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Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
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Pennsy
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Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« on: Sep 8th, 2007, 10:48am »
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Hi,
 
After reading about Phillie's traction, I started thinking. Just which city had the most traction, most variety of traction types, and the most trackage.
 
My vote would have to go, naturally to New York City. While I have ridden on traction vehicles in many cities and towns, including Philadelphia, I believe NYC had the most diversified fleet, the most cars, the most employees, the most trackage. At one time, most New Yorkers got around, including to work, with traction vehicles. There were trolley poles and tracks everywhere. My favorite ride was from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, using several different trolleys, and eventually arriving at Delancey Street in Manhattan, the Big Apple. Yup, we even went over the Williamsburg Bridge via a trolley.


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O. WINSTON LINK esq.
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #1 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 11:04am »
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 Hi, Pennsy: Yep, you are quite correct. New York truly had a wide variety of street railway equipment, as well as so many varied and fascinating runs; there was even an underground trolley terminal at Delancey St., adjacent to the BMT station! Public Service of New Jersey was another massive system, with well over 2000 cars during its glory years. And, without a doubt, I think many folks will say that the late, great Pacific Electric was truly the KING of them all, given its tremendous variety of equipment, and its ganglia of routes that radiated out from LA so long ago.    John

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Pennsy
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #2 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 2:09pm »
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Hi John,
 
Absolultely !! Now you can see why my Dad, and many, many like him never got a driver's license until they were well into their 50's. There was no need to, and besides, where would you park that car ? Meters everywhere, and more cars fighting you for your parking space than you could handle.  
 
We used to cut classes on Friday, take out out mass transit passes, and play a game. We would flash the pass, and enter the station. Then, unless you were really lost, you could not show it again. The trick was to get as far from where you started, and back, using as many lines and vehicles as possible, without having to show your pass once again. If you had to do that, you lost the game. We obviously learned rapidly where the FREE transfer points were and you could NOT lose us on the NYC trolleys, subways, or whatever. We used to love to end up on the Canarsie Line, in Canarsie, have a wonderful Italian Lunch there, and return home. For some reason, the teachers did not take notice that we were always absent on Fridays. They must have enjoyed the rest from the bunch of us.


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O. WINSTON LINK esq.
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #3 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 3:12pm »
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 Hi, Pennsy: Hope these pics bring back some good memories!  http://www.nycsubway.org/cars/bmt-pcc.html   http://www.nycsubway.org/cars/bmt-trol.html

« Last Edit: Sep 8th, 2007, 3:14pm by JOHN_LUTHER_JONES » Logged
O. WINSTON LINK esq.
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #4 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 3:17pm »
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 See also: http://www.forgotten-ny.com/TROLLEYS/trolleyterminal/stations.html

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O. WINSTON LINK esq.
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #5 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 3:21pm »
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 Recall New York's last trolley line, which made its final run in 1957? http://www.nycsubway.org/cars/qbry.html

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Walt_C
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #6 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 4:51pm »
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Well---------- New York probably wins if you include its subway system. If you're talking about mostly surface trackage, particularly streetcar & interurban, it's going to be Philly, Pittsburgh, or Toronto.
 
     During the height of the streetcar era ( in Philly until 1956 or so), just about every major street in Philly had a streetcar line.  Most of SEPTA's present numbered bus routes, and almost all of the numbered routes in the PRT/PTC days, originated as streetcar routes. ( SEPTA has made significant changes in the designation of a number of routes that were always bus routes, and carried letters in the PTC days, and has assigned them route numbers) Additionally, the Philadelphia suburbs, until the mid 1930's were honeycombed with cheaply built country trolley lines, among them the PRT's Folsom division and the Southern Pennsylvania Traction Company Routes, both "systems" being centered in Lower Delaware County ( Darby-Chester-Media area), not to forget the Red Arrow Predecessor P&WCT and the P&W- with its lines to Strafford and Norristown, and which hosted the Allentown-69th Street interurbans of the LVT's Liberty Bell Route. Expand consideration into Montgomery and Chester Counties and you have to include the Norristown Company ( later the Schuylkill Valley Lines) and the West Chester Street Railway ( later the Chester Valley Lines). Montgomery County had a number of other smaller traction companies as well. Most of the traction lines outside of Philadelphia, with the exception of the future Red Arrow Lines and the P&W, were gone by the mid 1930's. The routes in the city itself, for the most part, lasted until the mid 1950's, and, of course, the subway surface lines continue to this day, and Route 15 has been restored to rail service.
 
