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A Short History Of Charlotte Streetcar No. One

by Dr. Dan L. Morrill
July 1998

Visitors to the Trolley Museum at the Atherton Mills Complex in South End will see a small, red streetcar being restored in the carbarn. The so-called "little red car" has a fascinating history.

 


Trolley Number One as it appeared in 1989 when it arrived in Charlotte. That's Dan Morrill waving out the window.


Moss Trucking Company donated the move Trolley Number One from Guilford Connecticut to Charlotte.

 

The town of Piraeus, Greece, the port city of Athens, ordered a number of streetcars that were built by the Electric United Car Company of Preston, England for Siemens Electrical Equipment, a German contractor, in the years just before the outbreak of World War One. The car now in Charlotte was Streetcar Number 60. It arrived in Piraeus in 1914. Number 60 was a semi-convertible car designed for hot weather. It rolled along the streets of Piraeus, hauling passengers to work, home, and play, until 1960, when Piraeus Town Transit ceased operations. Number 60 was then converted into a track maintenance car for the interurban line that ran from Piraeus to Athens. The end platforms were shortened and enclosed, and the bench seats were removed. In 1977, the Athens Metro Subway System bought Number 60 and used it for maintenance work until the early 1980's.

I first learned about Number 60 in 1985. I had been trying since 1981 to return streetcars to the streets of Charlotte. I decided that the only way to keep the project going was to get a streetcar. It seemed like a crazy idea. There was no track to run it on. There was no carbarn to put it in. I invited UNCC professor Jim Clay, who was developing University Place for the Carley Capital Group, to lunch and asked him if he would buy a streetcar, restore it, and bring it to Charlotte if I could locate one. He said that he would. I called Alex Pollock, a planner for the City of Detroit and a trolley expert, and asked him if he knew where any old streetcars were available. He told me that Number 60 was sitting on a rail siding in Athens, Greece. After two trips to Greece and a lot of negotiating, Carley Capital Group puchased Number 60 and brought it by ship to New York City. It then transported by truck to Rail Technical Services in Guilford, Connecticut, where it was cosmetically restored. Moss Trucking Co. hauled Number 60 to Charlotte in 1989.

 


This picture shows Trolley Number One being moved to the old city bus garage on North Brevard St. It stayed here from 1989 until 1993. Notice the straps beneath the car as it was being lifted.

Carley Capital Group had planned to put Number 60 at Cityfair in uptown Charlotte. Unfortunately, Carley Capital had to end its involvement in that project, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission had to buy the streetcar, which was painted red and christened Number 1, because it was the first restored trolley in the Charlotte fleet. Between 1989 and 1993, the "little red car" was the symbol of the effort to establish vintage streetcar service in Charlotte. Moss Trucking Co. hauled it to events all over town. It went to the Southern Christmas Show. It went to Fourth Ward during the Christmas tour of homes. It even went to Freedom Park for Earth Day. In October, 1993, it was brought to the Atherton Mills carbarn in South End. The Historic Landmarks Commission has leased Number 1 to Charlotte Trolley, Inc. and hopes to see it go into service in 1998.

 


Information on the early history of the streetcar comes from Chris Allen, "History Of Charlotte Trolley Car #1." (n.d.).