Heritage streetcars or heritage trams are a part of the efforts to preserve rail traffic heritage. In addition to preserving street running rail vehicles, heritage streetcar operations can include upkeep of historic rail infrastructure. Working heritage streetcars are closely related to the growing global heritage railway movement and form a part of the living history of rail transport.
As with modern streetcar systems, the vehicles are referred to as trams or tramcars in the United Kingdom, Australasia and certain other places (with tramway being the line or system), but as streetcars or trolleys in North America. The last two terms are often used interchangeably in the United States, with trolley being preferred in the eastern US and streetcar in Canada and the western US. In parts of the United States, internally powered buses made to resemble a streetcar, are often referred to—inaccurately—as "trolleys". To avoid further confusion with trolley buses, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) refers to them as "trolley-replica buses".
- 1 Operations
- 2 Around the world
- 2.1 Europe
- 2.2 North America
- 2.3 South America
- 2.4 Rest of the world
- 3 See also
- 4 References
Museums, heritage tram line operators and amateur enthusiast can preserve original vintage vehicles or create replicas of historic vehicles to re-create or preserve streetcar technology of the past. Heritage vehicles that are kept fully functional can be used on heritage tramlines or for charter traffic.
Heritage tram line, that offer scheduled service on a certain route, and showcases historic aspects of streetcar systems, are usually operated by heritage vehicles. Heritage tramlines that operate on a rail network that mainly serves the interest of modern urban mobility, have difficulty in exhibiting historic tramway infrastructure, apart from the car itself. This kind of tramlines are often operated mainly to attract tourist, instead of providing urban access. Some technical aspects of historic tram infrastructure can prevent the use of a heritage line as an integral part of the public transport system. For example, heritage tramlines often lack handicapped access which is required by law in many countries. Heritage tramlines can be either newly installed lines (created in modern times, 1970s or later) or be surviving older tramlines which have retained use of historic trams for all or most of their scheduled service.
Rail tracks designated solely or mainly to heritage streetcar traffic offer best opportunities for preservation of historic streetcar scenes. Some heritage tramways use all-new construction while others make use of an existing, usually disused, freight railway, by installing overhead wires and passenger stops. In some cities, new heritage tramways have been installed in the city center, to attract tourists and shoppers. Proponents of such projects claim that using a simple, reliable form of transit from 50 or 100 years ago can bring history to life for 21st century users. In serving certain types of transport needs, heritage tramways can turn out to be more economical than their modern counterparts, often with installations that can be built at a fraction of the cost of a corresponding modern standard. However, there are trade-offs; among other things, heritage systems can offer slower speeds, less capacity and higher upkeep costs due to use of non-industry-standard technology.
Around the world
In France, the Deûle Valley tramway near Lille which runs along a 3 km (1.9 mi) track from Marquette-lez-Lille to Wambrechies features several tram vehicles dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
In Turin, in the north west of Italy, operates the historical route 7, a double way circular route around the town centre. Turin is the first town in Italy with a tramway lines, powered by historical streetcars. The inauguration of the heritage tramway line was during the celebrations of the 150° anniversary of the national unity, on March 2011.
In the nearby metropolis of Milan, the continued, extensive use of the "Series 1500 tram" is an example of a heritage tramway which blends into everyday urban life to the extent that it is not regarded as one.
In Malmö, Sweden, a technical museum operates an in-street heritage tram line in summer months. In Swedens capital, Stockholm, a 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) section of former route 7 was reopened in 1991 as a heritage tramway, using vintage cars.
Heritage trams provide all of the service on some of the Lisbon tramway network in Portugal, and in Porto a long-closed section of tramway in the historic Batalha section of the town center was reopened in 2007 for use by historic trams. In Sintra there is a seasonally operated heritage tramway.
In Spain, a new heritage tramway was opened in A Coruña (La Coruña) in 1997. Tramvia Blau in Barcelona has been in operation since 1904 but still uses trams built in 1904-15, and thus has become a heritage line. Similarly, the tramway connecting Sóller with Puerto de Sóller, on the island of Majorca, is operated with vintage trams; thus, although opened in 1913, it is a heritage line.
Two separate heritage tramways operate in Istanbul, Turkey, one on the European side of the Bosporus and one on the Asian side. The former opened in 1991 between Tünel (funicular station) and Taksim metro station, and the latter in 2003 in the suburb of Kadıköy.
In the United Kingdom the majority of tram lines were lifted before the heritage movement began to flourish, and tracks and trams scrapped. Although trams are returning to British cities, they are modern transportation systems (also known as light rail), not heritage operations. There are, however, three notable heritage tram operations in the UK. The National Tramway Museum at Crich, is located in an old limestone quarry and has a collection of preserved trams. Strictly speaking, this would be considered a tramway museum with an operating tram line, rather than being a heritage tramway. Among the heritage railways on the Isle of Man, at least the Manx Electric Railway qualifies as a heritage tramway as well. Otherwise, the Blackpool tramway is the only surviving first-generation urban tram system in the UK and provides a service running along the Blackpool Pleasure Beach using both historic and modern trams. There is also a modern "heritage" tramway in Birkenhead, Merseyside.
