The Friends of the Benson Trolleys is using the momentum of the Center City Connector line to campaign for the retrofitting of vintage trolleys to run on Seattle’s growing streetcar line.

Late Seattle city councilmember George Benson — who was a Capitol Hill pharmacist before getting into politics — bought a set of trolley cars while in Melbourne, Australia, back in the 1970s, and had them brought back to Seattle, where they became a means of transportation along the waterfront for decades.

“I think he bought them with his own money, and then brought them back and had the city figure out how to integrate them,” said Don Blakeney, a Friends of the Benson Trolleys board member.

The George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line ended in 2005, when the maintenance facility was removed to make way for Olympic Sculpture Park.

Three of the trolleys ended up going to St. Louis for the Loop Trolley, while King County Metro held on to two of the vehicles, which are being held in storage in Anacortes.

The Friends of the Benson Trolleys launched a Kickstarter campaign last week to raise funds for engineering feasibility and design work to modernize the systems on the vehicles to be able to run on the streetcar line once the South Lake Union and First Hill lines are linked by the Center City Connector in downtown. The streetcars are operated by the Seattle Department of Transportation.

“They’re excited to see this happen, if it’s possible,” Blakeney said.

The preservation group believes it shouldn’t be too difficult to modify the 1920s-style trolleys to run on a higher-voltage line, but that will require some initial engineering work. The Friends of Benson Trolleys have a $28,000 goal on Kickstarter, and will be seeking other funding sources. Once it’s known how feasible the project is, Blakeney said, the group can use that to leverage more private funding for making the required changes. The organization is also being encouraged to apply for a capital heritage grant from 4Culture, he said, which he thinks could be awarded even though that funding usually goes toward historic buildings.

Blakeney said he’s optimistic the historic trolleys can handle themselves along the Center City Connector line, which should come on line in 2020, but there would need to be some solutions regarding compression brakes in order to handle the steeper grades on Capitol Hill and First Hill. There is also a large stretch of the First Hill line without wires, he said, so there would need to be battery power should the group and transportation department favor having the trolleys run the full line once completed.

An easier task — for code compliance — will be dual-sided loading, the trolleys currently only accessible from one side. They started out with loading on both sides, and there are plenty of old schematics for the trolleys still in King County Metro’s possession, Blakeney said.

As Seattle continues to change rapidly, a project like this will bring back some of its history in a way that is educational and functional, Blakeney said.

The Friends of the Benson Trolleys group includes former Boeing CEO Frank Shrontz, first King County Metro director Tom Gibbs, Lisa Howard with the Alliance for Pioneer Square and former Uwajimaya CEO Tomio Moriguchi.