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

Kenosha’s five former Toronto A8 class P.C.C. streamliner 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, entering service at the St. Clair Division in early 1951.  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 five 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.  Final retirement of all Toronto P.C.C. cars took place within the next decade as the articulated light rail vehicles (ALRV) became operational.

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 1990.  In December of 1995, all but two of those cars became surplus and were sold. The cars for Kenosha were purchased at bargain prices, reconditioned and painted in the liveries of five North American cities—Toronto, Cincinnati, Chicago, Johnstown/Kenosha, and Pittsburgh. The cars are like new and with proper maintenance will last indefinitely.

The name P.C.C. is derived from the Electric Railway Presidents’ Conference Committee (ERPCC), a committee that was 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 air electric P.C.C. cars were introduced by the Brooklyn and Queens Transit Corporation, in 1936 going into service on the 68 Smith Coney Island line. The last U.S. produced P.C.C. streetcars went to the Municipal Railways of San Francisco in 1952.

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 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 moto r bus, by decades.

Thanks to the vision and hard work of Joseph McCarthy, the late director of Kenosha Transit, P.C.C. streetcars were brought back to our region after a 42-year absence.

Information provided by John F. Doyle - photos by Mike Pavelich