History - About Your Kenosha P.C.C. Streetcars

Kenosha’s six former Toronto streetcars were part of a group of 50 Presidents’ Conference Committee (P.C.C.) streetcars numbered 4500 to 4549 and were the last new P.C.C. streetcars ordered by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in March 1950.  They entered service at the St. Clair Division in early 1951.  TTC designated the cars class A-8.  The cars were more austere than previous TTC P.C.C. streetcars in order to save money and were assembled by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company with components and body shells provided by the St. Louis Car Company, St. Louis, Missouri.

Between 1972 and 1975, the six Kenosha cars along with 168 other P.C.C. streetcars were rebuilt to remain operational for five to ten years while suitable replacement equipment was being sought.  Eventually that equipment, the Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) started replacing 200 non-rebuilt P.C.C. cars in September 1979.  In addition to the CLRV, which was similar to a PCC in design and capacity, Toronto acquired a fleet of larger, articulated light-rail vehicles (ALRV). As the LRVs entered service TTC gradually retired the PCC cars over the period 1977 to 1992.  In the last few years of their operation they were used to supplement the LRVs during weekday rush hour service.  

In 1985, a new Light Rail Transit Line (L.R.T), Harbourfront Spadina was proposed and the T.T.C. decided to rebuild 19 surplus A-8 class P.C.C. streetcars as an alternative to purchasing costly new cars. Those cars, which included the Kenosha cars, were completely rebuilt between 1987 and 1991.  In December of 1995, all but two of those cars became surplus and were sold. Five cars were purchased for Kenosha at bargain prices, reconditioned and painted in the liveries of five North American cities—Toronto (4610), Cincinnati (4616), Chicago (4606), Johnstown/Kenosha (4615), and Pittsburgh (4609). The cars were like new. They have received excellent maintenance and will last indefinitely.

Two additional P.C.C. cars joined the operating fleet in October of 2011.  The cars had been at the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum. The East Troy Board decided to deaccess the cars.  They were purchased by East Troy member John DeLamater, and donated to Kenosha Area Transit for service in Kenosha. The cars are former TTC 4617 and former SEPTA 2185.  TTC 4617 is a "twin" of the other five TTC cars (photo above).  It was painted in the original TTC livery when it arrived in Kenosha. It received extensive body work in 2015, and was repainted in the livery of the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI). SEPTA 2185 wears the last P.C.C. livery of the Philadelphia streetcars: red, white, and blue (photo below).  For photos of each car, click on Kenosha Fleet.pdf

The name P.C.C. is derived from the Electric Railway Presidents’ Conference Committee (ERPCC), a committee formed by presidents of privately owned street railway properties in 1930 with Dr. Thomas Conway Jr. as Chairman. The purpose of this committee was to create superior technology for modern Electric Railway rolling stock. The first P.C.C. cars were air-electric (with air-operated brakes) and were introduced by the Brooklyn and Queens Transit Corporation, in 1936, going into service on the 68 Smith Coney Island line. After WWII, all PCCs manufactured in the United States were all-electric. The last U.S. produced P.C.C. streetcars were a group of 25 delivered to the Municipal Railways of San Francisco in 1951-52.  The last car was numbered 1040.  Car 1040 survived and was rebuilt by Brookville Equipment; it operates regularly in San Francisco on the F Line.

The P.C.C. streetcar was conceived by professionals and expert foresight, a design classic, and a triumph of U.S. know-how in an era when America n technological genius led the world.  Over 5,000 units were produced for North American Systems and long after America forgot its P.C.C. cars, 16,000 were produced under license in Europe.  Thousands of cars using P.C.C. parts were also built in the USSR without license from the ERPCC.

Unfortunately, in North America, one streetcar operation after another gave way to motor buses after WWII, in part due to a conspiracy of the motor bus and the oil industry, and only a handful of streetcar systems survived.  Ironically, the P.C.C. streetcars on those systems regardless of good or poor maintenance outlived their replacement, the motor bus, by decades.  PCC streetcars continue to operate in 2017 in Boston, Kenosha, Philadelphia, San Diego, and San Francisco.  For more information, go to
http://downtowntrolley.org/


When the HarborPark Redevelopment project was proposed in Kenosha, Joseph McCarthy, then director of Kenosha Transit, had the vision of a streetcar line that would integrate the newly developed area on the shores of Lake Michigan with downtown Kenosha. He worked tirelessly to create the system, putting together financing from a number of unconventional sources.  Thanks to his efforts, streetcars were brought back to our region after a 42-year absence (streetcar service ended in Milwaukee on March 2, 1958).  Thanks to Joe, the cars are PCC cars.


Information provided by John F. Doyle and John DeLamater - photos by John DeLamater.