   With regards to traction car types, the Philadelphia area has seen so many different car types that it is impossible to list them all. Just dealing with the period after the introduction of the Philadelphia Nearsides and not including everything that was running somewhere in the area at that time ( 1911) Philly has seen the Nearsides, the Hog Island Cars, the War Board Cars, the 5000 and 5200 double ended city cars, PCC cars, Brilliners, Briney Cars, pre 1911 Philadelphia Standard Cars, Brill Semiconvertables, a number of different open car types, the original P&W St Louis Interurbans, a series ( 34 cars) of Brill and Jewett classic interurbans on the P&WCT, P&WCT/ Red Arrow Lines Center Door Cars ( built between 1919 and 1926), the 1932 Brill Lightweight 80 series cars, the 10 double ended Brilliners, and the 14 PCC Type St Louis Cars. Running over P&W trackage, including the perviously mentioned 1907 St. Louis interurbans, there were the 50 series cars, the Strafford Cars, the Bullet Cars, several types of classic interurbans run by the LVT, and the LVT 1000's, the former C&LE Red Devils. And this list does not include rapid transit cars, 19th Century cars, or electric commuter railroad cars.  ( I haven't mentioned about six different low floor car types which primarily operated out of Wilmington Delaware which occasionally found their way onto Southern Penn trackage).  I don't think that New York, as large as it is, can top this list.


« Last Edit: Sep 8th, 2007, 5:12pm by Walt_C » Logged

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Pennsy
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #7 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 6:17pm »
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Hi Walt,
 
Looks like one would have to take a yardstick to the various systems to actually compare total mileage of the ROW. They all seem to have one thing in common, they started off in the downtown area, and wandered out into the suburbs. And that is how a lot of neighborhoods were born. There was a recent PBS special that brought that fact out, although it was dealing mainly with the Los Angeles area. Even the phenomenon of a Trolley Park was an invention of those that made money from the enterprise. Trolley Park That was the end of the Trolley Line at an amusement park. Sort of a Coney Island built just for the Trolley car riders and their neighborhoods. Shamefully, we gave all of that up, and paved over it. Today, in Los Angeles, we are going back to those days with LRV's, and plans are underway to take the LRV's right to the LAX airport, and even the beaches. The LRV systems in Los Angeles are in a growth mode. The Red Line, the subway, is growing as well. Spoke with a motorman on the Red Line recently, and he complained about the trips being too short. As soon as he settled down for the trip, he had to walk to the opposite end of the train to return to his starting point.  
 
In New York City, the situation got complex. Couple that with the Free Transfer system, and you could get lost easily. You didn't just pay your fare and board the streetcar, you also had to ask for a transfer. Transfers were free, and you often had to exchange one transfer for another to complete your trip, using three or four trolley lines. Using that system, as John iterated to, you could get from Brooklyn, to Manhattan, and into Queens and possibly the Bronx. All for the price of one fare. And who doesn't remember that you could get to the Canarsie beaches by way of a trolley car. It was a bit of a walk to the seashore from the trolley stop, but we didn't seem to mind that, in those days. At some beaches, the trolleys actually came out over the water, onto a pier, and reversed to leave with passengers returning home.


