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Vintage and Heritage Streetcars
   

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Vintage and Heritage Streetcars

A streetcar line may use modern, Vintage or Heritage streetcars. While most streetcar lines in other countries use modern cars, only one American line does so, that in Portland, Oregon. Most American streetcars are “Vintage” or “Heritage” cars. What is the difference? Vintage streetcars are actual antiques, built sometime between the 1890s and the 1950s. Heritage streetcars are new cars built to antique designs.

Can actual antiques provide modern transportation? Yes, they can. The best example is the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line in New Orleans. The St. Charles Avenue line is the oldest public transit line in North America; the first tracks were laid in 1834. Just over six miles long, the St. Charles Avenue line carries about 23,000 people on an average weekday, all in a fleet of 35 Perley Thomas streetcars built in 1922 and 1923.5 Why hasn’t New Orleans bought modern streetcars? Because the citizens would revolt if it did! They love their old streetcars, with their wooden seats, clanging bells and windows that open. They offer all the charms of the good old days, plus real transportation.

Photo: Paul M. Weyrich

 A New Orleans Streetcar.

While the St. Charles Avenue cars are Vintage streetcars, New Orleans is now building—in its own shops—23 Heritage cars for the new Canal Street streetcar line. These will look like the Perley Thomas cars, but they will be replicas, which is what makes them Heritage streetcars.

Which make the most sense for your city’s or town’s new streetcar line, modern streetcars, Vintage cars or Heritage cars? That is up to you. In general, modern streetcars are the most expensive, but they offer air conditioning (which Heritage cars can also offer) and quieter, smoother rides. If you want to project a modern image, you will probably want modern streetcars. Vintage streetcars make the most sense if you have streetcars that actually used to run in your city or town, or if you want to use the famous Art Deco PCC streetcars, which are readily available. Heritage streetcars are easier to maintain than a mixed fleet of Vintage cars, and, being new, can stand up to heavy usage. At the same time, they offer a historic look and feel that fit well into a downtown or small town made up mainly of historic buildings.

Photo: Paul M. Weyrich

PCC Streetcar in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Our advice would be, get streetcars that fit well with their surroundings. Because streetcars and cities are natural partners, that isn’t hard to do.

 

 

 
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