Kenosha Streetcar Day

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Streetcars have become a tourist attraction in Kenosha, and bring many visitors there who also visit the museums, restaurants, the lake shore, and many other attractions. Yesterday was their annual Streetcar Day, and Kenosha Area Transit introduced newly refurbished PCC 4617 into service, in 1950s-era San Francisco colors, replete with “wings.”

The car, which looks beautiful both inside and out, took a long road to get there, starting in Toronto in 1951, with a stint at the East Troy Electric Railroad. Being a single-ended car, it was not a good fit for the museum, which lacks turning loops at its ends. To operate 4617 on that line would involve backing up the car 50% of the time. We can be thankful that it has found a good home elsewhere in Wisconsin.

We got there just in time for the ceremonial breaking of a banner as the car backed out of the barn. They put the car on display for a while and then began running it on the two mile long trolley loop that goes between the local Metra station and the lakefront.

The San Francisco car joins a fleet that already pays tribute to such cities as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Johnstown PA, Philadelphia, Toronto and Cincinnati. All of these (except for the Philadelphia car) were built in Canada and originally ran in Toronto.

After stopping for lunch at the historic Franks Diner, where they serve up a kind of organized chaos along with their signature “garbage plate” of eggs, cheese, meats, onions, green peppers and hash browns, we rode the 4617 and took many pictures and videos of it and the other cars that were being shuffled in and out of service.

With the wind and all the clouds out over Lake Michigan, we could have had some foggy San Francisco weather, but the day was mostly sunny instead. Besides the streetcars, we also spotted a couple of classic autos– a rare 1929-32 Cord L-29, the first production car in the US with front-wheel drive, and a 1927-31 Ford Model A.

If you have not yet visited Kenosha’s streetcar loop, it is well worth a trip. And while plans to expand the system have been shelved for the moment, they run a first-class operation, in large part due to the hard work of streetcar technician Brad Preston.

-Ye Olde Editor

PS- Today’s photos and videos are by David Sadowski and Diana Koester.

You can read another article about the SF tribute car on the Market Street Railway blog.

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11 thoughts on “Kenosha Streetcar Day

  1. Nice photos and videos…thanks. I need to remind my friends in Kenosha of the availability of replica Golden Glow headlights that meet all modern traffic requirements and laws. They make a world of difference in the appearance of the car. Cats Eye stop light fixtures would be another nice touch. Also, that flange squeal on the curves would be greatly reduced or even eliminated by replacing the solid steel wheels with resilient PCC wheels. But all in all, Kenosha does a great job and is to be congratulated. Thankfully, the Wisconsin anti-street car people haven’t been able to kill this operation. But they did recently succeed in killing the proposed extension in Kenosha. Thankfully, they also failed to kill the Milwaukee street car line, soon to be built.

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    • It appears to be just for looks. The pole is way too short and the trolley shoe looks fake. In addition, there is no trolley rope. I noticed all of that too.

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    • The trolley rope for the front pole is in the works. We hope to replicate the San Francisco practice of looping the rope around the windshield so that it doesn’t cross the windshield. None of the other Kenosha PCCs have front poles, so the pole is not functional. Several operators run the cars, and we need to keep operating practices the same for all cars. An energized front pole might be an attractive nuisance for inquisitive folks!

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      • Thanks for the explanation John. I’m glad you guys will put the front trolley rope on the car. Like the MUNI, you’ll need to put two small brackets on the car, so the rope will go around the windshield. Now put a replica Golden Glow headlight on the car and it will look awesome. The replica headlights are not expensive. I love the MUNI “Wings” paint job !! I should send one of the videos out to my friends at the MUNI and the Market Street Railway group. They’d love it. Tell Brad Preston I said hello.

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  2. This PCC looks beautiful. They did a really nice job on it. I see they are also restoring another Philly PCC. I hope the current city officers get replaced soon. The trolley line really needs to extend. Come on Kenosha look at the other cities that have streetcars and learn from them.

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  3. The PCC trucks upon which the former TTC PCCs are operating came from CTA Single Unit ‘L cars which in turn came from Chicago PCC streetcars. The resilient PCC wheels from the streetcars were replaced with solid steel wheels by the CTA many years ago. It was stated that the resilient wheels caused the rails to become corrugated, which was not the case with solid steel wheels. The cars would look more authentic with resilient wheels, but I am not aware of the cost of purchasing resilient wheels in 2015. 8 wheels per car times 6 or 7 cars could amount to a significant expense which Kenosha probably cannot afford.

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