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Each of these designs had its proponents and each had its antagonists. Objections or support for one or the other ranged from aesthetic considerations to the pragmatic---how well, indeed, how poorly did the design function in the winter freezes or in the intolerable humid heat of summer?

In a day and age when personal cleanliness is a given, deodorant ads are seen on television, in newspapers and magazines, and no one would be caught dead without his or her Mennen or Right Guard, few people are aware of how somberly oppressive, if not downright sickening, a crowded trolley car or a bus from the 1920's could be before the age of universal air conditioning and personal deodorant products, one of the wonders of modern technology. In those days, it was a pungent ride, indeed, even for the most devoted user of good old Ivory Soap.

Articles of the time describe the gamey, steaming interiors of cars filled with workingmen, tired after nine or ten grueling hours of manunl outdoor work in a blazing sun, or an equal span at a workbench or vat filled with noxious liquids.

Richard E. Danforth was the General Manager of Public Service at the time the new cars were designed. There seems to be little question that the design of what was called the "compromise roof" came from him. A strong and vocal supporter of open cars, his views were radical and somewhat contrary for the times. "I do not agree", he said once, "with many managers of electric railways as regards the future of the open car. "Quick to put his company's money where his mouth was, Danforth was ordering a fleet of 100 open cars at a time when most traction companies had either scrapped their cars, or transitioned to the more adaptable convertible car design, in which the same car could function as an open-air vehicle in the hot summers and as a closed car in the colder months, with side panels that either slid upward and into a roof section, or that could be hooked on or removed with a minimum of effort. Public Service, long after Danforth left the company in 1923, remained committed to open-air cars with screened sides and interior aisles, operating them as late as 1936 on some lines. "

In a day when automobiles were forcing many electric railways to "modernize equipment and install comfortable leather cross seats, Danforth " remained a staunch advocate of the longitudinal seating configuration. " "Passengers prefer to stand in periods of very heavy peak loads, rather than to wait for following cars", he said, forthrightly. It is significant that not long after Danforth's departure from Public Service, a major Power & Light rebuilding program was undertaken to modify many 2200, 2400, 2600 and 2700 series cars to a "deluxe" configuration, using heavy leather-like cross-seats.

With such views, there is little doubt but that Danforth held some strong opinions concerning other aspects of car design. Sure enough, dissatisfied with the deck roof, skeptical of the arch roof, and aware of the limitations of the steam coach roof, what could he do but design a roof that would offer the best of all the designs, with none of the disadvantages?

The product of this effort was the unique "compromise roof", which appeared on a total of 241 manufactured cars, and on a lot of four Iow-3200 series cars that Public Service had originally built in 1912/1913 with deck roofs. Cars 3201, 3208, 3211, and 3219 were orphans of the storm---trapped in a fiercely burning car barn in Camden in 1918, all four cars, along with deck roofed car 3215 and 13 others were damaged severely. These five cars were the only survivors. They were shipped north to the Plank Road Shops, and there, for some arcane reason, were mated with compromise roofs---except for 3215, which retained a deck roof. Returned to Camden, the four odd-looking hybrids ran on into history, establishing a noble record of service until well into the twilight days of Public Service's compromise roof car fleet.

Among trolley enthusiasts today, controversy still exists. There are those, the author included, who believe that this striking design resulted in one of the most remarkable car designs ever to come from a designer's table. Others, often much more vocal, see it as an impractical mutant, a travesty of reasonable and traditional trolley roof design. Their arguments are timeless and will endure as long as the people endure&emdash;much as the eternal bickering between adherents of the B-17 bomber and the B-24 in World War II. But one thing can be said about the compromise roof cars that neither side can deny. They were unusual. They were unique. And they form a fascinating chapter in the long evolution of trolley design from the earliest Van Deopoles to the PCC and to our own latter-day LRV's.

 

COMPROMISE ROOF CARS

Company Series Windows Builder #-of-Cars
PSNJ 2600-2700 14 PSNJ 101
PSNJ 2701-2749 14 Cincinnati 49
PSNJ 3225-3282* ** Cincinnati 58
PSNJ 2800-2812 13 PSNJ 13
PSNJ 3201-08-11-19 13 PSNJ 4
Richmond 300-319* 14 Cincinnati 20
Power & Light 245

* Emergency Fleet Corporation Cars
** 3225-3249: 14 windows; 3250-3283: 13 windows

 

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Content: © 1997 Al Mankoff
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Brett Putnam