Trolleybus History

Following up on our discussion on trolleybuses, Dan Haneckow has published a history of trolleybuses in Portland, over on his Cafe Unknown blog.

Well worth the read!

6 responses to “Trolleybus History”

  1. The article was very interesting reading. One item should be noted however. There was a photo of an advertisement that stated “Why PORTLAND MODERNIZES WITH MACK diesels. The caption below read “Portland was still “Modernizing with Mack,” in this February 1950 advertisement, however with diesel buses which were credited with the removal of the final streetcar lines.”

    All the Mack busses in Portland, many still in use when Tri-Met took over, were gasoline powered, not diesel powered.

    • Wrong! Portland Traction purchased 20 Mack C-45G #900-919 (2 window style w/double chrome front bumpers); 80 Mack C-45G #920-999 (3 window style w/side black steel front bumpers). All C-45G Mack’s were gasoline engines. PTC purchased 50 Mack C-45D #800-849 and 5 Mack C-35D #850-854. All the C/D units were diesels and had 2window passenger windows. The C-35’s were shorter and were bought to replace the Council Crest 500 series cars. The transmissions on these buses didn’t shift out of low until the bus exceeded 25 mph due to the hills they operated on. During the Tri-Met years if an engine went out they replaced it with a gasoline engine. The easy tell between a C-35 and a C-45 was the C-35 had 5 passenger windows between the front and rear doors and the C-45 had 6 windows

      • Actually there was one lone diesel in the 900 series, #972, I think. I don’t know whether it was ordered that way or had the engine changed later. It had a diesel label on the fuel tank. The rest of the description is entirely accurate, thanks.

  2. A couple of notes regarding the final demise of trolleybuses in Portland:

    1) There is a long history of corporate raiders extracting tax benefits from public utilities. At the time the trolleybus system was dismantled, Portland’s Kenworth trolleybuses were the least depreciated assets in Rose City Transit’s fleet. Because of declining patronage, Rose City had too large a fleet, and getting rid of the trolleybuses provided the biggest tax advantage, as the other buses were mostly depreciated.

    As noted, however, gas buses could not replace trolleybuses one-for-one due to their poorer acceleration, so Rose City Transit was caught short.

    2) Although the history quotes higher operating costs versus the gas buses, on a route-by-route basis, the trolleybus fleet was earning money, while the gas bus routes were losing money. While partly a function of the higher density along the trolleybus routes, this may also reflect the fact that like streetcars (that are maintained), trolleybuses are inherently more attractive to riders than petroleum powered buses.

  3. Doug, good to hear from you.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I was once told the bus and trolley companies could have demanded that new approaches on the Hawthorne Bridge be constructed such that the trolley busses and the streetcars could still use the bridge. The companies did not because they wanted to end the service and this was a good excuse.

    Also it should be noted that a trolley bus was positioned and used as a waiting room for streetcar service on the eastside after the route over the Hawthorne Bridge to downtown was cut off. The location was near OMSI closer to where PCC is located.

  4. Metro, when they retired the original trackless trolleys they inherited was ready to scrap them all. Some employees got together, and started an organization to keep a few of them running on excursions. THe one I like the most is PCF-Brill #798. This one was built in 1940 by Pacific Car and Foundary to a Brill design, served until retirement in 1963, only to be dug out of a pasture, put back together, and returned to service in 1975, and served until 1978.

    The Metro Employees Historic Vehicle Associtiation has grown from just a few trackless trolleys, to having a vehicle represenative of every era of mortorized public transportation in Seattle.(Sorry, no HOrsecars.) They claim to have an old Seattle MUNI streetcar on roster, but I do not know where they keep that one, as they have no place to run them.

    (In their photo section, they have a few from Portland too.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *