Trackless Trolleys or Trolley Busses Provide Cost Effective Service
About the Trackless Trolley
The trackless trolley or electric bus was perfected in the 1930's. Many street railways in large cities, converted to these very economical vehicles. The biggest savings, were in not having to maintain the trolley tracks in the street anymore.
Trackless Trolleys loading in downtown Seattle, Washington. Note how they could pull into the curb to pick up passengers, and their trolley poles would pivot, to remain on the overhead wires. (Postcard from the Collection of Rick Russell)
Like streetcars, trackless trolleys got their power from overhead electric wires. But, trackless trolleys were a little more flexible. They could pull into the curb to pick up passengers, and maneuver around double parked cars and other obstructions, because they didn't have to follow the rails.
Trackless Trolleys were also very popular in many Canadian cities. This scene shows a Toronto Transit Commission Trackless Trolley, southbound on Mt. Pleasant Road at Lawrence, in Toronto, Ontario. Delivered by Canadian Car & Foundry (CCF) in 1947, these trolley coaches were based on a design, licensed from American Car & Foundry (ACF), and they were operated in daily service into the 1970's, before being replaced by more modern trolley coaches. (Postcard from the Collection of Rick Russell - Photo by Ted Wickson)
All Service Vehicles (A Hybrid Trackless Trolley)
Also in the 1930's, a hybrid version of the trackless trolley, came into use in some cities. This combination trackless trolley, and gas or diesel-electric bus, was called an "all service vehicle". All service vehicles were even more flexible than the trackless trolley. They could pick up power from the overhead electric wires when they were in the city, like a trackless trolley. When they reached the "end of the line" however, they weren't forced to follow the wires around a loop and start back to the downtown area.
With an all service vehicle, when the end of the overhead electric wires was reached, the trolley poles could be hooked down to the roof, and a gasoline or diesel engine could be started, which drove a generator, which generated the electricity needed by the electric motors, to run the vehicle.
This allowed an all service vehicle, to continue on a trip further out of the city, into the suburbs to areas where there were no overhead electric wires. When the all service vehicle, returned to the part of the route where overhead power lines were available, the trolley poles could be raised, to again collect power from the overhead wire, and save on gasoline or diesel fuel.
Public Service Company of New Jersey "All Service" Trackless Trolleys at a busy downtown intersection. (Photo from Sept. 1937 issue of the "Transit Journal", Collection of Rick Russell)
Some Trolley Builders Also Built Trackless Trolleys
ACF-Brill, at one time one of the largest builders of streetcars in the country, also built trackless trolleys, or trolley buses.
Advertisement for ACF Brill Trolley Coaches or Trackless Trolleys (Ad from the Sept. 1937 issue of the "Transit Journal", Collection of Rick Russell)
Click on "PCC CAR DRIVE" to Continue your ride through the history of the trolley era.