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Walt_C
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #8 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 7:24pm »
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Alan-- In Philadelphia's case, the streetcar system did not begin in Center City and fan out into outlying areas. For one thing, Philadelphia, as a city, is over 300 years old, and much of its development occured before the advent of the electric streetcar. Philadelphia's streetcar system, like those of many major cities, began as a series of small localized traction companies which had franchises to operate on certain streets in certain neighborhoods. One of Philly's first companies operated in Frankford, which is significantly north of Center City. Over the years, usually because of financial difficulties ( which seemed to characterize Philly traction companies for almost the entire existence of the system) the companies were merged and consolidated, with the last great consolidation being the merger of the Union Traction company with several smaller companies to create the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company. With the exception of the subway-surface lines, which begin their westbound runs under Juniper Street ( 13th & Market)  most of the streetcar routes which served Center City ran through   center city with terminal points elsewhere ( North-South Routes usually ran from South Philly, or points south of Center City, to North Philly- east-west lines usually began at or near Front Street--at the Delaware River). The outer ends of these routes did help create the expansion of the city, but that only went as far as the Phila- Delaware County Line, or to the Bucks County Line in the northern part. Pennsylvania has a lot of incorporated boroughs, so, with the exception of the annexation of the Borough of West Philadelphia by the city, the Phila city limits really did not expand very much as a result of streetcar service.
 
    It is interesting to note, that when the PCC car was first introduced to Philadelphia, it was not placed on a route that served Center City, and, there were never any PCC cars on the routes which served Market Street, Philadelphia's main east west thoroughfare. ( Broad Street, the main north south thoroughfare never had streetcar service-- intentionally) The only PCC cars to ever serve Center City were on Route 23, which crossed Market Street on its way between Germantown to South Philadelphia, and on the subway-surface lines which run under Market Street.
     During the era of private operation, the paper transfer was a large part of travelling around the city. Like the description of the New York system, you obtained a transfer upon boarding, and, using the tear off coupons, you could transfer twice, so your trip, on one fare, could involve four different routes. I heard that it was possible to make a complete circuit using transfers, obviously by arriving back to one's point of origin on a different route than one originally used, but with the time limits included on the transfer, I'm not sure that this was actually possible.


« Last Edit: Sep 8th, 2007, 7:34pm by Walt_C » Logged

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Pennsy
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #9 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 8:09pm »
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Hi Walt,
 
Apparently each city or town had it own developing to do. From that PBS special, they pointed out that the centers of business were usually where a trolley line began, and it fanned out from there. Eventually interconnections completed the maze of tracks.
 
Transfers in NYC were somewhat different. Each transfer could be used only once, and on the date issued. Transfers would be on a piece of colored paper, and each day the color would change. So, when you had to transfer from one streetcar to another, you would obtain a new transfer, when you surrendered your transfer to that line etc. etc. There was no limit as to how many times you could exchange transfers. As kids, we could, and sometimes did, spend the day transferring from one line to another and enjoyed the streetcar rides. We did not do that in the dead of winter. Trolley cars did not offer too much protection from the winter, until the PCC's came out.


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Walt_C
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #10 on: Sep 8th, 2007, 8:59pm »
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Alan---I didn't see the PBS special, but they are probably right about the majority of streetcar systems, when the small town systems which were common in the early decades of the 20th Century, but which were largely gone by the mid 1930's are concerned.  Big city systems, particularly those in the older cities in the East & Midwest, were somewhat different in that their central city areas were developed long before the advent of street railways. Additionally, as many systems began as a series of smaller localized systems, developement of the systems were not that unified. . .   ie lines got built where the companies were given franchises to build.
 
  Along with Philadelphia, the streetcar systems in Baltimore and DC also had most of the lines serving their central areas running through those areas, rather than originating in the downtown area. ( Ex DC's Route 30, which served Penna. Ave and ran past the White House, began in Southeast Washington and terminated at the DC Maryland Line at Friendship Heights in upper Northwest Washington)  One reason for this, in the large cities, was that the downtown areas were so congested that it was difficult to find a layover point for a line terminating downtown. There was often no land available to loop signle ended cars, and having double ended cars laying over in the middle of a busy downtown street wouldn't work either. Much easier to run through downtown, and lay the cars over in the outlying areas where there was more room for a loop, or where they could layover in the mddle of a lightly traveled street.


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Pennsy
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #11 on: Sep 9th, 2007, 12:39am »
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Hi Walt,
 
Right on. As usual we are on the same page.
 
Allow me to amplify that: Even today, the St. Charles st line in New Orleans comes to a dead end at Metarie. You have double tracking, end of track, and then a crossover to allow the trolley to get on the correct side of the street. No matter what the weather, the operator, usually a nice lady, has to flip the trolley poles.  
 
