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APTA Streetcar and
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Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
 
 
   
Rolling Stock
   

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Types and Sources of Rolling Stock

Original American Streetcars—from transit systems

Most heritage lines would ideally like to obtain authentic American streetcars from a prior operator, if they were available. Unfortunately, there are no pre-World War II classic style American streetcars in the possession of US transit operators, except for those being used on existing heritage trolley lines.

The streamlined art-deco standard design known as PCC cars (a shortened acronym of the Electric Railway Presidents’ Conference Committee that developed the design in the 1930s) remain in use by a handful of transit systems (Boston, Kenosha (WI), Philadelphia, and San Francisco). None of these operators has any spare cars to sell.

San Francisco and Kenosha are examples of heritage trolley operations that operate PCC cars acquired from other transit systems.

Original American Streetcars—from other sources

Trolley museums are the only other potential source of authentic, pre-streamlined American streetcars. However, museums are fundamentally committed to preserving their cars, which means leasing cars for regular, heavy transit operation is incompatible with their mission, though special or supplemental service on heritage lines may be appropriate. However, there may be exceptions in the case of duplicate equipment or cars that may be deemed surplus and available for sale. Such cars will normally require structural, electrical, and mechanical overhaul before being used. The same is generally true for the streamlined PCC cars; though some are for sale.

PCC Cars for Sale:  The Seashore Trolley Museum, host of this web site, has 6 double end and 5 single end PCC cars for sale. For details, click:

A single-end Boston PCC car similar to the ones offered for sale by the Seashore Trolley Museum.

A double-end Dallas PCC car of the type that the Seashore Trolley Museum is offering.

 

Several private parties may have PCC cars for sale as well. All such cars will also need rebuilding. Brookville Equipment Corporation of Brookville, PA has rebuilt such cars for Philadelphia and San Francisco and is very interested in doing similar projects for other cities. Brookville is also entering the field of constructing modern articulated streetcars.

A final source of American streetcars is the many car bodies that were sold off by transit systems in the first half of the last century for use as houses, cabins, diners, or storage facilities. Many of these cars still exist, but tend to have been heavily modified and to show considerable deterioration. As well, they are always bodies-only, as the transit operator would sell mechanical and electrical parts for scrap before selling the car bodies. Restoration costs for such cars will typically approach or even exceed the cost of new replica cars equipped with reused mechanical equipment. Nonetheless, for many heritage operators, such bodies will be the only possible source of a car that once ran in the city in question. Trolley museums can be a valuable source of information about the location of such car bodies. Many museums have also restored such bodies to operation so can be a source of information on the work involved.

Follow this link to the Technical section of this site for reference to the standards that should be followed for rebuilding streetcars for heritage use.

Replica cars with second hand mechanical components

A number of new start heritage trolley systems in the United States have been equipped with newly-built replica cars. These cars use mechanical and electrical equipment salvaged from older transit vehicles then reconditioned for reuse. Most of this equipment has come from foreign streetcars, though some has come from American PCC cars. The Gomaco Trolley Company of Ida Grove, Iowa pioneered this field by building three replica cars—copies of cars at the Seashore Trolley Museum—for Lowell, Massachusetts starting in the mid-1980s. Those cars used equipment salvaged from Melbourne, Australia trams, a source that is no longer available. Gomaco subsequently built replica cars for Portland, Oregon using equipment from American PCC cars. It developed a new model, a replica of a double-truck Birney car, for Tampa, equipped with air conditioning, and using mechanical equipment from Milan, Italy. A subsequent order for the same type of car for Little Rock incorporates built-in wheel chair lifts. Orders of cars have typically been priced in the range of $600,000 to $800,000 each (early 2000s prices). The firm subsequently offered cars with virtually all new parts (see next section).

The below photos, furnished by Gomaco, show the construction process on the Tampa cars. Click on each thumbnail to enlarge the image. See Gomaco's website for more views and further information about their products:.

A Tampa car body takes shape at Gomaco's Ida Grove, Iowa plant.

The interior shows plymetal flooring and insulation below the windows to keep air conditioned air coold.

Representatives of Hartline examine a reconditioned truck recovered from a Milan, Italy tram.

One of the former Milan trucks in position under the car.

An exterior view of a nearly-complete steel body shell.

Some final colors appear as windows and a roof-mounted air conditioning unit are installed.

The first headlining panels cover insulation, wiring, and frame members. Air conditioning ducts run along the center.

Seats and many pieces of interior woodwork have been installed in this view.

The finished car posing on a railroad trestle near the Iowa factory.

 

Gomaco has supplied similar cars to Little Rock, Charlotte, and Memphis.

The Port of Los Angeles has also used a similar approach—new bodies with rebuilt mechanical equipment—for the replica interurban cars used on their San Pedro heritage line.

Visit the Bibliography page for links to other suppliers of heritage cars.

Replica cars—Completely new

The first heritage trolley operator to build accurate replica trolleys using new components both for the bodies and the mechanical equipment was the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority. As well, the RTA is the only operator to have built its replica cars in house. In the mid 1990s, the RTA built about a half-dozen replicas of the 1920s vintage Perley-Thomas cars it uses on St. Charles line to replace second-hand cars it was using on the relatively new Riverfront trolley line. The cars were very close copies of the St. Charles cars but had an extra door mounted on each side for a wheelchair lift at the cost of several seats and passenger space inside. These cars used PCC-style trucks plus modern electronic control equipment supplied by a Czech manufacturer, CKD Dopravni (formerly Tatra), that once was one of the dominant suppliers of streetcars to eastern block countries. The estimated cost of these cars was about $1 million each. (See The New Ladies in Red, for more about these cars).

