The New Electric Railway
Journal – Autumn 1993
Past is Present
Andrew D. Young
Trolley operation is last becoming a cottage industry within the urban transit
community. In the first of a regular series, noted trolley historian and
photographer A. D. Young brings us up to speed on the many variations of the
heritage trolley in the U.S. and Canada.
Fort Smith Birney 224 on opening day, May 19, 1991.
Photos of Hieritage operations in Portland, Yakima (discontinued), and Philadelphia (discontinued).
Photos of heritage operations in Fort Collins, Dallas, Memphis, and Detroit.
The use of vintage trolley equipment in transit service is increasing in North
America, from captive lines through historical theme parks (Fort Edmonton) to
street operation integrated into a company’s regular schedules (Seattle). The
field is growing and there is much activity on both planned and operating
systems. The following survey shows the characteristics of typical heritage
Fort Collins Municipal Railway
Ridership in 1992 was down by just 600
passengers from 1991, despite the recession and a shorter operating day. The
1993 season, which began in May, looks more promising and will continue weekends
and holidays until the end of September.
Fort Collins Birney 21 (American Car,
1919) has held down all services since the railway’s inception in 1984 and
passed a 1991 Federal Railroad Administration inspection without reservation,
thanks largely to the expert maintenance given the venerable car by the
Society’s Roger Mitchell. Clearly, however, the lone Birney cannot continue to
shoulder 100% of operations on its own and the Society has been negotiating the
lease of a similar unit (also from Fort Collins) from the Rocky Mountain
Railroad Club. However, the talks have broken down for the present and the
Society is looking elsewhere. (Yet another Fort Collins Birney, cosmetically
restored, is on display at the Henry Ford Museum adjacent to Greenfield Village
in Dearborn, Michigan.)
Fort Collins Municipal Railway, 731
West Mountain Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521
Edmonton Radial Railway Society
All mainline trackage has been
realigned and generally upgraded; both the 1991 and 1992 operating seasons saw
patronage in excess of 100,000. The railway carries passengers among a series of
portions of Edmonton replicated at various periods in its history. The growing
fleet of this hybrid transit/museum operation is, quite naturally, made up of
rolling stock of Canadian origin, particularly from Edmonton itself.
The Society has as its goal the
location and rescue of at least one of every class of car operated in Edmonton
between 1908 and 1951. Almost all Edmonton cars owned were located in “chicken
coop” condition and are slowly being restored by the expert ERRS staff. Car 38,
which is otherwise identical to operational single-end 42, is being restored as
a double-end car and may be placed into replica St Louis 47 trucks which the
Society is now able to manufacture.
Car 31 is a body in poor condition and
will not be restored but will be used as a pattern from which to build a
replica. Edmonton 13’s restoration is a long-term project, as is the replication
of a single car from the 53/65/73 trio. Saskatoon 200, which was donated to the
Western Development Museum in 1951, was sold to a private individual in 1986 and
donated to Fort Edmonton. Its rebuilding is about to begin, giving the railway a
sweeper with which to ensure winter operation.
Toronto Suburban 24 was retired in
1923 and sold to the CNR grain terminal at Fort William, where it carried
switchmen at the side of the hump yard. Later, it was donated to the Canadian
Railway Museum at Delson, Quebec, from which it is now leased in return for ERRS
fully restoring the car to Toronto condition. This double-end, single-truck car
is a virtual twin to ERR 7, the only single-trucker ever to run in Edmonton. Its
motors are thought to be 1897 originals and the car is handbraked only.
Hankai Tramway 247 of the Nankai
Electric Railway from Osaka was rebuilt in 1947 to its present condition and ran
until 1990. It was to have been used as a source of parts, but when the
opportunity came to acquire the car complete and in operating condition instead,
the chance was seized. It is stored off-property at the MacDonald Shops of
Edmonton’s LRT and has been operated under power there. Sister car 255 is
running for the Old Pueblo Trolley in Tucson, Arizona.
Hannover 601 was a prototype built for
city street running, but otherwise is virtually identical in trucks, motors and
controls to Edmonton’s U2 light rail vehicles. When Hannover declined to
purchase any production versions, the car was taken out of service in 1975 and
sold to Vancouver, where the BC government intended to use it as a demonstration
LRV for the proposed New Westminster project. Shortly after the car arrived,
however, the Canadian Intermediate Capacity Transit System was chosen, an
automated, driverless system featuring linear induction motors and steerable-axle
trucks; Vancouver’s SkyTrain is now wholly committed to that technology.
The car stood unused for twelve years,
still on its shipping cradle. It was acquired in 1987, came to Fort Edmonton in
1988, was completely overhauled by Edmonton Transit and operated briefly during
1989. It is not in keeping with any of the eras presently depicted at the park,
but future developments include a possible extension of the streetcar line
outside the park along the river valley, on which it (and perhaps a U2 car, when
they come to the end of their days) would come into its own.
