Railway Preservation News

Historical Streetcar Trivia
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Author:  RichardWilliam [ Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Historical Streetcar Trivia

On many of the earliest electric streetcars the motorman operated on an open platform exposed to the elements while the passengers rode in the protected, enclosed section. Was this simply a holdover from the design of horse-drawn streetcars, or did it reflect a classification of the motorman as a lower-class individual, something like a servant or slave? Or were there other reasons why fully-enclosed streetcar designs took longer to develop?

Author:  JimBoylan [ Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Streetcar Trivia

A New York City streetcar official may have been quoted as fearing reduced visibility from a build up of ice on a front window, which would be less likely on the motorman's unprotected eyeballs, because of body heat.

Author:  Charlie [ Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Streetcar Trivia

I'd vote for it being a design holdover from horsecar days. Frostbite was a serious problem for motormen and my guess is that the loss of dexterity when operating the controls would outweigh visibility issues with an icy window. I believe motormen were well respected back in those days, at least by the public.

Author:  softwerkslex [ Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Streetcar Trivia

I suspect it was a combination of factors. When drawn by a horse, operations were limited by conditions for the horse (rest breaks, cancellation). The switch to electric removed that weather limit.

Author:  Dave Wilson [ Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Streetcar Trivia

It’s more than a holdover from horsecar days…it’s a holdover from stages, omnibuses and the like. Just take a look at the designs of carriage and wagon builders which predate the horsecars. Let’s not forget that the development of anything is dependent on the willingness to pay for it. Street railway management in many cases looked at the installation of vestibules, as an expense that it could do without. Often the argument would involve the public safety issue (reduced visibility, etc.), but I’ll bet the cost was debated in the boardroom more than once, with the “why change what works” argument often prevailing.

Author:  fkrock [ Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Streetcar Trivia

Supposedly New York Third Avenue System did not enclose platforms to protect motormen from the weather until required by a city ordinance ca. 1910.

Author:  railfan44 [ Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Streetcar Trivia

I was going to comment that drivers of horsecars needed to hold the reins. Then I thought about cable cars where the gripman's working space was in the open. Anybody know of an enclosed grip area?

The first automobiles were open, maybe because of the horse and buggy?

Author:  Jim Herron [ Sat Jul 07, 2012 12:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Streetcar Trivia

Here's a photo that I colorized of an electrified former mule car in Louisville in the 1890's.
I did this one for our video on the history of Louisville streetcars several years ago. Note that the electric car is pulling a trailer (former mule car).

Louisville preferred mules over horses because they stood up to the weather better and ate less hay.

-Jim Herron

_Green-St-www.jpg [ 93.92 KiB | Viewed 2738 times ]

Author:  wesp [ Sat Jul 07, 2012 8:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Streetcar Trivia

The Washington, DC Public Utilities Commission did not require vestibules until 1905. Samples of the windows are shown here as added to CTCo 522 and CTC0 09 by the company at that time. There is a sliding sash for the center opening. Can you imagine running the sweeper in a snowstorm without a vestibule?




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