APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
Philadelphia Route 15 - January 2006

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Girard Avenue Streetcar Restoration

On January 20, 2006 at the APTA Streetcar and Heritage Trolley Subcommittee meeting in Philadelphia, Dave Casper, Assistant Chief Engineer, New Vehicle Programs for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority presented the evolution of this project. Click on the following link for a copy of his Powerpoint slides:

Below are notes taken during this presentation by Jim Schantz based on Dave's comments and those of other attendees at the meeting:

Project Description

  • Line 8.2  miles long

  • 25% of track was replaced

  • Added pedestrian islands

  • 1890s rotary converter replaced at Mt. Vernon and added capacity – It was felt by some that rotaries were not compatible with propulsion system on new cars (due to their regenerative braking, though subsequent tests indicated compatibility was not an issue




$45.7 mil

Signals $6.4 mil
Streetscapes          $0.5 mil
Subtotal construction $52.6 mil


  • Added some level of signal priority – extending cycles and preemption


Vehicle Alternatives

  • Considered light rail – Breda and Sloda proposed articulated cars

  • Cost per car $3.2 – 3.5 mil,   PCC $1.2 mil

  • Vehicle life 30+ years, PCC 15+/- years


  • Kawasaki – quoted $3.5 to $4 mil for more of 4 axles cars like SETPA's current light rail fleet

PCC II Development

  • 18 cars in contract w/Brookville

  • Work done:

    Extensive shell reconstruction

    New door panels, rebuilt door motors

    New wheelchair lift

    New HVAC

    Refurbished interior lighting

    Refurbished seating

    New auxiliary power system

    New trucks

    New AC propulsion

    New Interior linings


More details

  • Extensive corrosion at base of roof, top of letterboard

  • Stripped bodies to frame, roof sheeting removed, carlines replaced

  • Shells grit blasted offsite--used steel shot for blasting

  • Stepwells replaced

  • New carlines fabricated in-house by Brookville as was rail above standee windows

  • Curved roof ends kept intact but welded up to fix leaks

  • Bolsters tested and repaired

  • If more than 20% deterioration, steel replaced

  • New roof sheets – 2 long skin pieces instead of 9 pieces original – overlapping seam at top center of roof – all providing better waterproof – (steel was not Cor-Ten -- was mild steel-10/30)

  • Blasted under anti-climbers – but SEPTA has recently found some rust there

  • Had to change support structure underneath to support new equipment – such as new inverter boxes

  • Did analysis to verify weight loading side to side – planned layout worked well – inverters a/c, wheelchair lifts were critical and thought would balance out well

  • Total weight around 42,000 pounds (heavier than non-air conditioned original)

  • Sheet metal below standee windows on exterior was replaced

  • Added insulation for HVAC – as original PCC design did not have any – helped quiet the interior considerably – became one of most dramatic changes with car – removing window crank mechanisms quieted it considerably – sprayed interior with sound deadening material and that also helped

  • New plastic interior cladding also contributed to quiet.

  • Restored interior lights – changed voltage put kept original look

  • Bringing air conditioning into vehicle was a challenge – added grating above lights at edges of headlining – after considerable work got air distribution to work very well. A/C capacity is 10 tons

  • To keep costs down took seats from obsolete articulated Volvo buses – made in 1980s – stainless steel with cloth covered inserts. Putting same seats in Market-Frankfurt cars – inserts cheap to replace – don’t clean them, just replace – saving money on these cars and Market Frankfurt

  • Electrical system and wiring completely changed. All gauges and controls in operator’s cab 12 or 24 volt – so could easily use truck parts, stop lights, etc. holding cost down

  • Built equipment cabinet behind operator

  • Propulsion computers by Kiepe – will last indefinitely

  • Brookville Truck – based on B-3 as designed for New Orleans – AC Skoda motors – disk brake instead of drum brake – geared for higher horsepower

  • Door panels new – made out of composite materials – rewound door motors to 24 volt

  • Couldn’t put wheelchair lift at front door because of taper of car creates unworkable angle for lift to line up with platforms – instead followed Kenosha example of placing lift at center door

  • As historical car didn’t have to meet ADA, but tried hard to meet it – letterboard didn’t have to be changed – doesn’t comply with height for standing person on lift as comes in under top of door frame – had ADA people in and they didn’t object to this feature – should be 68 inches, but much less possible – lift manufacturer owned by Ricon – tie downs not required on streetcar but put them in anyways - roughly 4 minute cycle time to operate lift – operator has to come outside to supervise person getting on

  • Couldn’t find anyone who would make steps that would lift to be level (like Muni’s now-retired Boeing LRVs) – as well would take entire width of car underneath – equipment in way

  • No formal sign off from ADA committee on final design but have photos of ADA people examining car

  • Live testing found clearance issue at 40th & Girard boarding platform coming from seldom used curve– was only issue they had in clearance on new route – removed part of platform

  • Final cost was $1.2 million per vehicle


Other Points

  • SEPTA has 141 Kawasaki cars from 1991 – so when PCCs are 15 years old and Kawasaki’s 30 years old – want to do joint procurement to replace both fleets

  • Route 15 justified for economic redevelopment reasons – that’s what justified $50 million for 8 miles – and economic regeneration now starting along the route

  • Various attendees noted that the line has suffered from severe operational issues including a driver boycott and frequent bus substitution. Ridership has declined since streetcars coming on – 250 riders per day. (8000 to 7800 per day). Complaints have skyrocketed. However, these can be traced to poor reliability and long wait times (45 minutes not uncommon). There is some fear that management actions are not consistent with trying to make the line succeed.

  • SEPTA plans to start short-turning some cars to try to provide heavier service to the central section of the line

  • City not helping in removing parked cars that block the line – police won’t come when called.

  • Started line without enough operators trained. Never trained street supervisors on street cars (as opposed to buses) so couldn’t clear breakdowns quickly.

  • On time reliability of line not good. 

  • Interest from people in Chestnut Hill to see route 23 brought back – at least upper half. Not much being heard from people along route 50 – all 3 lines had been promised for return in 1992 – Luzerne depot gone but possible room at bus facility for storing a future fleet to serve these lines


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