When National City Lines Came to Town
  Page 2

On March 1, 1955 managerial control of the world's largest privately-owned urbran transit operation, the Philadelphia Transportation Company, was assumed by National City Lines. By the end of 1957, 24 trolley routes had been converted to diesel bus operation and three others had been "merged" into other routes (i.e., abandoned without direct replacement).
     The company spurned an offer of the City government to reimburse the cost of building connecting track to permit continued subway operation on the downtown end of one trolley route after the subway-surface tunnel facility was extended in late 1955. A surface bus operation was initiated instead when the subway was extended.
     Of the six bridges carrying trolley tracks across the Schuylkill River, five were de-wired and eventually lost their tracks either to reconstruction or repaving. One one connection was retained between the subway-surface lines west of the river and the shops east of the river and that was via an 83-year-old bridge!
     At the end of 1954 the backbone of PTC's bus fleet was a block of nearly 600 units built by Mack, supplemented by a few hundred buses built by ACF-Brill and Twin Coach. There were no General Motors units on the property. By the close of 1957, 1,000 GM units were in service.
     The first 300 were ordered prior to the official NCL takeover of March 1 but delivered after that date. Some observers regarded it as a last ditch effort on the part of the operating management to “prove” that they could cooperate with NCL without the necessity of being supplanted by imported personnel. The backbone of the bus fleet was Mack equipment. Mack bid $21,000 per unit and the order was awarded to GM at $22,000 per unit. As a private company, PTC was not required by law to accept the low bid. Also as a private company in the transit business PTC found it difficult to borrow money at reasonable rates but frequently the City government would guarantee bond interest and the lending institutions (in consideration of the City’s taxing power) would then offer attractive rates. The City refused to do this after the purchase of 300 or 650 units at $1,000 per bus over Mack’s price and so the last 350 units were bought for cash.
     The three trolley routes that circled City Hall continued to be operated with 1926 model streetcars while streamlined trolleys half their age were hidden, out of service, around the system as spares and as cars awaiting repairs. When, despite some objection from the City government, the State Public Utilities Commission permitted conversion to buses and the downtown tracks were dismantled, 70 streamlined trolleys were scrapped.
     Thousands of spare parts for trolleys, including brand new major body components were sold as scrap metal. An electrical substation situated right on a subway-surface trolley line still operating today and all its machines and switching equipment were sold as scrap.

Continued on page 3

The tale shown in the downtown area of two maps:

Portion of PTC Map #13 (January 1953) approx 108K
Portion of PTC Map #16 (March 1958) approx 100K

Blue lines indicate trolley routes. Red lines show bus routes. In the first map, downtown Philadelphia is a sea of blue. In the second map, only the subway-surface routes from the west (dashed blue lines) and three north-south routes operating one-way on six streets survive.

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