Places in Britain where preserved trams operate:
- Beamish Museum
- Black Country Museum
- The National Tramway Museum (at Crich)
- East Anglia Transport Museum, near Lowestoft, Suffolk
- Heaton Park Tramway, Manchester
- Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society  Birkenhead
- Summerlee Heritage Park, near Coatbridge
- Seaton Tramway, Devon
Heritage streetcar lines are operating in over 20 US cities, and are in planning or construction stages in others. Several new heritage streetcar lines have been opened since the 1970s, and some are stand-alone lines while others make use of a section of a modern light rail system.
Heritage streetcar systems operating in Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (SEPTA route 15) and Tampa, Florida are among the larger examples. A heritage line operates in Charlotte, North Carolina and will become a part of the city's new transit system. Another such line, called The Silver Line, operates in San Diego. The San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni, runs exclusively historic trolleys on its heavily used F Market & Wharves line, serving Market Street and the tourist areas along the Embarcadero, including Fisherman's Wharf. Boston's Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority runs exclusively PCC streetcars on its Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line.
Dallas has the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority. Denver has the Platte Valley Trolley, a heritage line recalling the open-sided streetcars of the early 20th century. Old Pueblo Trolley is a volunteer-run heritage line in Tucson, Arizona; its popularity inspired, in large part, a modern streetcar system for Tucson currently in the final planning stages, which would incorporate the heritage line. The VTA in San Jose, California also maintains a heritage trolley fleet, for occasional use on the downtown portion of a new light rail system opened in 1988. Other cities with heritage streetcar lines include Galveston, Texas; Kenosha, Wisconsin and San Pedro, California (home of the port of Los Angeles). The National Park Service operates a system in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Most heritage streetcar lines use overhead trolley wires to power the cars, as was the case with the vast majority of original streetcar lines. However, on the Galveston Island Trolley heritage line, which opened in 1988, using modern-day replicas of vintage trolleys, the cars were powered by an on-board diesel engine, as local authorities were concerned that overhead wires would be too susceptible to damage from hurricanes. In spite of that precaution, damage in 2008 from Hurricane Ike was heavy enough to put the line out of service indefinitely, and as of 2014 it has yet to reopen.
Another heritage line lacking trolley wires is Savannah, Georgia's River Street Streetcar line, which opened in February 2009. It is the first line to use a diesel/electric streetcar whose built-in electricity generator is powered by biodiesel. In El Reno, Oklahoma, the Heritage Express Trolley connects Heritage Park with downtown, using a single streetcar that has been equipped with a propane-powered on-board generator. The car formerly operated on SEPTA's Norristown High Speed Line, where third-rail current collection is used. The El Reno line is single-track and 0.9 miles (1.4 km) long.
In Portland, Oregon, replica-vintage cars provided a heritage streetcar service, named Portland Vintage Trolley, along a section of that city's 1986-operated light rail line from 1991 to 2013. Elsewhere in Portland, the Willamette Shore Trolley is a seasonal, volunteer-operated excursion service on a former freight railroad line, to Lake Oswego, Oregon. This operation uses a diesel-powered generator on a trailer towed or pushed by the streetcar, as the line lacks trolley wires. Similarly, the Astoria Riverfront Trolley in Astoria, Oregon, is a seasonal heritage-trolley service along a section of former freight railroad and using a diesel-powered generator on a trailer to provide electricity to the streetcar.
Other seasonal or weekends-only heritage streetcar lines operate in Yakima, Washington (Yakima Electric Railway Museum); Fort Collins, Colorado and Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Fort Collins and Fort Smith lines are both operated by an original (as opposed to replica) Birney-type streetcar, and in both cases the individual car in use is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Over 50 years later, the revival of extended streetcar operations in New Orleans is credited by many to the worldwide fame gained by its streetcars built by the Perley A. Thomas Car Works in 1922-23. These cars were operating on the system's Desire route made famous by Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. Some Perley Thomas cars were maintained in continuous service on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line until Hurricane Katrina caused major damage to the right-of-way in 2005. Fortunately, the historic streetcars suffered only minor damage and several have been transferred to serve on the recently rebuilt Canal Street line while the St. Charles line is being repaired. New Orleans' St. Charles streetcar line is a National Historic Landmark. Pre-Katrina, New Orleans had plans to reconstruct the Desire line along its original route down St. Claude Avenue.
In San Francisco, parts of the cable car and Muni streetcar system (specifically the above-mentioned F Market & Wharves line) are heritage lines, although they are also functioning parts of the city's transit system. The cable cars are a National Historic Landmark - with the New Orleans streetcars, the only such landmarks that move. Located east of San Francisco is one of several museums in the U.S. that restore and operate vintage streetcars and interurbans, the Western Railway Museum.
Heritage streetcar lines:
- Downtown Historic Railway, in Vancouver, B.C.
