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The New Ladies in Red

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The New Electric Railway Journal – Vol. X No. 1 - 1997

The New Ladies In Red

Newly built Perley-Thomas replica car 459 glistens in its red and yellow colors.

An RTA crafstman forges a component for one of the new cars.

Modern control gear is hidden under the classic wooden seats.

A worker spray paints a new door.

New Orleans and Melbourne cars shown on the last day for standard gauge operation on the Riverfront line.

Workers route wiring through conduit under the floor of one of the new cars.

A craftsman drills holes for one of a new car's stanchions.


Scheduled to enter service in the first week of December, when the re-gauged Riverfront Line makes it debut, are the first of a small fleet of new cars carefully crafted by RTA personnel to replicate the venerable Perley Thomas-built fleet still carrying passengers on the St. Charles line.

Like their earlier confreres on the tourist line, the new fleet is suitably attired in the red livery worn there for almost a decade. But the new “Ladies in Red” are a slightly different breed. While they are replicas of the 900-series holding forth on St. Charles, look historic and have the traditional distinctive “New Orleans” styling, the “Ladies” have modern operational features.

Constructed from the ground up at the historic Carrollton Station to carefully echo the vintage-1923 Thomas group, the new cars are highly energy efficient. Regenerative braking has been employed that will return power to the line when the trolley is coming to a stop. The new fleet is completely accessible to the disabled; each streetcar features two electric lifts and wide aisle seating arrangements.

Using running gear from CKD (Tatra) PCC-type equipment fabricated in the Czech Republic, the replicas use hundreds of components handcrafted by the RTA’s own Carrollton Barn, including blacksmiths, carpenters, electricians, metalworkers and painters.

Costing out at about $900,000 apiece, the new fleet will total seven units (457–463) when complete; the first unit (457) is actually a restored Perley-Thomas (NOPSI 957). PCC running gear from Philadelphia was originally to have been used for the project (and is in place on 457 and “replica” 458), but the cost of maintaining the 50-year-old equipment over the long haul was found to be prohibitive and the Czech alternative was employed instead (CKD has built hundreds of cars using the basic PCC patents in the last five decades, largely for European customers.)

Regauging of the Riverfront line, a former standard-gauge freight line that was electrified in 1988, was decided upon to permit the use of Carrollton Barn for the entire fleet, with direct rail access via a short connector on Canal Street between the Riverfront and St. Charles. The red cars will no longer have to be trucked to the maintenance facility for heavy work. Long-term plans call for a restoral of rail service to Canal Street itself, but until that time there will be no through revenue service between the two routes.

The first group of (standard-gauge) “Ladies in Red” have gone their separate ways. The three Melbourne cars are now in Memphis; when their wheel profiles have been changed to that city’s standards they will be added to the Main Street heritage fleet, giving the local Transit Authority ten Australian cars in operation plus a soon-to-be-rebuilt unit from the Green Bay railway museum.

NOPSI 453, the deck-roof car long out of service pending full restoration, is apparently still a candidate for eventual return to passenger operation on either line if funds become available. The other Perley Thomas cars regauged for Riverfront service are available to be reconverted for the St. Charles line.


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