Post by John Levine Post by Marland
North America seems to be a bit of a hold out with Toronto ,Philadelphia
and Boston still using trolley poles
on normal services, New Orleans is arguable mainly a heritage operation
that locals happen to use because it is there. San Francisco definitely a
Toronto's newest cars have both pantographs and trolley poles, but
really need pantographs since the trolley poles can't provide full
power. They're in the process of updating the OHLE for pantographs,
supposed to be done next year.
In Boston the main streetcar system, the green line, has used
pantographs since the Boeing LRVs in the 1970s. The Mattapan branch
of the red line, which is only 2.5 mi long, still uses ancient PCC
trolley cars, I gather because it would be very expensive to rebuild
the line to handle the green line cars. The community has rebuffed
suggestions to turn it into a busway. There are two trolleybus routes
from the Cambridge underground station out to the suburbs which
replaced streetcars a long time ago.
SEPTA in Philadelphia has a mix of equipment. The center city
subway-surface lines use Kawasaki cars with trolley poles, but the
suburban Media-Sharon Hill line uses the same cars with pantographs.
They also have one line operated by heritage PCCs, and three
The F line in San Francisco uses an amazing mix of ancient heritage
cars. Despite the ancient equipment, it's a real line that goes
places other transit doesn't.
Haven't been to New Orleans lately.
All the heritage cars in San Francisco use trolley poles but the LRVs
use pantographs. The E heritage line shares tracks with the T line
LRVs. The heritage cars also use LRV routes to their car barn.
New Orleans uses trolley poles.
Neither New Orleans or San Francisco is wholly heritage. The St
Charles Line in New Orleans survived when everything else had been
abandoned then they built a tourist waterfront line and they've since
revived the lines up Canal Street. Both Canal and St Charles may
well be used by tourists but they are also used by the locals and it
was local opposition to abandonment that saved the St Charles line.
When I was there in May 2018 the Canal Street lines seemed well used
San Francisco had 4 routes which ran through the Sunset and Twin Peaks
tunnels out to the Pacific (3 lines, the other went up Church Street)
and ran on the surface of Market St. When BART was built those 4
lines were moved under Market on the level between BART and the street
and the PCC cars were replaced by Boeing LRVs which were them replaced
with Ansaldo Breda cars which are now being replaced by Siemens cars.
At the Bay end of the subway there was an extension built around the
Embarcadero to the Caltrain station at 4th and Townsend. In more
recent times that has been extended down Third Street. There is a
new tunnel being built from the Caltrain area up across Market and
into Chinatown. There are 2 heritage lines - the F (which was the
first to be set up) runs from the Castro along Market (street level)
to the Ferry Building and then along the Embarcadero to Fishermans
Wharf. The E line uses LRV trackage as far as the Ferry Building and
then F line tracks to Fishermans. There are thoughts about extending
beyond Fishermans towards the Presidio. The heritage lines use
mainly PCCs painted in colour schemes to remember other US cities that
used PCCs; there are a few in old Muni colours. The other regularly
used cars are ex Milan "Peter Witt" cars but they have cars from
Brussels (painted for Zurich, Kobe(?), Melbourne, Blackpoll (two
boats) as well a range of old San Francisco cars from both Muni and
the Market Street Railway.
The doyenne of high speed trolley running was the Chicago North Shore
and Milwaukee Interurban. It used the Chicago elevated 3rd rail and
then its' own right of way. They operated at speeds of 90mph in
places and the change from 3rd rail to trolley was done on the fly
with the conductor hanging out the back door and using the trolley
rope to guide the trolley onto the wire.
I find it quite surprising how many new Light Rail systems there are
in the USA. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego,
Portland (who built a bridge specifically for LRVs, pedestrians and
bikes) and Seattle on the west coast. Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis,
Cleveland and Charlotte are some of the others.