Monday, November 12, 2018

El Paso heritage operation opens

From our friend Bruce Wells, of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, comes a write-up and photos showing opening day for the El Paso heritage streetcar line operated by Sun Metro. There were at least three or four PCC cars in operation on opening day and they're the same cars, albeit heavily rebuilt, that ran the (previous) last streetcar operation in the city back in 1974. A total of six ex-El Paso (originally San Diego) prewar PCC cars are being rebuilt by Brookville and to my knowledge only one car has yet to return home from Pennsylvania. An additional three cars are stored at a Sun Metro facility adjacent to the El Paso airport, where all nine cars spent years stored derelict near the end of a runway.

Previously I'd been switching ownership for these cars from Paso del Norte Streetcar Preservation Society - to which they'd been loaned by the city of El Paso since the 1980s - over to Sun Metro as each car returned from rebuild, but it seems clear that PNSPS is pretty much out of the PCC game so I've switched ownership for all nine cars to Sun Metro. That leaves one car owned by PNSPS: El Paso 90, a 1913 Stone & Webster car that at last report was largely a shell. That was a few years back and its current condition and whereabouts are unknown.

Friday, November 9, 2018

PCC on the move

The above photo, taken by Joe Krepps, was posted on the "Railroads of York, PA" group on Facebook yesterday. The car in the picture, New Jersey Transit 24, was heading westbound through York. This brings up an interesting question: where is it going?

Car 24 is one of the few "orphans" left among the old Newark PCC fleet. Of the 25 preserved PCC cars from that system, 11 went to Muni, eight went to established trolley museums, one went to San Diego, and one was kept by NJT for historic purposes, leaving four in a state of limbo to one extent or another. Car 13 is stored in Boonton, close to home; two others are stored in an out-of-state location; and that leaves car 24, which until yesterday (apparently) was stored at UTC/RAS, a small industrial firm in the Philadelphia suburbs. I had formerly thought that the car was destined for San Diego but it's not certain that's the case. Anyone know where it's going? Until I can answer that I've changed its status to "unknown."

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Indianapolis Peter Witt moved to new home

The latest electric car to leave the old Indiana Transportation Museum site in Forest Park, Noblesville is Indianapolis Railways 153. The news, and the photo above, come from a Facebook post (no log-in required) by the Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company. HHTC has moved car 153 to its site where it is being kept under cover along with the organization's three interurban cars.

Car 153 is very historic. It's the last electric streetcar from Indianapolis and is arguably the most modern streetcar preserved from before the streamliner/PCC era (Portland 813 is of the same vintage but has older-style K-control, rather than 153's PCM control, and lacks the more modern Peter Witt door arrangement). As such it's a significant piece, but unfortunately it has suffered grievously during its years of neglect in Forest Park. It was very close to being scrapped but HHTC stepped in and saved the car, installing steel beams to reinforce the underframe to allow the car to be moved. And of course even when ITM acquired the car in the 1970s it was a body, lacking trucks, control, and an interior.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One That Got Away

Wesley Paulson, from the National Capital Trolley Museum, sends this fascinating account of a rather old car that nearly made it. Wesley writes...

Joel Salomon collection

Recently, Joel Salomon sent me a photo from 1960 of a car body stored at the 7th Street SW yard of DC Transit Company.   I recognized the photo of the body of Capital Traction #1, a street car mail trailer.  In his book 100 Years of Capital Traction author LeRoy O. King lists the car as constructed as a horse car by Stephenson in the 1870s and rebuilt by the Company shops as a cable car mail trailer in 1895.   A mail slot in the side of the car allows pedestrians to drop off mail en route.  In the years following the end of mail service in 1913, the Company removes the platforms and the body is used as a construction trailer by the transit company.   CTCo #1 was acquired by the fledgling Washington Electric Railway Historical Society (WERHS) in the 1950s.   The Society also acquired a Brill 21E truck from Hagerstown and Frederick for use under the car.  There is little documentation about the status of the car body during WERHS ownership and its eventual transfer to the collection of National Capital Trolley Museum in the 1960s. 

