I always enjoy a good, crisp black and white photo – like a classic Black and White movie, the use of shadow and light can create a very moving effect. But it can sometimes trick us into thinking the world of our past was merely composed of shades of gray. Here are just a few vintage mass transit photos that help us remember that the past was also full of vibrant color…
Boston – mid-60’s…
Boston PCC on Beacon Street – 1961…
Downtown Baltimore – early 60’s…
Baltimore New Look on Bush St – late 60’s…
MBTA (Boston) PCC making a turn – early 60’s. I’m a huge fan of rail transit, and love these old PCCs and trolleys – but I realize how impractical it is for rail and rubber-tired vehicles to share the same roadway – this is a good example. See the white stripe on the ground next to the track – that denotes the “swing-out” distance; usually just shortened to “swing.” Swing is how far the trolley overhang continues straight before the set-back wheels or trucks begin the turn, and the resulting arc. Imagine having to cope with that and cars, trucks, motorcycles, and pedestrians.
Central Northside Pittsburgh – early 60’s. In the background is the historic Garden Theater – a 1,000 seat venue that opened in 1915 and closed in 2007. Fortunately, the building is still standing.
Toronto – Bay and King Streets – 1965…
Baltimore – 1963…
Pittsburgh updated TDH 3501/3502 Old Looks at Gateway Center – these were smaller 30 foot models made until 1969.
Toronto PCC rounding a corner – can see the significant swing here also…
Boston – Park Street Station…
Pittsburgh – Travella Loop – mid-60’s…
Toronto Old Look at Jane/Bloor Loop – 1962…
Pittsburgh – South Hills Junction – mid-60’s…
Pittsburgh – Smithfield at 6th Ave – late 60’s…
Baltimore – Gay Street – early 60’s…
Toronto – Rounding the Humber Loop – 1967…
Video of the MBTA Boston Ashmont-Mattapan Line still in use today…
That first Boston pic looks like the E line on Huntington. I rode that a lot in the early 80s – I would either get a green pcc or a new Boeing.
The New Look buses are clearly all ancient now, but they will always be the best looking bus ever in my mind.
I loved the video at the end. And the fact that those old trolleys are still running there. I do, however, feel sorry for the people who live near that loop that makes the wheels screech and howl so much.
I spent quite a few hours in the SF Municipal Railway (Muni) PCC cars during my high school years, 1969 to 1973. Many years later, Muni revived use of the PCC cars and now has a fairly large fleet that runs mostly through tourist areas; many of the cars are painted in liveries from other cities including Toronto and Mexico City. Three of the “new”Muni cars are pictured in the opening photo. Seeing them in my rare visits to “The City” brings back memories; some good, some not so good, of after school commutes on the K Ingleside line. And the N Judah or L Taraval.
I love the second picture, from Boston – the Volvo 122S wagon is identical to the one my mother owned from 1964 to 1986.
Thanks dman – I should have mentioned that the first pic was of the SF refurbished trolleys – I plan to do a post on those in the near future.
Those loops are interesting and NOISY. My house is located at the exact end of a former streetcar line. According to old maps, the turnaround was done with a T-turn, not a loop. The occupants of this house before 1936 must have experienced a similar constant screeching as the cars made the tight left onto this street, backed around to the terminus, then started down the boulevard again.
Great stuff! Thank you so much.
I did not realize that Baltimore had street cars into the ’60s, although it makes sense. Sadly they were all gone by the time we moved there in 1965. I would have loved to go ride them if they were still there, having been deprived of the experience since we left Innsbruck five years earlier.
We rode the ones there very often, and they were a major source of early childhood memories.
The York Road line to Towson was the last to go, in early November, 1963.
The Mattapan to Ashmont trolleys in Boston are unique in that they are not preserved so much as historical transportation, but as a cheaper alternative to to the upgrades that would be needed to the rail line itself to accommodate modern machines. They’ve been rebuilt at different times through the years. There used to be a sign that read “Mattapan to Ashmont via High Speed Trolley”. Top speed was around 35 mph. The line is less than 3 miles long. At Ashmont you switch trains for a modern subway ride into Boston or out to Braintree.
Pittsburgher here. When the new Siemens trolleys were introduced, they held onto the PCC models for the secondary lines. As a child I rode on one to a Christmas display at PPG place. Then as a teenager, one of my classmate’s father was killed by one.
I get that story turned dark pretty fast, but those are the sum of my experiences regarding PCC trolleys.
By the time I grew up trolleys were long gone from Edmonton streets. I’ve enjoyed riding the restored trolley’s in San Francisco to get a sense of what they’re all about.
Edmonton runs an early 20th Century trolley from Old Strathcona across the High Level bridge to the 109th street downtown area. A unique experience unless you’re scared of heights, the rail deck on the bridge is 156 feet above the North Saskatchewan River.
All the points about street cars not mixing well with other traffic are rarely stated. Up until about 2005, we still had what we called, “Old men in choo-choo hats” were tirelessly lobbying for the return of both street cars and passenger rail.
All the national passenger rail was taken over by the government of Canada inn 1977, much to the joy of both the CPR and CN. They never made any money on passenger rail anyway.
