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Taking Care of the Brill Streetcar

July 24, 2014

Brill Streetcar

The Brill streetcar before conservation (Object ID: 54.5.1).

The Brill streetcar, located near the model railroad layout on the far side of the Allegheny, received received a little TLC from our Conservation Department this spring. The car has a varied history, which explains its current yellow paint scheme.

The Brill electric trolley spent its entire service life in the city of Cleveland, Ohio. It was built in 1892 in Philadelphia as part of an order of 35 cars for the Woodland Avenue & West Side Street Railroad, Cleveland's first electric street railway.

The car carried 18-20 passengers. It was originally numbered 165, and renumbered 140 around 1916. It was built as a double-ended car, with open platforms and controls at both ends, but was rebuilt about 1898-1900 as a single ended car with an enclosed front platform. After 1903, the car was relegated to work service. In the Brill car’s final years, Cleveland Transit System used it for occasional promotional events. The car came to The Henry Ford in 1954, in its non-historical “Parade Paint.”

Brill Streetcar

The Brill streetcar, after conservation (Object ID: 54.5.1)

A full-blown restoration would involve researching its original paint schemes. Luckily there are Brill company archives at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. A thorough treatment would also repair the damaged back platform. But for now we are happy to have preserved the 1954 paint using well-established conservation techniques.

Clara Deck is Senior Conservator at The Henry Ford.

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