SEPTA delays the debut of rebuilt retro trolley cars, now expected in the spring

The rebuilt trolleys have modern underpinnings and a vintage look. SEPTA expects them to be back in service this spring.

Trolley being repaired

SEPTA's Route 15 historic trolleys will return. The vehicles will be ADA accessible and cost roughly $250,000 each to restore. (Courtesy of SEPTA)

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A move to bring back classic streetcars to Philadelphia streets has been delayed until spring.

PCC Trolleys from the 1940s have been refurbished in SEPTA’s repair shop, but the transit agency’s Andrew Busch said they haven’t had enough “break-in time” to be put back into service on Route 15.

“So if there’s an issue with the electrical system or with anything on board the trolley, we could address that within those first 200 miles.”

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The trolleys were supposed to be running in the fall of 2023, but Busch believes their new start date will be sometime within the next few months.

“Logistically, it didn’t make much sense to launch them over the winter when we would have weather disruptions anyway. So we are looking at the spring to get them out into service.”

According to, “Until 1992, rebuilt postwar PCCs remained in revenue service on three lines, the 15, 23, and 56. PCC cars on these last three lines were ‘temporarily’ replaced by diesel buses in September of that year, and most of the PCCs sold to transit operations and museums all over the country. The tracks and wires remain in place however, with both City Council and the mayor’s office opposed to their removal.”

Since then, the equipment has been rebuilt in SEPTA’s shop, and the tracks have also been fixed.  The Westmoreland and Richmond turnaround of the Route 15 trolley has also been rebuilt to accommodate the buses and trolleys that will share service on the route.

The ten trolleys are projected to cost a quarter million dollars each to rebuild, compared to several million for new vehicles.

SEPTA sold most of its PCC stock to other transit agencies but has about two dozen trolleys that they will use once they are modernized.

Busch said the vehicles are in various states of repair, and their employees are doing their best to make them “new” as quickly as possible.

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