Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company

Red Arrow Lines

Into the early 1980's, SEPTA's Red Arrow trolley system qualified as an operating trolley museum. The Red Arrow division regularly operated ancient trolleys in Delaware County, just west of Philadelphia, from three fleets built between 1932 and 1949. These traditional suburban trolley lines continue in service today, albeit with newer equipment.

St. Louis interurban The Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company trolley system was absorbed into the SEPTA system in 1970. Its two remaining trolley routes, to Media and Sharon Hill, used 1930's and 40's vintage double-end trolleys until the arrival of new Light Rail Vehicles in 1981.
St. Louis no. 20 southbound on Woodlawn Ave., October 20 1979. photo © Mike Szilagyi

St. Louis interurban The "newest" equipment on the Red Arrow lines were these St. Louis-built cars, built in 1949. Even after the postwar body was made standard, St. Louis Car continued to use a variant of the old, 1935-style carbody whenever it built double-end equipment. Differences from the standard pre-war carbody included the vertical dash panel and 24 degree sloped windshield, intended to remove glare from the glass at night. The later "grommetization" of the windshield gave these interurbans a tank-like appearance.
St. Louis no. 17 at 69th St. Terminal, October 1979. photo © Mike Szilagyi

Brilliner in SEPTA gold paint The very last trolleys built by Philadelphia's once-great Brill Car Company were these ten suburban cars, completed in 1940. Instead of paying royalties to the Transit Research Corporation to build PCC cars, Brill decided to build a competing trolley of its own design. Unfortunately, the boxy, riveted Brill car never did catch on. Only three Brilliners were built for Brill's traditional best customer, the PRT (PTC's predecessor). The twenty-four car "Miss America Fleet" built for Atlantic City in 1939 was the largest order of Brilliners.
Brilliner 4 at 69th St. Terminal on June 15, 1977. photo © Mike Szilagyi

1932 Brill Master Unit The last traditional (hand-controlled) streetcars in service in the Philadelphia area were these Brill "Master Unit" suburban cars built in 1932-33. They were capable of seventy miles per hour, and lasted into the early 1980's. Both the Media and Sharon Hill lines offer a wide variety of operation, ranging from private right of way, to side of the road, to traditional streetcar operation. These two suburban trolley lines continue in service today, with heavy (read slow) double-end Kawasaki light rail cars.
Brill master unit no. 78 on the Media line near Springfield Mall in 1980. photo © Mike Szilagyi

1932 Brill Master Unit As was the case with the St. Louis interurbans, the appearance of the cars was drastically altered when the windshields were re-built (the center glass originally extended up to the destination sign). These trolleys tended to be used only during rush hours by 1980. The Buckingham Valley Trolley Association is one group that preserved a car of this series; today it survives at Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton Pennsylvania.
Brill master unit no. 86 on the West Chester Pike storage track on November 20, 1979. photo © Mike Szilagyi

center door car In marked contrast to modern trolleys like the Brilliners and Master Units described above, the Brill "Center Door" car seen here was typical of suburban trolleys built around 1920. These tended to be large, heavy, double-end cars, with passengers entering and exiting via doors located at the center of the car. When this car was ordered in 1926, its design was already "conservative" to put it mildly. In a further concession to tradition, this order of cars was designed with arched upper windows, in an attempt to evoke the image of the luxurious interurban trolleys that had been built during the first decade of the 20th century. Later, Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company concealed those arched windows with tacked-on sheet metal after World War II, in an attempt to modernize the car. Trolleys of this series were still pressed into service during snow-storms as late as 1970. PST car 73 is seen here, restored to its original condition, in 1979. In recent years SEPTA has purged its carbarns and yards of virtually all historic trolleys.
Brill Center Door car no. 73 on State Street in Media during a charter excursion on July 1, 1979. photo © Mike Szilagyi

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