• What can you tell me about this trolley car?

  • 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 Montclaire
 
I found this trolley car for sale locally, I was thinking about turning it into a NJ style hot dog stand. You can view the pictures through the link below. It has acted as a sort of lake cabin for decades after going out of service. There is no running gear, only the frame and body. I have been told by the owner that it is a brill semi-convertible car, but I have not seen any others like it. Maybe an early version of a Birney Safety? It was originally run in Reading, PA. One of the pictures in the link is actually of the same car in operation. The back end is flat but I do not think this was originally a one-sided car, as there is a bell in both ends.

My questions would be: What can you tell me about the style of car this is? Can anyone post pictures of different cars of this model? Does anyone here operate a trolley car as a diner/stand or have any information on doing so? How much would it cost (roughly) to repair the modified end so that it matches the good one? Are there any grants available for this sort of thing, to private individuals? What would you estimate the value of this car body to be?

Thanks


http://s270.photobucket.com/albums/jj83 ... s/trolley/



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  by walt
 
The caption on the second of the photos in the link you provided has about the best description. It is an arched roofed Brill Car ( it does not appear to be a semi convertable car, the side windows appear to be fixed and not as large as those on the semi-convertables). Additionally, most of the Brill Semi-convertables were deck roofed rather than arch roofed. I couldn't tell from any of the photos whether the car was a single trucked or a double trucked car, thoough it appears to be smaller than "standard". If it is a single trucked car, it would be very similar to the Birney Safety Car built near that era (1916) but it is not actually a Birney.--- One of the problems with streetcars of that era, at least as far as identifying a particular style, is that cars were usually built using plans submitted to a builder by a traction company--- and sometimes the companies built cars themselves. Brill did have certain "standard" models, the semi-convertable being one of them, however most cars were built according to the plans submitted by the company which placed the order. Your car could very well be a home built, or "home designed" car.

  by Montclaire
 
Ok, that makes sense. It did appear to be a semi-convert, as the tracks for the windows went all the way into the roof and got wider as they got taller. I could be wrong, but that was how it appeared to me, and they were painted shut so I couldn't try them out. I'm going to say it was a single truck trolley, based on it's size. It's about 9 feet by 30 feet, and I would say either a copy of a birney or a precursor. The 'carriage works' building style will probably make it near impossible to get replacement parts, and makes me think repairing the rear end will be pretty costly.

  by 3rdrail
 
If you decide not to pick it up, that might be a good candidate for a trolley museum as well. I know that pictures can be deceiving, but it looks like it's been pretty well elevated off the ground, so hopefully, it doesn't have a lot of dry rot. It looks to me like a modified Brill "Nearside" car, and that it would have had two small trucks originally. (The car has been "chopped" on one end.) I can tell you that the car has been fiddled with and patched pretty extensively over the years. If you can check around the threshold of original doorways, you may find a builders plate, particularly if that area has been covered or sealed. I'm sure that with a little local research, that you could come up with excellent photos if not blueprints. A friend who runs Sissons Diner in Middleboro, MA is looking for a "side" section to make his trolley-diner more originally appearing. His trolley is a Wason. (Brill bought out Wason in 1907 during a reorganization.) He might be interested in the car as well. His name is Nick Rentumis and he can be reached at (508) 947-7211. Maybe you could cut your cost and at the same time increase your working space by selling a section to Nick (???) Good luck ! :-D

  by JimBoylan
 
Penn's Landing Trolley - Buckingham Valley Trolley Association, now the Electric City Trolley Museum Association, had been investigating a former Wilmington, Del. semi-convertible in a barn in Southern Delaware. It was also missing a few side panels due to a similar conversion.

On your car, the window sashes may have been changed, but they still have latch handles at the bottom corners. The window tracks do look like the windows were originally designed to be raised way up into the ceiling, like on a semi-convertible car.

As for naming the type of car, that's complicated semantics. It's not a deck roofed semi-convertible, because it has an arched roof. But it probably had semi-convertible style widows. Back in 1911, Philadelphia had 1,500 arch roof cars built with semi-convertible style widows, and called them "Nearside Cars"!

The flat end is a solvable problem; the above mentioned museum restored the ends of Wilmington car 120, which had been flattened when the car, re-numbered W-58, had been sold to Philadelphia and used later in the Broad St. Subway. It just takes enough money, time, and labor.
Last edited by JimBoylan on Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Montclaire
 
I don't think it was 'chopped' more than a few inches, the floor decking drops down there, the same as the front, and as I said the bell button is in that end as well; I measured the front and rear to guestimate how much was removed, and I came up with 5 feet in the front (good) end, and 54'' in the rear, so only a loss of a few inches for the curvature of the back end. I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but there is also a ramp between the elevations from the rear, which looked original, and would dicatate that indeed this was the very end of the car.