Toronto PCC 4367 came directly to the
ERRS in 1989 after being taken out of operating service. Regauging is taking
place and it is hoped to operate the car soon. For the Society, it is an
important exhibit because it represents technology bridging the gap between ERR
80 (built in 1930), the most modern car type on the system, and Edmonton's
present LRT era. (The reader is referred to our sidebar on the Fort Edmonton
system, presented in the Autumn 1989 TNERJ.)
Edmonton Radial Railway Society P0
Box 8337, Station F, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6H 4W6
Minnesota Transportation Museum
Twin Cities PCC 322 is now being
restored in a St. Paul facility of the local transit authority. Though the car
is complete, work will include renewal or repair of corroded body panels,
provision of a new floor, stepwells and passenger doors, and replacement of
fogged Lexan windows with glass from scrapped Chicago 6000-series ‘L’ cars.
It has been stripped to the frame for
inspection of the structure, and will then be reassembled and repainted in 1946
TCRT livery. Electrical and mechanical rehabilitation will also be required, but
the scale and extent of the job is as yet not clear and will not be until the
car is disassembled. George Isaacs will lead the restoration team, and the whole
project is expected to take two years.
In the old days, TCRT steamboats were
met at the Excelsior docks by TCRT street-cars, and the Museum’s “Minnehaha”
steamboat restoration project has developed tentative plans to restore streetcar
service on intact former right-of-way starting at the boat building. Three
former TCRT streetcar bodies have been acquired by the Steamboat Division,
including car 1809 and an unknown. The third car is TCRT 1496, originally
received by MTM in 1976, but later donated to the Lake Superior Museum of
Transportation in Duluth. A pair of unmotored Chicago trucks, otherwise
identical to those used under MTM’s restored Duluth 265, are also included.
Cosmetic restoration of these cars is
underway and one of them may be displayed next to the Excelsior Historical
Society on Water Street. The body of TCRT 1723 was auctioned in November 1992,
MTM being the successful bidder. The car had a complete interior in good
condition, and so was stripped as a source of parts for other cars. The
remaining shell was then scrapped.
Minnesota Transportation Museum, P0
Box 1796, Pioneer Station, St. Pau4 MN 55101-0796.
Fort Smith Trolley Museum
Ridership in the first seven months of
operation (May–December 1991) exceeded 10,000 an encouraging start. At the end
of 1992, total ridership since Day 1 was 26,406; by April of 1993 the 28,000
barrier was broken, and the upward trend continues
The body of Hot Springs Street Railway
Company double-truck car 50 (St. Louis 1904) has been acquired. It is similar to
the Forth Smith cars used on the Van Buren and South Fort Smith lines. None of
the Fort Smith examples are known to have survived, and so this body helps to
fill a gap in the collection. The car arrived at the Museum last November, and
restoration began soon thereafter.
Another car destined to join the
collection is Fort Smith Light & Power 10 (American Car, 1902), currently at
Turner Bend, north of Ozark, Arkansas. In the many decades since this veteran
was retired from service it has had a checkered career in many places. Uses for
the car have included dog house and tourist cabin, and before the museum can
take delivery it will have to provide materials to provide a replacement
building because the car is presently used as a canoe paddle and lifejacket
storage shed. The necessary mechanical and electrical parts to restore the car
to operating condition are on hand.
In the autumn of 1992, work began on
constructing a connection between the former Missouri Pacific tracks (donated by
the Union Pacific, along with rail and other track materials) and the former
Frisco rails upon which the Fort Smith Birney currently operates. The newly
donated track runs beside the National Cemetery and the connection has enabled
the Museum to double its operating trackage.
Fort Smith Trolley Museum, 2121
Wolfe Lane, Fort Smith, AR 72901.
Buckingham Valley Trolley
The BVTA operates the Penn’s Landing
Trolley in Philadelphia. Trolley operations are running at a small deficit, as
they have for several years. The BVTA and the city have still not yet been able
to finalize an agreement concerning operations on Delaware Avenue, and the 1993
season is continuing (as it has since 1984) with negotiations continuing but no
agreement in place.
Some of the points to be covered by a
final agreement will include replacement of the noisy diesel generator by
commercially purchased power and an extension a few hundred feet to the north.
The last item was recommended in a consultant’s study of the Delaware Avenue
line some years ago and the BVTA is negotiating the details with the authorities
involved. In addition, the current Delaware Avenue improvement project is to see
the street beautified, which will mean the present wooden line poles will
replaced by new steel poles, excess trackage removed and car stops paved with
The BVTA and the Pennsylvania
Department of Transportation signed a ten-year lease in December1991 on property
at Front and Laurel Streets in Philadelphia for storage of the mothball fleet
which had since 1985 been on the apron of Pier 38. The fenced-off site is under
I-95, the cars being stored under the bridge abutments.
