• Tatra Streetcars in US?

  • General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.
General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by fordhamroad
 
-post WW II the Tatra plant in Czechoslovakia, using PCC licenses and technology, turned out several models of streetcars for european cities. Were any of the Tatra trolleys ever imported into the US?

Roger

  by BaltOhio
 
Hi Roger -

At some point in the earlier days of the cold war, the Soviets decided to standardize the tram fleets in Russia and most of the Eastern European satellites, and picked the Tatra T1-T2-T3 models (and their articulated variants) as the choice. Probably the best decision those people ever made. Over 15,000 were built, far and away the most popular tram model ever produced and one of the longest-lived. They were well-built, reliable, and, with PCC "guts", as modern as anything around at the time. Many are still running in the former Iron Curtain countries, and, as far as I know, cities like Prague, Brno, and Bratislava use them and successor Tatra models exclusively. Ever the burr in Moscow's side, the Poles built their own version (by Konstal), but using the same technology, sublicensed from Tatra.

But obviously neither the politics nor the U.S. transit situation were conducive to any imports. The domestic market for PCCs was pretty much dead by 1948, and any operator in the U.S. that wanted PCCs afterward could pick up used cars cheap.

Several Western European cities also used PCCs, most notably Brussels, Gent, Antwerp, SNCV, and The Hague, built under license by the Belgian firm La Brugeoise.

Sadly, Tatra couldn't seem to compete in the present European tram market and is out of the business, although Skoda has had some slight success in the U.S.

Herb Harwood

  by Tadman
 
I believe Tatra is still in business as a truck maker, and at one time as an automaker, building what could best be described as a 4-door heavy Porsche 911 with a V8 for power. But now I think they are down to just trucks. Interesting the parallel to American companies - the remnants of Pullman are now auto parts suppliers (polymers, under Tenneco); The remnants of Budd are now stainless suppliers, and I think the parent ThyssenKrupp just spun them off; Pacific Car and Foundry became Paccar after purchase of Peterbuilt and Kenworth; finally, Alco and Studebaker were brought under the same umbrella for a while, but that was after the end of auto production (1966) and locomotive production (199).
  by BaltOhio
 
One afterthought: Ironically, Transit Research Corp., the company created to hold and market the PCC patents, got only a token amount for licensing the Tatra PCCs. Because of the Cold War situation in 1951 when TRC and Tatra were negotiating for the first batch of 150 PCC-based Tatra T1s for Prague, the State Department prevented a full-scale royalty licensing agreement. TRC finally had to cave in and accepted a flat fee for the first batch and nothing afterward -- but with a "no compete" proviso that allowed Tatra to produce cars for its own markets (i.e., Eastern Europe and the USSR) while TRC would have the rights elsewhere (mostly North America and Western Europe). So in brief, TRC ended up with something equivalent to a royalty for 1% of the vast numbers of Tatra PCCs built. (And that doesn't include the Tatra PCC knockoffs built by Konstal in Poland, UKVZ in Russia, and Riga in Latvia.)
  by fordhamroad
 
-thank you Herb and Tadman - interesting details, especially how the Cold War snarled up the licensing. I didn't think any of the Tatras had made to here for regular municipal operation.. Post 1945, so many US cities were shutting down that there was more than enough surplus stock for the rest who still operated trollies. But I am suprised none of them made it as items in museum collections. A good second-hand one in operating condition might have been picked up pretty cheaply, and and the Tatra had a good story to tell.

Best wishes

Roger
  by BaltOhio
 
Good point, Roger. I'm very surprised that some U.S. operating museum hasn't picked up a T3, which was by far the most prolific and successful of the various Tatra PCC models. We have ex-Milan Peter Witts, some Australian, Lisbon, and Rio cars as well as a few odds and ends from Austria and Germany, but no representatives of the most famous of all. Of course, there's still time. As I mentioned, the T3s seem indestructible; as they're being replaced by new low-floor cars in various cities, they're handed on to other operators, including North Korea. And at least the European tram museums appreciate them, especially in their native countries. Seems to me there's even one at Crich, if I remember correctly.
  by Leo Sullivan
 
If you search Dopravní Podnik Ostrava or Vario LFR.E you will see the latest in PCC
products. On the Ostrava site click on 'Vozovy park' for a picture roster containing
the recent PCC based designs. LFs are all new material unless the customer sends parts
they want reused (B-3 trucks etc.) The LFs have a low floor center and, of course, are
operated using POP fare collection.
  by BaltOhio
 
Leo Sullivan wrote:If you search Dopravní Podnik Ostrava or Vario LFR.E you will see the latest in PCC
products. On the Ostrava site click on 'Vozovy park' for a picture roster containing
the recent PCC based designs. LFs are all new material unless the customer sends parts
they want reused (B-3 trucks etc.) The LFs have a low floor center and, of course, are
operated using POP fare collection.
Interesting -- I'd like to know more. My knowledge of Czech is nonexistent, so I could appreciate the photos but not the details. I had read that the Ostrava-built cars are spinoffs of the Skoda Astra design, which were originally produced by the joint Czech partnership of Skoda (as builder) and Inekon as designer. Afterward, Skoda and Inekon went through an ugly divorce, and Inekon turned to the city tram system in Ostrava to build an improved version of the Astra in the tram undertaking's shops. I wasn't aware that either the original Skoda Astras or the present Inekon Trios are PCC-based , but it could well be. Anyone have more info?

As info, several U.S. cities are operating, or will operate Skoda Astras or Inekon Trios -- namely Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, and Washington, DC (if the latter ever gets its light rail act together).
  by Leo Sullivan
 
I must not have been clear, the Astras etc. are not PCC based but the LFs are. The LFs have B-3 trucks and other PCC features that are still competitive. I gather that the LFs are more of an Ostrava product than are the Astras. I've seen ads for them in Czech but not otherwise (though I may just not know).
LFs operate in Prag and I believe Plzen, perhaps elsewhere. I also have only slight knowledge of the
Czech language. E-mail me for more info.
  by fordhamroad
 
-didn't they use PCC technology and parts from Eastern Europe to recreate the new "old" streetcars for the river line in New Orleans? I have heard that they are rebuiding the Hurricane damaged red cars in house. Had the pleasure of a few days in New Orleans this month riding the oldtimers around the neighborhoods. The bang and clang was as remembered. It is a great pleasure to see them in living service, ordinary people getting on and off, instead of just as museum objects. Streetcars for me form such a natural part of urban life. Did a lot of riding on various German city streetcar lines, including some very old stuff in the 1950's, and some very new stuff last year. They are finally realizing the value of these lines, and have stopped scrapping them, even have restored a few lines in some towns.

Roger