- Nelson Electric Tramway, in Nelson, B.C.: a single streetcar (#23) operating since 1992 on a 1.2 km route from City wharf to Lakeside Park
- High Level Bridge Streetcar, in Edmonton, Alberta
- Whitehorse trolley, in Whitehorse, Yukon
Museums with operational heritage streetcar lines:
- Halton County Radial Railway, in Rockwood, Ontario
- Canadian Railway Museum, in Delson/Saint-Constant, Quebec
- Heritage Park Historical Village, in Calgary, Alberta
- Fort Edmonton Park in Edmonton, Alberta
Transit systems operating heritage streetcars:
- Toronto Transit Commission: operates 3 heritage streetcars (2 PCC and 1 Peter Witt) on regular streetcar tracks, on a private-rental basis as well as for special events. The TTC often operates a PCC streetcar on route 509 Harbourfront on Sundays during the summer.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, a heritage tram line was inaugurated In 1980 in the Caballito neighbourhood on existing vintage street tracks. Presently a proposal for a heritage tram in colonial San Telmo is under discussion.
Argentina's capital also hosts the La Brugeoise cars, the Buenos Aires Metro (Subte) Line A rolling stock, since its inauguration in 1913. They were built by Belgian railway rolling stock manufacturer La Brugeoise, et Nicaise, et Delcuve between 1911 and 1919 for the Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company's (Compañía de Tranvías Anglo-Argentina, CTAA in Spanish) first metro line. They were originally designed to run both as metro and tramway cars, but they were refurbished in 1927 for underground use only. They are the oldest metro rolling stock in commercial service in the world as well as a tourist attraction and part of Buenos Aires cultural heritage. The A line also contains a vintage station, Perú. They have been in continuous use for a whole century since 1913 to January 2013 when they were replaced by new coaches, with an average number of about 300.000 everyday passengers since the 170.000 who traveled on them on their first day. Some of the coaches had already been preserved for touristic purposes, and now the remaining of the fleet is under careful restoration and is intended to render service on weekends and hollidays.
After briefly operating a short heritage line along Embaré Beach in the mid-1980s, Santos, Brazil in 2000 opened a new heritage tramway in the historic Valongo district, using a car built in 1911 with an peculiar rail gauge of 1,350 mm (4 ft 5 5⁄32 in). The line is being extended, and additional trams have been added. A heritage tramway was opened in Belém, Brazil in 2005.
A heritage tramway was opened in Iquique, Chile in 2004.
A heritage tramway was opened in Lima, Peru in 1997.
Rest of the world
- Cable car (railway)
- Heritage railway
- List of heritage railways
- List of town tramway systems
- Young, Andrew D. (1997). Veteran & Vintage Transit (ISBN 0-9647279-2-7). St. Louis: Archway Publishing.
- "Bus and Trolleybus Definitions". American Public Transportation Association. 2003. Archived from the original on 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- Electrisch Museumtramlijn Amsterdam
- Nostalgic Tram Line No. 91
- La vallée de la Deûle en tramway from Linternaute (in French). Retrieved 19 February 2009.
- Heritage Tramway Line "7"
- it:Tram ATM serie 1500
- Oy Stadin Ratikat Ab website
- Russell, Michael (Dec. 2007). "The return to Batalha". Tramways & Urban Transit, p. 490. LRTA Publishing.
- El Reno Attractions (El Reno Convention & Visitors Bureau)
- El Reno Heritage Express Trolley (unofficial page)
- Cornelius Swart (2014-03-02). "TriMet to ship off Portland's iconic trolleys". Portland, Oregon: KGW. Retrieved 2014-02. "Later this year, TriMet will send the last two of Portland’s four old-timey street trolleys to St. Louis. When it does, downtown Portland will lose a local icon and a little piece of its streetcar history. TriMet, which owns the streetcars, said in an era of cutbacks, it’s unavoidable. Critics say "you'll regret it.""
- "Fort Collins Municipal Railway Birney Safety Streetcar #21". Fort Collins History Connection. City of Fort Collins. 2009. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
- "National Register of Historic Places: Search results for Fort Smith, Sebastian County". Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (an agency of the state government's Department of Arkansas Heritage). 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
- Morrison, Allen (1996). Latin America by Streetcar. New York: Bonde Press. ISBN 0-9622348-3-4.
- enelSubte.com - La línea A avanza hasta los años ochenta (Spanish only)
- "The Tramways of Santos (São Paulo state), Brazil". June 2006. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
- Morrison, Allen (1996). Latin America by Streetcar, p. 141. New York: Bonde Press. ISBN 0-9622348-3-4.
- Carlson et al. (1986), The Colorful Streetcars We Rode, Bulletin 125 of the Central Electric Railfans' Association, Chicago, Il. ISBN 0-915348-25-X
- Taplin, Michael; and Russell, Michael (2002). Trams in Western Europe (ISBN 1-85414-265-8). Harrow Weald, Middlesex, UK: Capital Transport Publishing.