Kobe & Hiroshima, Japan
Built 1927 • Undergoing Restoration
This car represents a typical Japanese tram design of the 1920s. It was built in 1927 (as car No. 574) for the Kobe City Railways. As originally built, it had single doors at each end and double doors in the center, all manually operated, but in a 1958 renovation, the rear doors (in Japan’s left-hand operation) were removed. During this renovation, tram No. 574 was renumbered No. 578. The tram was renovated again in 1968 so that it could be operated by only one person, eliminating the traditional conductor. Modern touches for the day, such as a public address system, were also added.
When Kobe closed its street railways in 1971, this car was acquired by the Hiroshima Electric Railway Company where it ran in passenger service using the same Kobe two-tone green livery until it came to San Francisco.
The late Maurice Klebolt, longtime Market Street Railway director, worked with Japan’s Corporate Railway Assembly, an industry trade group, to bring No. 578 (J) to San Francisco just in time to lead the opening parade of the 1986 Trolley Festival, with Mayor Dianne Feinstein at the controls.
What was a front-and-center door tram in Japan instantly became a center-and-rear door tram in right-hand-drive America. Its two motors, perfectly adequate for the flat terrain of the Japanese cities it served, make it somewhat slow for San Francisco service. Additionally, the tram lacked a hand brake, which became a California requirement after the Trolley Festivals concluded. Thus, No. 578 (J) was taken out of service for an extended period. But a hand brake has now been installed and other improvements have been made, bringing this Japanese car closer to a return to San Francisco service.