In Beautiful Downtown Brooklyn, on the McDonald Ave line, the trolley comes out from under the elevated subway, into an empty lot, makes a complete turn, and continues on back down the line. As the car enters the loop, passengers are dropped off, and just before it leaves the loop, it picks up fresh passengers, heading back. Not there any longer, since that land became unbelievably valuable. The El is still there, and was last seen in the famous car chase in the movie the French Connection. The speeding and chasing cars ran over what was the McDonald ave line.


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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #12 on: Mar 2nd, 2008, 10:36pm »
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I just reread all these posts.  Looks like everyone is correct at some time in history.
There have been a succession of largest systems, since 1920, each one smaller than the one before.
Certainly Philadelphia was the biggest when I first saw it (1953) but, soon after, Pittsburgh probably took the lead.  Of course, I'm just talking about surface lines, Rapid Transit  
always was considered something else.   Also, are we talking about individual companies or  
'systems' on  a city basis?  And if it is 'systems, how far out do you go?  After all, Boston and New York were connected (to Maine) then, across the river, except for gauge breaks, was a big  
system stretching from the ferries to Delaware and central Pennsylvania.  Does New York  
include the companies in the boroughs?  Does Boston include the systems with through  
passenger and freight service?   And what about Chicago?  Chicago Surface lines which was really  
an operating company with separately owned parts (the biggest Chicago City Railway and Chicago Railways) with about 1000 miles of track and about 3000 cars.  And, after all, Chicago was  
connected to Pittsburgh by trolley.  It makes a great discussion but, I dont think there is a definitive all time answer unless you say the biggest company and set a date.
Even then there are multiple answers.  Chicago Surface lines may have it all though,
most cars most track.  PE had greater route mileage and less cars than CSL but then Bay State had even more route miles but less track (many long single track lines) and less cars etc. etc..
 
LS


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Walt_C
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #13 on: Mar 3rd, 2008, 7:15pm »
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Your point is well taken. The "Traction Era" peaked in 1917-- after that, the industry went into a gradually accelerating decline. Over all, though, Philadelphia ran more cars than any U.S. City, having operated a total of 8,000 cars throughout the history of traction operations ( which, of course, continue to this day). Chicago had a total of 5,000 cars. Obviously, neither "system" ran that number of cars all at one time, these totals are the total number of cars owned by the properties over their entire histories.  Philadelphia, though, was noted for purchasing large numbers of cars at one time ( and then running them into the ground). There were two of these large purchases, the first in the late 19th Century when 2,500 cars were purchased,( the Philadelphia Standard Cars) and the second circa 1911 when 1500 of the unique Nearside Cars were acquired.
 
    In looking at some of the considerations mentioned, IMHO, we would want to look at the actual operating entities, rather than the separate corporate entities and are looking primarily ( as I understood Pennsy's original question) at cities and their suburbs.
 
  With regard to the companies themselves, the Chicago Surface Lines had a number ( principally two) underlying companies, and the numbers which appeared on the cars refiected the owning companies, however the lines were operated as one system. Until 1936, Washington, DC had two separate operating companies ( the Washington Railway & Electric Co., and Capital Traction) which were merged in 1936 to form Capital Transit. Others will have to describe the New York and Boston operations in this regard.
        After 1956, the Philadelphia system was greatly reduced in size, with over 2/3 of its streetcar lines bustituted,  ( The Chcago system was completely bustituted by nineteen fiftyeight) however it still operated more streetcars than any other U.S. City ( including Pittsburgh), a situation which lasted until after SEPTA took over. However, identifying the largest fleet at any one time, will depend on exactly what period is being discussed.
  Track mileage also depends on what period is being discussed. Here you have more than one operating system in most areas, particuarly before 1920, with the miriad of small, cheaply built suburban and country trolley lines in Penna., the extensive interurban system in the mid-west, and the western systems, led by the Pacific Electric, and all of this in addition to the small town and big city streetcar systems. There probably is no definative answer to the question of who had the most traction trackage during the peak years of traction operation, since much of this trackage was in fairly obscure areas, and in the case of the interurbans, we'd have to decide which urban area gets to claim which trackage, particularly in the case of the long haul midwest interubans. After 1940, it becomes easier to measure as most of these obscure and marginal lines had been abandoned by then, and abandonment of most of the interurbans was not that far in the future.


