she moved into the office with Casey. Unofficially called Sunshine, she was later given the name Daylight, after a Southern Pacific train called the 'Daylight Special'. Said to be a feisty cat who 'likes to play rough', she has the distinguishing mark of a curl in her tail.
The resident 'trolley cats' tolerate one another pretty well, and are a big hit with visiting children. After Frisco's passing the museum was once again at 'maximum feline capacity' following the appearance of a new arrival, a tabby kitten. She was named Belle the Kansas City Southern Railroad used to have a passenger train called the 'Southern Belle', often referred to simply as the 'Belle'. Unfortunately Belle seems to have been a bit of a wanderer, and after going missing for a few days late in 2013, she disappeared again in February 2014 and sadly was later found dead.
In mid-2014 yet another feline appeared, maybe having heard there was a vacancy! The very handsome grey tabby now called Narrow Gauge was at the museum for 3 or 4 weeks before he let anyone get a good look at him. But he's quite friendly now and 'gets along with the other cats as well as can be expected'.
Grateful thanks to Bradley Martin of the museum for sending information and photos and for permission to use images and material from the website.
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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is now no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.
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Page created September 2006, with later revisions and additions