PG&E donates electric trolley for Port San Luis lighthouse tours


Lucy Brohard would have appreciated the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers’ new electric trolley.

She was 12 years old and living at the lighthouse near Avila Beach with her family in 1934 when electricity was first brought to the remote light station that had been heated and lit by coal and kerosene.

It had a profound impact on the young girl. For the first time, Lucy could easily read after dark, and that helped spark a lifetime passion for books and literacy.

The Lighthouse Keepers recently took possession of a 22-passenger electric trolley, dubbed Lucy 2, which will be used to help ferry the public to the lighthouse for tours. The electric trolley joins the Lucy 1, a larger gasoline-powered trolley that takes people to and from the lighthouse three times a day on the first and third Saturdays of the month.

The addition of the electric trolley is the latest in a long series of improvements and renovations by the volunteer group to restore the lighthouse to its vintage 1890 condition and significantly increase public access to the historic site, said Stew Jenkins, president of the group.

In addition to being emission-free, the electric trolley has a ramp that can accommodate wheelchairs. The trolley travels at a leisurely 20 mph to the lighthouse, giving docents time to talk about the history of the harbor and riders a chance to enjoy views of Port San Luis to as far south as Point Arguello.

“Driving the trolley is like driving a very large golf cart,” said Kristi Balzer, the group’s tour manager.

The trolley was donated by PG&E, along with $10,000 for operating expenses. The utility owns the land surrounding the lighthouse and offers two docent-led hikes a week to the site along the Pecho Coast Trail.

Since renovation of the lighthouse began in 1995, Lucy Brohard has become more than just a namesake for two trolleys. She has become an integral part of its story.

Her mother was married to lighthouse keeper Robert Moorefield, and she spent the formative years of her life at the light station. A career librarian, she died at age 88 on Jan. 13, 2010, in Alameda.

The lighthouse is being meticulously restored to the way it looked in 1890 with one exception. Lucy’s room is being restored to 1934, when electricity was installed, complete with switches, lights and wall sockets.

“That gives people the sense that the lighthouse was a living place that changed all the time,” Jenkins said.

The renovation should be complete by September, after tens of thousands of hours of labor.