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El Paso - August 2012

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El Paso, TX  

August 2012

Rehab of El Paso Streetcars Suggested

Local preservationists are recommending restoration of El Paso streetcars stored outside since the mid-1970s for use on the planned streetcar system. The city's desert climate means that the cars have not suffered from the rust and other water-influenced deterioration that would occur in other parts of the country so their restoration is feasible.

KTSM TV reports that director of the El Paso Railroad Museum Prince McKenzie cited the art-deco design of the 1936-era PCC cars as in keeping with historic structures in the city. He said 10 of the cars still exist including six at the airport. Brookville Equipment Corporation of Pennsylvania specializes in rebuilding PCC cars.

Others feel it may be more practical to purchase replica cars designed to look old.

Subsequently, the city has decided to sell five of the six cars in its posession but to keep one of them for restoration and possible use on the new line.

Streetcar Sale on Hold

The city of El Paso has temporarily suspended the sale of its stored PCC streetcars and they could remain in El Paso permanently if the cost-benefit is favorable for restoring the air-electric cars to operation, KFOX television reports. El Paso is planning an urban circulator line to be financed by up to $90 million in Texas state transportation funds.

The local preservation society recently got an estimate from Brookville Equipment Corp. of Pennsylvania of $1.5 million to $1.8 million to refurbish the PCCs. By contrast, the cost of a new Skoda Astra design modern streetcar as being built by United Streetcar LLC of Clackamas, Ore., for Tucson, Ariz., is $3.6 million apiece or more. One question would be the length of service life of restored PCCs versus modern streetcars. Philadelphia SEPTA estimated a 15-year shelf life for its restored PCC-II cars, though PCC cars have remained in service for nearly 70 years with proper maintenance.

"I was upset," said Ron Dawson, president of El Paso Del Norte Street Car Preservation Society. The organization has had a contract with the city for more than 40 years to keep the streetcars. The contract runs through 2015. The City is awaiting formal estimates from firms that could rebuild the streetcars before making a final decision.


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