The RTA subsequently built a prototype car followed by a production series of 23 more cars for the reintroduction of streetcar service on Canal Street. These cars used the same basic body design, but with a slight modification to the handicapped door layout, and were also equipped with air conditioning. The demonstrator also initially used CKD trucks and controls. The RTA began series production of 23 additional cars of this design for the Canal line in 2001. and placed them in service in April, 2004. The Brookville Equipment Corporation, a manufacturer of mining and other rail equipment provided the mechanical systems. The cost of the Canal cars was approximately $1.2 million each. See the New Orleans section of this site for photos of the Canal cars. Sadly, hurricane Katrina in August, 2005 left all but one of the RTA built streetcars in about 4 feet of water for several weeks. The cost of rebuilding the cars was about the same as their construction cost.

New Modern Streetcars

Skoda and Inekon: New start streetcar systems in the United States, specifically Portland (OR), Seattle, and Tacoma, operate new streetcars of eastern European design. Washington (DC) has taken delivery of similar cars for the planned H-Street/Benning and Anacostia initial lines. These cars are shorter than modern light rail cars but somewhat longer than traditional American streetcars. They are articulated (the bodies bend) and feature low floor loading for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The initial cars for Portland and Tacoma were built by the Czech firm Skoda and have the model name Astra. Skoda subsequently decided to discontinue production of these cars, but another Czech firm, DPO Inekon, started manufacture of a very similar car which as been ordered by Washington and Portland. Follow these links for photographs of the Skoda cars operating in Portland and Tacoma.

Oregon Iron Works/United Streetcar: Portland area defense contractor Oregon Iron Works has begun manufacture of a derivative of this car design through its newly created subsidiary, United Streetcar, LLC. Follow this link for their website:

The following notes from Rail Transit Online provides further background:

Brookville Equipment is also entering this market with an articulated car for Dallas. Spanish manufacturer CAF is planning to supply similar cars to Cincinnati.

Kinkisharyo: The Japanese firm Kinkisharyo, a provider of light rail cars to American systems for over 25 years, has demonstrated interest in the U.S. modern streetcar market. In January 2011, in Charlotte, the firm unveiled a prototype 100% low floor car, named the ameriTRAM, designed for the American market. In addition to drawing power from overhead wire, the car is equipped with lithium-ion batteries that allow at least 5 miles of off-wire operation.

Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge the photos:

An end view of the Kinkisharyo ameriTRAM as it is prepared for its debut.

An overhead view in the Charlotte light rail shops shows roof-mounted control and air conditioning equipment.

The new streetcar shared a track with one of Charlotte's recent Gomaco replica cars.

An interior view toward the completely enclosed cab. A wheelchair tie-down is at the left front.

The front door, shown here, and the rear door are both wide enough for wheelchairs.

A view of the control panel including the joystick control on the operator's arm rest.

A view from below shows one of the two trucks plus the frame forming the 100% low floor.

Each pair of wheels is powered by an outside-mounted motor geared to both stub axles.

At the formal unveiling in Charlotte on January 20, 2011 the car gives rides to invited guests.

 

The following news notes from Rail Transit Online describe more about the ameriTram:

Follow this link to Kinkisharyo's site for more information about the ameriTRAM:

With the growing interest in modern streetcars in cities across the country, several other foreign manufacturers of streetcars and light rail cars have expressed interest in entering the US market with car designs currently sold in other countries or derivatives thereof. Most notably Bombardier, who supplied two borrowed modern Brussels trams to the Olympic Line demonstrator in Vancouver and who won the contract to supply new streetcars in Toronto has expressed interest in further involvement in the market. Other manufacturers such as Germany's Siemens, and France's Alsthom are likely to show interest as are one or more Japanese manufacturers.

Foreign streetcars—American style or foreign style

Several heritage trolley operators have purchased complete, operable streetcars from foreign countries. In many cases older styled streetcars have remained in service far longer than in the United States and Canada. Many early heritage operations purchased "W-2" cars from Melbourne, Australia or used components of these cars in new replica cars (see Veterans From Down Under). However, the Australian government has limited further export of these cars, so this source is questionable. Several other operations used cars from Portugal—in most cases standard gauge cars from Porto (Memphis, Dallas, and San Jose) and in one case (Detroit) narrow gauge cars from Lisbon (now out of service). However, in both of these Portuguese cities the few original cars left are either still in operation or are used for museum purposes.

The last remaining sizable fleet of American style conventional streetcars still in service is the fleet of "Peter Witt" style cars in Milan, Italy (San Francisco and San Jose have cars from this series and Gomaco made cars for Tampa and Little Rock using components of these cars. Gomaco also has supplied two rehabbed Milan Peter Witt cars to St. Louis for a line under consideration there.). The cars are smaller copies of cars built for Philadelphia in the mid 1920s. The remaining cars of this type in Milan are gradually being replaced by modern equipment, so this source may remain a viable source for North American heritage trolley operations.

The only other foreign source of cars that appear somewhat similar to conventional American cars is Japan, where some cars equipped with 1920s-era American running gear are still in service (but many are built to Japanese gauge of 4' 6"—2 1/2" narrower than standard). See Tucson for images of a typical Japanese car.

Beyond these sources, many foreign cities, particularly in Europe, operate streetcars of more modern European design, and cars may be available second hand.

Leasing Streetcars

Either heritage operators or trolley museums may consider leasing equipment for use on other systems. Some heritage operators may have surplus equipment if a shortage of funding prevents operating a full schedule. As well, trolley museums have occasionally leased cars to heritage operations, though normally for short term or relatively light service. Leasing may be an attractive way to demonstrate a potential operation or to begin service before funds are available to purchase cars. Click on Trolley Links via Seashore Web Site for links to museums that might consider leasing cars.

Additional Information

For more information on heritage cars click on:

 

 

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