Retired transit operations executive and ERA member Tony Schill will present “PCC: The Amazing Streamlined Streetcar,” a comprehensive survey of the dawn, zenith, abandonment (in most cities), and survival of the PCC, an outstanding example of American systems engineering which helped spark the modern revival of light rail transportation. Every North American and some foreign PCC operations will be featured in Tony’s presentation.
Without question, the PCC car was an unprecedented technological and esthetic triumph that brought tremendous improvements in all aspects of urban electric railway service, and in so doing it also brought excitement and new life into a troubled industry. Cities had public celebrations when the new cars went into service! However, as early as 1950 some of the systems with PCCs started to entirely abandon rail operation. By the mid-1960s more abandonments began prompting many observers to think that the future of the North American streetcar — other than as a historical curiosity — was very dark indeed. But, perhaps the greatly diminished number of PCCs that continued to soldier on into the late ’70s is what eventually sparked the spectacular revival and increasing number of light rail and modern streetcar operations.
Tony’s life-long interest in railroads and streetcars dates back to his early years in Pittsburgh, back when all 650+ of Pittsburgh Railways PCCs were still in service. In 1969 he became a bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority, and later a CTA rapid transit motorman and towerman, bus supervisor, and assistant district superintendent. Tony moved to Buffalo in 1982 to become the first rail transportation superintendent of the city’s new light rail line, then still under construction. Tony retired from managing daily transit service in 2001, after a decade as general manager of operations of the combined bus-rail system. For the next nine years he consulted on rail transit operations for a major engineering firm. Today Tony is a volunteer operator at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, where he has been a member for more than 50 years.