L.O. King photo, Rogers Collection. MRHL

Capital Traction Mail Car 1, Friendship Heights. Loop, c-1936, fr. Truax-Rogers Collection

Following the end of transit operations in 1962, CTCo #1 and the Brill truck were stored outdoors at an Army Depot at Curtis Bay in Baltimore.  As was typical of many trolley museum efforts nationally at the time, the mail car deteriorated in outdoor storage during the 1960s while the Museum struggled to find a permanent home.  In the early 1970s Museum member Lee Rogers salvaged several remaining pieces of the car body, including at least one platform door and a platform bonnet, that were then stored in his basement.  The Brill truck was moved to the Museum at that time.  Following the death of Rogers, the Museum moved the parts to storage at the Museum.   The Brill 21E truck was traded to Shore Line Trolley Museum in 2002.

A short video clip on YouTube shows a transfer of mail to CTCo #1 on Pennsylvania Ave in 1903, where the car is pulled by a single-truck open motor car.

Mail service continued on streetcars until the Cabin John Line was abandoned in 1960.  Streetcars carried a daily mail bag between the Main Post Office on North Capitol Street to the Cabin John Post Office in Maryland.

Many thanks to Wesley for putting together this history of a very interesting car. -Frank

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Texas Electric box motor added

Thanks to Phil R, who alerted me to the find, and John Meyers, who provided updated information, Texas Electric 507 has now been added to the PNAERC list. Pictured above, it's a wooden freight motor built in 1907 by St. Louis for Texas Traction. Out of service in 1949, it was recently found on a farm in Ellis County, Texas and earlier this year was purchased by the City of Waxahachie. It was recently moved into protected storage in that city while plans are put together to cosmetically restore it and place it on display.

Car 507 is the 11th Texas Electric car known to be preserved. Freight equipment is unusually well represented among surviving TE cars; those 11 cars include three freight motors, three freight trailers, and two locomotives. With luck Waxahachie will fix up car 507 into a nice display piece like Southern Traction 305 in Corsicana or Texas Electric 360 in Plano.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Electric locomotive leaves Noblesville

Bob Harris has confirmed that yesterday, the 26th, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City 55 left the former Indiana Transportation Museum site in Noblesville. It has been moved to the nearby Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company site where usable components will be salvaged for use on interurban cars owned by HHTC and also for use on Chicago Lake Shore & South Bend 73, which is not part of the HHTC collection. The locomotive's trucks are close to what was used by the Union Traction 427-series combines and will be placed under Union Traction 437.

CRANDIC 55 was built in 1926 by Detroit United and is one of only three extant pieces - all freight or non-revenue equipment - in existence from that system. It later went to the Eastern Michigan and then, in 1935 when it was only nine years old, to the CRANDIC in Iowa. It ran there for 18 years, until the wires came down in 1953, but it remained stored on the property until the mid-1960s when it was noticed and acquired by members of the Indiana Museum of Transportation and Communication, later ITM. It was moved to Noblesville but never ran and garnered little attention. In recent decades its condition has deteriorated badly to the point where it would be a major project just to make the locomotive presentable. Only three electric cars now remain in Forest Park: Indianapolis Railways 153, North Shore 172, and Lackawanna MU car 4328.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The exodus continues

In a recent post on RyPN, the Ironhorse Railroad Park of Chisago City, Minnesota has confirmed that the most recent departure from the old Indiana Transportation Museum site in Noblesville is Twin Branch Railroad 4. This fairly unique locomotive was one of two built in 1928 to operate a one-mile-long railroad serving a power plant in Mishawaka in northern Indiana. Both locomotives were built as battery locomotives, but later on they gained rooftop pantographs and acquired the ability to operate as normal electrics. It's thought that they retained their batteries for off-wire operation though. Upon retirement around 1970, TBRR 4 was acquired by ITM (then IMOTAC) and moved to Noblesville. During the 1970s and 1980s it was occasionally used for switching but for the last couple of decades has been on static display.

Ironhorse Railroad Park is an unusual destination for this unusual locomotive. IRP hadn't been on the PNAERC list at all until now; it's a small railroad museum in Minnesota mainly devoted to steam railroading. Other than a superficial resemblance to large steeplecabs used in mining operations in northern Minnesota, TBRR 4 has little local significance. But it's thought that the engine was acquired in part to prevent it from going to scrap, and for that we can be grateful it has found a new home.

There are now just four electrics left in Forest Park: a Lackawanna MU car, an interurban, a locomotive, and a streetcar body. At least some - and perhaps all - are likely to leave shortly.