Philadelphia SEPTA PCC trolley car (Photo SEPTA)

USA: Presidents’ Conference Committee trams dating back to 1947 have re-entered service on Philadelphia’s Route 15 following refurbishment.

The 1 581 mm gauge vehicles were originally built by St Louis Car Co and remained in service until 1992. In 2005, 18 cars which had been extensively rebuilt by Brookville Equipment Co to meet Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards returned to Route 15. By 2020 these were due for another overhaul, which was aligned with road projects. Tram services were temporarily replaced by buses.

The overhauls are being undertaken at operator SEPTA’s Woodland depot. Extensive research was required, including a review of the original blueprints to reverse-engineer parts that are no longer manufactured. Eight vehicles have been completed so far, enabling Route 15 to operate with a combination of trams and buses.

‘These trolleys have been taken apart and rebuilt piece-by-piece — from the frames to the floors, from the windows to the wheelchair lifts’, said Chief Operating Officer Scott Sauer when the trams re-entered services on June 16. ‘The PCCs are workhorses, and thanks to our dedicated team, these iconic vehicles are ready to make their return — restored to near museum-quality standards.’

The PCC vehicles will eventually be replaced by light rail vehicles which have been ordered from Alstom as part of the Trolley Modernization programme which SEPTA said aims ’transform the nation’s largest trolley network into an accessible, fast, and easy-to-use system’.