This car’s exterior commemorates Detroit, which operated PCC streetcars from 1947 to 1956.
While Detroit prided itself as the home of modern vehicle design, the Detroit Department of Street Railways (DSR) stayed away from the streamlined PCC streetcar when it first appeared. Instead, the city government agency (which had taken over a private operator in 1922) tinkered incessantly with its huge fleet of boxy ‘Peter Witt’ streetcars — 781 in all — trying to make them faster and quieter, with little success. When they did briefly consider buying PCCs in 1939, the city decided against it, both because they believed streetcars would soon be obsolete and because the carmen’s union rejected the idea of operating streetcars with a single crew member.
After World War II, the carmen’s union relented on its insistence on two-person crews. Detroit changed its mind and bought 186 new PCCs, delivered in 1947 and 1949. They were put to work mainly on the heavy Woodward, Michigan, and Jefferson lines. Like other metropolitan areas, though, migration to the suburbs put more and more people out of streetcar range. Perhaps influenced by Detroit’s automobile culture, the city council in 1954 approved the abandonment of two major lines if a buyer could be found for the almost new PCCs.
San Francisco outbid Mexico City for 80 of the Detroit PCCs, but after San Francisco’s financial problems killed the deal, almost all Detroit’s PCCs went to Mexico City. The last line, Woodward Avenue, closed in April 1956, making Detroit an all-bus operation (although the Department of Street Railways didn’t get around to changing its name to the Detroit Department of Transportation for almost 20 years).
Currently, most of the funding is in hand to restore modern streetcars to Woodward, primarily provided by local philanthropists who believe in streetcars as a key to Detroit’s economic revival.
And every day, San Francisco pays tribute to the streetcar past of the ‘Motor City’ in the tan and red livery of the Detroit Department of Street Railways gracing car No. 1079.
Twin City Rapid Transit Co., Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, 1946 (as car No. 330)
Public Service Coordinated Transport, Newark, NJ, 1953 (as car No. 11)
Acquired by Muni from
New Jersey Transit, Newark, NJ, 2004
St. Louis Car Co.
Brookville Equipment Company, PA, 2004-2011
4 General Electric 1220