Joel McNeil, director of transportation sales for the Brookville Equipment Corporation, stands in front of a soon-to-be-restored streetcar located on the premises of the Pennsylvania firm, which specializes in streetcar restoration. Photos by David Kidd except where noted.
A slab of thick steel is cut at Brookville’s streetcar restoration facility. America is experiencing what U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls a “streetcar revival.”
Close-up of a streetcar’s wheel assembly. Brookville is equipped to repair, restore and replace major components of a streetcar, most of which are rusting hulks when they arrive at the facility.
A worker uses a metal lathing machine to fashion a new part for one of the streetcars, which can range in age from 60 to 100 years.
This massive metal press machine helps fabricate new parts for streetcars undergoing repair and restoration.
A close-up view of the outer shell of a streetcar. Corroded and damaged sections have been replaced with new steel.
The original foot pedals in the cab await replacement. Once ubiquitous throughout the country, streetcars virtually disappeared from city streets by the 1960s.
One of Brookville’s machinists. The workers at Brookville take pride in the craftsmanship of their restoration work.
Inside the frame of a partially restored streetcar. The typical restoration project can take as long as 18 months.
A welder works on the roof of a streetcar frame. While new streetcars have appeared in Seattle, Portland and elsewhere, other cities, including San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston and Philadelphia, have kept their stock of historic trolleys in working condition.
Using modern tools to bring a piece of transit history back to life.
Brookville’s McNeil estimates 40 cities in North America are exploring or planning new streetcar lines. The American Public Transportation Association puts the number around 80.
Brookville’s workers have years of experience restoring the interiors and exteriors of streetcars, bringing them back to life after a hiatus that has lasted for decades.
The outline of the original Presidential Conference Committee (PCC) body frame is visible here. Philadelphia contracted with Brookville to restore 18 vintage PCC cars to run on its Girard Avenue line.
More restoration work. The Philadelphia PCC cars date back to 1947.
The shell of a streetcar, bound for San Francisco, is ready for the next phase of restoration.
Another view of a streetcar frame
Interior restoration. One of the challenges of streetcar restoration is making them compliant with the American Disabilities Act.
A streetcar, originally from New Jersey, has been restored to its original colors, before it heads out to San Francisco, where old trolleys from around the country (and the globe) operate on a regular basis.
The interior of a streetcar that is nearing full restoration.
The undercarriage of a streetcar. Restored streetcar lines have helped revitalize neighborhoods, such as Philadelphia’s Port Richmond. Altogether, Philadelphia spent $40 million restoring its streetcars for the Girard Avenue line.
A worker prepares the underside of a streetcar for sandblasting. The popularity of old streetcars in New Orleans has been credited with attracting new apartments, hotels and retail development.
A fully restored streetcar leaves the Brookville factory, headed for San Francisco. Photo credit: Heather Moran, SFMTA photographer and archivist.
A Brookville-restored streetcar in San Francisco. While they have the look and feel of historic streetcars, the restored trolleys are equipped for modern day needs, can have air conditioning, are ADA compliant and meet modern safety standards. Photo credit: Rick Laubscher.