Philadelphia & West Chester Traction 78

Car 78 at the Museum's Richfol platform in 1992. (Bruce Wells photo)

Car 78 at the Museum’s Richfol platform in 1992. (Bruce Wells photo)

The onset of the Great Depression brought with it a spiraling decline in the revenue and ridership of most streetcar companies. For many lines, the only answer was abandonment or motor buses. Car 78 is one of a group of ten cars purchased from the J.G. Brill Company in 1931 and 1932 by the Philadelphia and West Chester Traction Company as part of a bold plan to combat the decline while maintaining the financial health of the company through the tough economic times.
The “80 cars,” as they became known, were designed for one-man operation, equipped for high-speed running, and employed lightweight aluminum construction. The cars were so successful that five additional cars were ordered even before the initial five cars ordered had been fully delivered.
These new cars were cheaper to man, and reduced power consumption, while their high-speed equipment cut the scheduled operating times and made the service even more attractive to potential riders. This, coupled with a fare reduction and consolidation of other competing forms of transit in the area enabled the management to stave off the effects of the terrible economic times, and go on to build one of the most successful privately-owned transportation companies in the country.
The consolidation of streetcar and bus operations by the Philadelphia and West Chester Traction Company in the early 1930s gave rise to discussion of changing the corporate name to better reflect the new, diversified business. In 1936, the company became the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company, and adopted the “Red Arrow Lines” logo as part of a carefully planned public relations campaign.
The “80 cars” served Philadelphia’s western suburbs for 50 years. Their last 15 years of service saw them used primarily in rush hour service. Car 78 was withdrawn from service and acquired by the museum in September 1982. To the collection, it represents the transition in electric railway design, construction, and technology between arch roof cars and the PCC.

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Car 78 eastbound in service at Delchester Farm, 5-29-54. (Edward S. Miller photo)

Car Number 78 Car Builder J.G. Brill Company
Year Built 1932 Type DE Suburban Master Unit
Length 49’2″ Width 8’10″
Height 10’6″
Seats 61 Motors GE 301B
Year Acquired 1982 Status In operation

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