« Last Edit: Mar 3rd, 2008, 8:08pm by Walt_C » Logged

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Pennsy
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #14 on: Mar 5th, 2008, 10:28am »
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Hi Walt,
 
Depends on what you mean as "the greatest". Does that mean the largest in mileage, number of streetcars, best streetcars, etc. etc.
 
There were streetcars built for speed, luxury, smooth ride etc. etc. Then you would have the most beautiful streetcars on some line. And then there might just be a streetcar line that was ALWAYS on schedule. If you had to catch the 7:45 every morning and it always showed up at that time, that could make that line the greatest. And how about those lines that never had to stop running due to the weather Somehow they were always able to keep moving, even with huge snow drifts that stopped cars and trucks. And how about lines that had the most personable, courteous, nicest operators ? How many of you got to know the operator by name ?


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Walt_C
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #15 on: Mar 5th, 2008, 8:28pm »
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on Mar 5th, 2008, 10:28am, Pennsy wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Hi Walt,
 
Depends on what you mean as "the greatest". Does that mean the largest in mileage, number of streetcars, best streetcars, etc. etc.
 

 
  I agree--- that's why I didn't use the term "greatest"  Your original post talked about size-- most cars, most trackage, etc. In that context, Philly had the most cars-- I don't know who had the most mileage.
 
   In the context of car comfort, Philly was sorely lacking-- most of its cars were designed to cram the highest number of passengers possible into a car--- and, until the advent of the PCC, most had wooden seating. When the PCC's arrived, with their leather seating, the PRT rebuilt some of its 8000 series Peter Witt cars, and included leather seating, but generally comfort was not a priority in Philadelphia. ( The suburban Red Arrow, its predecessor, Philadelphia & West Chester Traction Co., and the P&W, on the other hand did operate comfortable equipment)--- One of the best, if not the best, in terms of car comfort would have to be the North Shore Line ( Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee RR). The North Shore ran four car limited trains between Chicago & Milwaukee which included full dining car service, and, in 1941 acquired the two Electroliner Trains, which were four car articulated streamliners with a tavern-lounge section, which rivaled the best that the steam railroads offered. Those two trains wound up on the P&W after the North Shore Line quit in 1963 and ran for about 15 years as the Liberty Liners. I had the good fortune to ride one of the Liners on the P&W in the 1960's. Both of these trains still exist, one in a museum in Illinois, restored to its original Electroliner configuration, and the other is in a musem in Pa., and is still a Liberty Liner.


« Last Edit: Mar 5th, 2008, 8:30pm by Walt_C » Logged

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Pennsy
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #16 on: Mar 6th, 2008, 12:37am »
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Hi Walt,
 
Takes a lot of courage and intestinal fortitude to admit that something that you once rode on and appreciated is now in a museum.  
 
And then there is the quote from Mae West: The alternative to growing older is unacceptable.


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Walt_C
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Re: Who had the greatest Traction fleet ?
 
« Reply #17 on: Mar 6th, 2008, 7:52pm »
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on Mar 6th, 2008, 12:37am, Pennsy wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Hi Walt,
 
Takes a lot of courage and intestinal fortitude to admit that something that you once rode on and appreciated is now in a museum.  
 
And then there is the quote from Mae West: The alternative to growing older is unacceptable.

 
  Alan-- I agree with Ms. West----- Just about everything , traction related, that I rode on in revenue service is now in a museum somewhere--- The Bullet Cars, the Red Arrow "St. Louies", Brilliners, and Brill Lightweight Cars, and at least one example of the Philly  Pre and Post War PCC cars ( at least those that aren't now running in San Francisco). Even DC's  PCC No. 1101.  Just a sign of the times, I guess.


« Last Edit: Mar 6th, 2008, 7:54pm by Walt_C » Logged

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