John Speller's Web Pages Germantown Avenue Trolley

John Speller's Web Pages - Philadelphia Streetcars

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The Germantown Avenue trolley in Philadelphia began as the Germantown Passenger Rail Way Company, chartered by an Act of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of 21 April 1858. The horse-drawn tram line was leased to the People's Passenger Railway Company in 1881, which became the People's Traction Company and electrified the line in 1893. The People's Traction Co. was consolidated into the Union Traction Company on 6 September 1895, and this company was in turn leased for 999 years to the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company on 1 July 1902. This was subsequently known as the Philadelphia Tranportation Company and was acquired by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) on 30 September 1968. The line was built to the "Pennsylvania Trolley Gauge" of 5 ft. 2 in. -- six inches more than the 4 ft. 8 in. standard and designed to prevent main line trains from being able to run over street railways. The line originally ran from the Germantown Depot to the junction of 8th. & Dauphin streets. It was extended to 4th. Street and thence along Ritner Street to 8th. Street in 1890. It was subsequently part of SEPTA's Route No. 23, which ran south-east through Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy along Germantown Avenue and then south along Broad Street. At this time it was believed to be the longest streetcar line in the world. The opening of the Broad Street Subway, however, rendered the Broad Street section of the line redundant, following which the Germantown Avenue section was also suspended and replaced by buses in 1992. It is said that the constant frustration of trolleys being held up by illegally-parked vehicles on Germantown Avenue was one reason for the suspension of service; the alternative of enforcing the traffic laws does not seem to have occurred to the City of Philadelphia. The line was renovated in 2008 at a cost of $17M, and there is some hope that it may eventually be reinstated though this is not currently being contemplated before 2014.

For several years "Black Friday" specials were run on the line and there are videos on YouTube of those that ran in 2002 and 2003.
Preserved Philadelphia Rapid Transit single-ended Brill streetcar No. 8534 which formerly operated on the No. 23 route along Germantown Avenue
Striking transportation workers stone a streetcar in Philadelphia, 21 February 1910. Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress
Philadelphia street scene 1897. Courtesy of the National Archives
Repairing the overhead electric lines with a horse-drawn "cherry picker" 1899
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