In the 1920s many streetcars had hard wood or wicker seats. Coal stoves heated them poorly and unevenly. The ride was noisy and rough, and the cars were slow in traffic. Often interior lighting was just bare bulbs. Streetcar riders began deserting the trolleys for automobiles.
Streetcar companies needed to find a way to retain riders. These companies had substantial investments in track and overhead power systems that they could not afford to write off. In 1929 leading streetcar companies formed the Electric Railway Presidents' Conference Committee - soon shortened to PCC. This group had one job; develop a streetcar people would want to ride. Design engineers and staff were hired, and they went to work.
By 1934 the first prototypes were ready for field-testing. That same year the transit industry’s convention was held in Cleveland. The first PCCs went on display, operating over the Cleveland streetcar system. In 1936 Brooklyn, New York placed the first production PCCs into service. Other cities soon followed suit.
PCC cars are defined by a series of patents detailing improvements in truck design, propulsion, braking systems, welded all-steel body, and passenger amenities. They produced a quiet car that accelerated and braked quickly, but rode smoothly. Interior lighting was bright and even. Its padded seats were comfortable, and electric heat warmed the car evenly. The light weight body showed attractive, modern Art Deco styling with chrome trim.
PCCs allowed some operations to continue until the 1950s. The standard design allowed the car to be built by several manufacturers, and at least 5000 PCC cars were built in the US. Many more were also built in foreign countries. The PCCs were so innovative that some patents are being used today. PCC style trucks are still used on some heavy rail transit lines in the US. NORM has a good representation of both pre- and post- war styles including Pittsburgh Railway Company # 1644, Cleveland Transit System #4230 and Shaker Heights Rapid Transit cars # 78 and 92.
Click an image to
Here are SHRT 78, CTS 4230 and PRC 1644 in the McCarthy carhouse at NORM in July of 2005. (S. Heister)
Lines Served On:
Shaker Hieghts Rapid Transit / Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit # 78
This photo, taken in September of 1952, shows SHRT 78 waiting with several other cars for the line to be cleared after a derailment. The location is just west of the belt line bridge on the Shaker line. (J. Spangler)
Passengers board SHRT 78 at the CTS Windermere yard for a fan trip in this 1969 photo. (J. Spangler)
RTA 78 approaches the West Green station on the newly renovated Shaker line in the fall of 1980. The car is on one of its final runs, soon to be replaced by LRVs. Note the new cantenary-style overhead, the LRVs are equipped with pantographs. (B. A. Gage)
Fall of 2011 finds 78 spotted on track 5 next to the Bennett Carhouse at NORM. PCCs CTS 4230 (in TTC paint) and PRC 1644 are just behind with CTS Bluebird Rapid Transit 112 bringing up the rear. The bodies of Lake Shore Electric Freight Motor 42 and Steel Coach 181 can be seen to the right of the photo. (B. C. Gage)
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit # 92
SHRT 92 is seen here in service on the Shaker's Green Road line. (Museum Collection)
92 approaches the Lynnfield Road station on the Shaker's Van Aken Boulevard line at the head end of this multiple unit train. (J. Spangler)
SHRT 92 and 57 on a NORM fan trip at the Shaker's Kingsbury yard in the fall of 1974. Car 57 was built by the St. Louis Car Company for the Twin City Rapid Transit Company. It was Acquired by the Shaker when the line ended streetcar operations.(J. Spangler)
This photo shows car 92 eastbound at Shaker Square. Although it bears the RTA logo on the side, the car retains its SHRT colors. (C. Crouse)
Here is 92 at the Museum in August of 2008. (B. C. Gage)