Electric City looked at the car body, but they wanted the owner to not only donate it, but to pay to transport it as well, so naturally he declined.

  by walt
 
JimBoylan wrote: Back in 1911, Philadelphia had 1,500 arch roof cars built with semi-convertible style widows, and called them "Nearside Cars"!
Actually the entire Post 1911 Philadelphia fleet of conventional ( pre PCC) cars were built using the "Nearside" car design, (with the exception of 15 "War Board" cars which were briefly operated by the PRT, but which the PRT never owned), including the double ended "Hog Island" Cars and the later ( 1923-26) 5200 series double ended cars, and 585 single ended cars built between 1923 & 1926, which, except for the presence of a sliding center door, were identical in appearance to the original Nearsides. Thus there were actually close to 2,000 cars in Philadelphia which were built using the "Nearside" car design. The appearance of all of these cars, with their large route number sign, became the "standard" Philadelphia Streetcar prior to the introduction of the PCC Car.

BTW the term "Nearside" refers to the "nearside" (of an intersection) stop used by front entrance cars. Prior to the introduction of these cars, Philadelphia had experimented with a number of different carstop locations, including the farside stop ( where the car would cross through an intersection and stop on the far side) which required entry through rear doors. The nearside stop was found to be superior as it could be located closer to the intersection, and the motorman could stop the car closer to the waiting passengers than was possible using a rear entry system. Most city transit systems today use a nearside stop.

  by Frank Hicks
 
There are a few photos of cars of this type on the Dave's Rail Pix site:

Car 179 in 1941: http://www.davesrailpix.com/odds/pa/htm/rsr29.htm

Car 180, year unknown: http://www.davesrailpix.com/odds/pa/htm/rsr12.htm

Car 182 in 1941: http://www.davesrailpix.com/odds/pa/htm/rsr17.htm

Note that it looks like 182 had the lefthand door blanked off, suggesting it was converted from two-man to one-man operation. The other two photos show doors at all four corners intact. This modification to 182 is evident in the current photos of the car. The car looks to have a Brill 21 truck.

  by Montclaire
 
Yeah, that seems right. Looks like the car has been through some major changes over time. I suppose they would have added the center door when the car was changed to a one-man design? That's the first I've seen that particular photo of car 182, and the detail is much better. If anyone is interested in it, I'll pass the info along. The piece of land I was looking at is tied up in a family dispute and that was the key to the whole deal.

  by walt
 
Sometime during the 1910's a number of single trucked Nearside Cars were built. No 182, from the picture in Dave's Railpics, looks very similar to those small Nearsides, though the true Nearside was a single ended car. This car is somewhat larger than the standard Birney Car, with larger entry doors than the Birney, and with a larger front middle window.

  by Frank Hicks
 
Montclaire wrote:Looks like the car has been through some major changes over time. I suppose they would have added the center door when the car was changed to a one-man design?
Judging from the photos linked in your original post, I'm 99.99% certain that the "center door" was added after the car was converted to a house. Single-truck center-door cars were a rarity (for one thing, how do you fit a step well in over the truck?), and particularly since it's a double-ended car it wouldn't make sense to add a center door on one side only. Some cities did add center doors when rebuilding cars (notably the Philadelphia "nearsides" that were rebuilt into Peter Witts) but a single-truck Peter Witt is something I can't think of ever having seen.

Frank Hicks

  by walt
 
Remember one thing--- the term "Peter Witt" refers to a patented fare collection method ( named for its originator, Cleveland Transit Commissioner Peter Witt) rather than an actual type of streetcar. This involved using the "center doors" as exit only doors with the conductor stationed just ahead of the doors, and with passengers entering through the front doors and paying their fare as they passed the conductor--- whenever they passed him. When conductors were eliminated ( one man operaton) fares, obviously, were paid to the motorman upon entering a car. The term "Peter Witt" came to encompass this kind of operation as well, since the center doors remained exit only doors. Technically, if the center doors were used as entry doors, the car would not be a Peter Witt Car. ( The Philadelphia Subway Surface Lines had several fare collection methods, the Peter Witt method on the surface, and "outside" fare collection in the subway. At the eastern end, [Juniper Street] passengers were permitted to enter through the front and center doors, since they had paid their fares prior to reaching the platform.) All this means is that no definition- even of the term Peter Witt-- is without exceptions.

  by aline1969
 
If this car does not go to a museum it should be noted that the car should not be destroyed if the business goes under, there are museums that want Birney cars, they are handy to run and restore :-D

Re:

  by Montclaire
 
JimBoylan wrote:Penn's Landing Trolley - Buckingham Valley Trolley Association, now the Electric City Trolley Museum Association, had been investigating a former Wilmington, Del. semi-convertible in a barn in Southern Delaware. It was also missing a few side panels due to a similar conversion.

Anyone have pictures or more info about this?