Temporary trackage is to be installed
in Pier 9 for the rehabilitation of Red Arrow 26 and restoration of Philadelphia
5205. The BVTA is now a member of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors’
Bureau and hopes to benefit from its membership with increased tourist and
Buckingham Valley Trolley
Association, Box 7285, Philadelphia, PA 19101.
(Webmaster Note: This
Delaware Avenue operation was discontinued a few years after this article was
published, the line was dismantled, and most of the cars have been
relocated to a new trolley museum in Scranton, PA)
Nelson Tramway Society
Nelson, BC, high in the Canadian
Rockies, was one of the smallest towns in North America to have electric trolley
service, and the three-car (plus one work car) system lasted until 1949. At that
time, Nelson’s population was about 10,000; today this spectacular town, the
setting for the movie “Roxanne,” musters a little over 8,000.
One of the three cars, 23 (Stephenson
1906, formerly Cleveland 3334/934), survived as a body, and in the early 1980s a
group of interested folk, together with the local Chamber of Commerce and the
Vocational Division of Selkirk College, put together funds and facilities for
restoring the car at the college.
By 1988, the body was largely complete
and had been moved to a new, city-funded (from a provincial Job Trac grant)
building at Front and Hall Streets, a static museum devoted to Nelson tramway
history. It was a model of its kind and well worth visiting.
Under the presidency of Mike Culham, a
new Nelson Electric Tramway Society was formed in June of 1988 which wished to
revive the town tramway as a heritage service, adding one more attraction to
this heavily tourist-dependent area. The whole town was behind the project,
money was raised (including provincial funds) and the plan was pronounced
Bob Clark, formerly of the Edmonton
Radial Railway Society and Edmonton Transit, was hired as a consultant to put
the plan into execution. A man of vast experience m this field, he spent over a
year in the town. The result has been the reinstallation of over a mile of
electric street railway.
Originally scheduled for operation in
1991, the line opened on July 1,1992. Testing and crew training had begun in
April, and Friday, April 3, 1992 saw car 23 run under power for the first time
in forty-three years as it left the barn for testing. Between the opening on
July 1 and Canadian Labour Day, some 20,000 passengers were carried.
Another car on the property is BC
Electric Railway Birney 400 (Preston Car, 1922; another source claims CCF, with
Brill parts from Philadelphia). This car is on loan to the Society from the
Royal British Columbia Museum of Victoria. Toronto PCC 4504 (St. Louis/CCF,
1951) was bought in the mid-1980s to provide trucks for 23. Plans changed when
suitable bogies were found in Brussels and the PCC trucks were traded with
Edmonton for parts necessary to complete work on car 23. The PCC body remains
on the property but its future is uncertain.
Though the basic project is now
complete, future plans call for a second phase of -construction, reviving much
of the street operation between Government wharf and downtown Nelson. If this
were done, the tramway would progress from its present status as a seasonal
tourist line to a year-round vintage trolley system.
Nelson Electric Tramway Society, 123
View Street Nelson, BC V1L 2V8
This Tucson heritage trolley project
opened for service on April17, 1993. The original car, Birney 10, is in reality
Pacific Electric 332 (American Car, 1919), which is on a ten-year lease from the
Orange Empire Railway Museum located in Perris, CA. Now restored to operating
condition, this car was built contemporaneously with the real Tucson 10, which
was scrapped years ago.
The Birney first ran under its own
power in 1991 and was in occasional use for special events, such as Members’
Days, for some time before the actual opening, running up and down the
electrified track then available in the carbarn area. It was joined in 1992 by
Hankai 255, sister to the Edmonton Radial Railway Society’s 247 and acquired by
the Old Pueblo group with the help of ERRS.
Old Pueblo Trolley, Incorporated, P0
Box 1373, Tucson, AZ 85702
(For more on the Old Pueblo Trolley,
see the related article Real Streetcars Outdraw Fakes)
McKinney Avenue Transit
This gem of a heritage trolley
operation that continues to grace Dallas’ McKinney Avenue has been weathering
major financial problems. Insufficient farebox revenues meant an inability to
meet payrolls, and in October 1991 all seven paid employees had to be let go.
The line subsequently ran on a reduced schedule for a time as an all-volunteer
operation in the hands of the North Texas Traction Associates, Inc. Business
improved considerably with the return of “Rosie” (ex-Porto 122) to the line in
May 1992 after two years out of service for extensive rebuilding.
A half-mile extension from the downtown
terminal at St. Paul and Ross to the West End Historic District is under active
consideration. Because of one-way streets, return would be made via San Jacinto,
but how it would be funded in the present climate is unclear.
McKinney Avenue Transit Authority,
P0 Box 224288, Dallas, TX 75222-4288