Red Arrow hits target

After a spectacular restoration, a 1940s streetcar paying tribute to Philadelphia’s “Red Arrow” lines is again carrying passengers on the streets of San Francisco.

Red Arrow hits target
Car 1007 during initial testing in San Francisco, at 30th and Church Streets. Jeremy Whiteman photo

It’s a fully restored – and rare – double-end PCC, Car 1007, delivered new to Muni in 1948, saved from the scrapper in the early 1980s in part through our nonprofit’s advocacy, brought back to service in the 1990s, again with our urging, and now resplendent in a storied East Coast livery. Car 1007 has reentered service following a lengthy delay after returning from its full renovation at Brookville Equipment of Pennsylvania. Staff shortages, pandemic problems, and rollout of a new radio system contributed to keeping Car 1007 on hold, but it’s on the street carrying passengers now, the final PCC in the 16-car renovation program carried out by Brookville to reenter service.

We thank MSR Member Jack Demnyan and the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum for all the help in recreating the livery Red Arrow cars wore when first delivered to the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company in the late 1940s, and also thank Muni project manager Joseph Flores and Historic Streetcar Maintenance Manager Kevin Sheridan for the extra effort they made to help Brookville Equipment’s team get the details correct, right down to the unique number font.

Here’s the full story of Car 1007 and the various liveries it has worn in its history.

Just to reiterate, Car 1007 is not an original Red Arrow car, but rather one of Muni’s 1948 “torpedos”, as they are colloquially called. Muni did acquire two original Red Arrow cars before the pandemic from a Connecticut museum. But subsequent evaluation of those two cars showed that the trucks (bogies or wheel sets) are located differently than on Muni’s torpedos, requiring major engineering and fabrication work to clear curves on Muni’s system. Given funding shortages, it’s not clear these cars will ever be restored by Muni, but Red Arrow’s legacy is still beautifully represented with Car 1007.


Comments: 9

  1. St. Louis Car used PCC body components for Red Arrow’s 11-24 series cars, but they have heavier frames and more powerful motors than standard PCC cars. They’re a good bit faster, too. SEPTA replaced them with Kawasaki cars on the Media and Sharon Hill lines out of 69th St. Terminal. These were part of the same order with the “K-Cars” used on SEPTA’s Subway-Surface lines. SEPTA is currently designing new LRV’s to replace the Red Arrow and City cars.

    Both Red Arrow and Philadelphia city lines are 5′ 2 1/4″ gauge and regauging the cars to 4′ 8 1/2″ RR gauge will be difficult.

  2. The 1940 and 1949 Red Arrow cars were similar in many technical details – for example the motors, axles and gears were the same. The traction control package was initially developed for the articulated MS (Multi-Section) subway cars purchased by the BMT in the mid-’30s. On the Red Arrow cars the 70 HP motors produced a balancing speed of 58 mph. Like the PRR, Red Arrow management wanted no part of having a car whose design was owned by a third party- TRC. (Transit Research Corporation) Plus, each car purchase was under a licensed arrangement for which the purchaser paid hundreds of dollars to TRC. Since the trucks were a major TRC-owned and patented design, each of the Red Arrow cars had a more conventional truck designed by the carbuilder. And despite the higher operating speeds and high number of grade crossings as well as some street running the cars had no track brakes, which were a standard feature on all PCC cars.. The new cars now being purchased for the city and suburban lines will all be double-ended and capable of 43 miles per hour.

  3. 1007 has the distinction (?) of being the first PCC I ever rode in San Francisco and the first I ever rode any place outside of the Museum in Perris. This was in Aug. 1967, the start of an adventurous week in MuniLand that included a visit to Rio Vista Jct. in its primordial days, a ride on Las Plumas (the Western Pacific car ferry) and motorcading 0304 from West Portal to Geneva..

    Regarding the real Red Arrow cars: Had Southern Pacific not “thrown in the towel” with regard to Pacific Electric, and had the local “powers that be” decided to form an entity similar to CTA or Boston MTA to acquire and overhaul the remaining Red Car system, cars like the two preserved at Pennsylvania Trolley Museum would have been a better choice than PCCs. They were faster,and better suited for running on open track such as the Monrovia Line.

  4. Quite correct. The 70 HP traction package, by then seasoned on the BMT subway cars, would have been better suited for operation on PE. The PCC B-2 truck was designed with paved track operation in mind. If you knew what you were doing with hydraulic dampers and track was reasonably good, a B-2 could provide a decent ride. Shaker Heights and Newark are good examples. One wonders what kind of communications occurred between Transit Research and PE regarding the PE PCCs. The PE 700s,if given a good overhaul and upgrading could have been made 60 mph capable by a motor rewinding and regearing. I would categorize PE as being very provincial. That would also apply to the NY subway system, whose disdain for the knowhow that created the PCC held back greater progress in the rapid transit car field. for decades

  5. PCC’s fared well in Philadelphia’s trolley subway, but not so well on the open track on 36 Route from Island and Elmwood to 94th St. These cars used standard PCC resilient wheels and narrow streetcar wheels. I wonder if Red Arrow-type 3 1/2″ wheels would have helped. The loop is now at 80th and Island Road and the Kawasaki cars seem to do well.

  6. To begin with, Philadelphia PCCs had no hydraulic dampers (aka “shock absorbers”) on their B-2 trucks. So there is no point in continuing on that train of bloggery. Conventional trucks were/are made with and without primary springs at the axles. While axle springs are undamped, they were quite stiff since all they had to do was allow for high and low irregularities in the track running surface – a process known as equalizing. Ride quality was primarily provided by a large leaf spring at the bolster. By their very nature leaf springs are damped by friction between the leaves. Some autos had encased leaf springs so that they could be kept oiled and a softer ride achieved. If the frame was flexible enough the springs at the axles could be eliminated with little change in ride quality. Just about all the pre=PCC Pittsburgh fleet used such a truck. The PCC B-3 truck was a modernization in which the frame was flexible and the bolster suspension became a soft coil spring. Hydraulic dampers had to be applied to control bounce. The PCC patents covered the use of rubber at the flexing points which provided a basically wear-free truck. All trucks made today use elements of what was designed for the PCC. The Kawasaki cars use rubber springs at the axles and air springs that are very soft and lightly damped at the bolster. The air springs (aka secondary suspension) are kept soft as the cars were designed to operate on rather poor quality paved track in numerous locations, so the cars tend to roll a bit.. That could have been reduced by putting a roll-bar on the secondary suspension as was done on the Norristown line cars, but was felt unneeded for lower-speed city service and where high speed on curved track was not a consideration.

  7. The 1941 Red Arrow Cars are Brilliners while the 1949 cars are St. Louis Car, using PCC body styling. These cars remained in service until the current double-ended Kawasaki cars arrived.. The Brilliners do not have MU controls and the 1949 St. Louis cars do. .

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