Here in Vancouver we have retained trolley buses which make downtown much quitter and clean. Most of the other buses are now running on CNG. In my opinion, trolley buses are the best of both worlds.
Toronto actually didn’t decide to keep the TTC street cars. The Ontario government has always been skinflints and funding was not available for anything else. The TTC subway is totally inadequate for city the size of Toronto
Agreed, Canuck. The TTC is decades past its prime, the subway in particular. It should have at least doubled its linear measurement by this time compared to what it is. They could build for the next fifty years consecutively to try to catch up and it might not even be enough.
I used to love riding on trolley buses, they had a unique sound all their own.
I rode on all these streetcars pictured in Toronto above in my youth. The King car (going to the Ex), the Queen car (with the Neville destination), The Bloor Jane loop, and the Humber loop, with the ice cream stand inside. My family and I passed through that Humber loop on our way to buy our 1966 Valiant. Great times, great photos!
Sadly, got to agree too. Very little romance in an electric bus, but a better idea in reality.
I’m always interested in seeing other countries’ trams. With those set-back trucks and low front entry, those things would have a crazy amount of swing. No wonder they’d cause trouble to other road users. You would have to have wide streets and a well-trained populace.
The W-class Melbourne trams I used to catch back in the seveties and eighties were an old twenties drop-centre design with the end saloons right over the trucks. There was no swing to speak of, and most seats were within the wheelbase, so unless you sat right up behind the driver there was none of that odd feeling when rounding corners.
The MMTB did trial a PCC type design (before my time), but found it unsatisfactory. I’d have to think the swing would have made many of the corners on our suburban routes impossible. I’d have to look up my tram books to find out more, but I think they only built two or three of them. Instead they persevered with the W-class, building essentially the same design well into the fifties.
This plan’s for a W2, but apart from driver’s cabin width, front and rear lighting, seating arrangements and sliding doors instead of drop-down canvas, and various mechanical improvements the design stayed the same through the seventies, and these were still regulars in traffic through the nineties at least.
Never stopped to think about that, Pete. But now you mention it, on the current French-built ones with big French noses, if you sit up front you feel like the tram might be going straight on before you swoop like a carousel rider into where you expected to go (even if the old lady next to you doesn’t appreciate your arrival on her lap if you failed to hang on). Still seem to fit in the old network, though.
Great pictures, Jim. Lots of memories of riding PCCs on both the 36 Drake and 42/38 Mt. Lebanon/Beechview lines in their PAT liveries when I was a kid. I remember the old look buses – but the ones I rode were either New Looks, AM Generals or Neoplans.
And some really good news – the Garden Theater is finally getting renovated as part of new mixed use complex. (The buildings to its right in the picture are long gone, and the former Masonic Hall next door was already renovated.) Details here:
Thanks for the info Robert – it’s great to hear the Garden will rise again…
In the “Baltimore 63” photo, I couldn’t help but notice the ’62 Ford, just like the one in the reposted article from 3 days ago! 🙂
Great stuff as per, Mr B.
Unfortunately, trolley buses make much more sense than a tram, even though bereft of their character for mine. In Melbourne, Oz, the network of trams is huge, yet too often they’re hung up by the smallest protrusion of an unthinking car, or a turning one. A trolleybus is quieter too.
But I’d have to say I’d hardly recognise this city without them, especially the noise. There’s just something sweet about bells and clacketty tracks that seems a long way from the relentless efficiency of the modern world. Actually, as my trolleybus argument goes, they ARE removed just so.
For some slightly related trivia, the famous Sydney Opera House was the site of a tram depot until the building of that monument began in about ’61. Sydney discarded its trams about then.
And lo and behold, started installing them again just very recently, so it seems there are plenty of other fools like me.
Interesting pictures…we lived in Pittsburgh (environs) from about ’60 to ’62 (2 different towns) , Baltimore (Catonsville) from ’62 to early ’65; neat to see pictures of the towns around then though I was a bit too young to go on the trams. Back then we were a 1 car family, and moved around a lot; got a chance to go back to Pittsburgh after many years; I recognized a small store on a stretch of road instantly though it had been more than 50 years since I was last there, my Mother used to walk with us to the store from where we lived during the day since she didn’t have access to the car when my Father was at work. We lived there less than a year. Took the bus in Catonsville to school. Before I was born my parents lived in Marblehead Mass and my Mother worked for Mass Mutual on Milk St. in Boston, she took the T in daily (guess a train, rather than a tram) but both parents originally from Wilkes-Barre, PA area, they had a tram that went into the city, and if I’m not mistaken (before my time) had one that went into Scranton nearby. The town my Mother’s parents lived in was kind of a time capsule, they had some brick streets, and a curfew alarm that blasted about 7PM, well into the 70’s (they moved the municipal building, probably that’s when they discontinued the regular alarm blasts).
My Mother has lived in the same house for 38 years now, so their former frequent moving eventually ended…though my Dad was originally in the Army, that’s not the source of why we kept moving, eventually he became a chemist and right out of college started working on semiconductors for Sylvania…but had many different subsequent jobs (all but one involving semiconductors), each one prompting a move (sometimes more than one) mostly on the east coast, which probably ended up not as good as if he had stayed in California (though we lived in LA area, not northern, for about 1.5 years, didn’t work out so he didn’t stay very long).