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Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society

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Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society

The Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society is registered as a 501 C.3 non-profit organization, “Dedicated to the preservation and restoration of a colorful part of Tampa’s transportation history – the electric Streetcar”. Since 1984, the T&YCSR has been promoting the re-establishment of electric streetcar service to Tampa, as well as acting as locator, curator and restorer of original Tampa Streetcar artifacts and history. The Society works with the City of Tampa and HARTline to promote and support the new heritage streetcar line, and acts as a historical resource for the system and equipment.

The group's other major focus has been retrieval and restoration of original TECO streetcar equipment (Birney Streetcars) mainly from the period of 1920 through 1946.  They are currently in the last year of a nine year program to restore a 1923 28-foot single truck Birney number 163, and have recently retrieved a 1920 45-foot double truck Birney body number 402 which they hope to start restoring as soon as number 163 is completed.

Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge the Society's photos below:

Birney 163 operating on Tampa's original system.

The car in its subsequent life as a dwelling.

The car being retrieved by Society volunteers.

No. 163 being rebuilt by Society members.

The body in its yellow final colors as it nears completion.

The interior features glistening varnished woodwork.

No. 163 is rolled out after completion of restoration in April 2000.

No. 163 is loaded for display prior as part of the 2001 Superbowl festivities.

No. 163 poses on street with the first of Tampa's replica trolleys.

A profile view shows the single truck built from a truck bought from the Seashore Trolley Museum.

A 400-series car running in Tampa in 1945.

The interior of a 400-series car when in operation.

Car 402 as it was when the Society's members found it.

Number 402's interior, complete with bed frame.

Cranes prepare to lift no. 402 in April, 2000.

No. 402 ready to move to the Society for eventual restoration.


Historical notes about Tampa streetcars

In its heyday of operation from the early 1920’s through mid-1946, the electric streetcar network was Tampa’s primary mode of cheap, reliable and convenient transportation. Tampa’s streetcar system was the most extensive in Florida comprising over 53 miles of track served by eleven major routes covering virtually every growing neighborhood in the city.  A fleet of over 130 Birney style safety streetcars operated from before dawn till after 2 AM seven days a week, traveling a total of 9,000 miles each day (the distance from Tampa to Tokyo).  Ridership exceeded 21 million passengers per year prior to and during World War II.

As the War ended, and diesel buses took precedence on the streets across the cities of America, Tampa too found itself succumbing to the guise of modernization.  August 3, 1946 saw the last full day of operation in Tampa, and the following day, buses replaced the steel-wheeled electric streetcar. Part of Tampa’s fleet of yellow Birney cars was sold for subsequent operation in South America, while others were stripped of operating gear and relegated to cottages or storage sheds across Florida. The rest were stacked in a field and burned.

Very few components of the original Tampa Streetcar System remain today.  The Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society is fortunate to have acquired two original Tampa streetcar bodies, and one St. Petersburg work car body, and since 1991 an all-volunteer effort has been underway to restore the first car, Single Truck Birney No. 163.

Found in late 1991, Birney 163 had been sitting for 45 years on the ground in the backyard of a small home in the Sulphur Springs area. Relegated to use as a storage shed, it had earlier served as a small apartment, complete with utilities and living amenities. An agreement was negotiated with the owner to transfer the car body to the Streetcar Society, and the car was moved to it’s current temporary home at “The Carbarn” for restoration and rebirth. 

Since acquisition, a dedicated group of craftsmen and streetcar enthusiasts have been painstakingly removing parts, repairing and replacing damaged segments, and rebuilding the mechanical components to return the car to it’s original 1920’s running condition. When restoration is complete, this car will be the first and only original Florida streetcar returned to fully operational status.

Work on the streetcar restoration takes place every Tuesday night, and visitors and volunteers are always welcome to see the progress, and lend a hand.  An aggressive goal is under way to complete the restoration in the year 2001 so that Birney 163 can be included as one of the first operating streetcars on Tampa’s new street railway system.

For information contact Stephen J. McGee, Restoration Chairman  phone 813-623-2675, Ext. 49 or e-mail: sjmcgee@gte.net.


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