Heritage streetcar (or vintage streetcar) refers to a streetcar built many years ago which is still operating and has not been completely rebuilt. So heritage cars are, in a sense, antique streetcars. Because of their age and the difficulty of finding replacement parts, these cars are often operated with great care, and lovingly maintained. As a result, heritage cars are usually not used on a streetcar line with a large volume of passengers and frequent service. Heritage cars are often operated on weekends or special occasions, and may be used to supplement regular service.
Like all terms, the boundaries of "heritage car" are not sharply defined. Some people consider the PCC car a heritage car, since most of these cars were built in the 1940s. There are a few PCC cars in operation that have not been rebuilt, but most have. More commonly, heritage cars were built in the 1930s or even earlier.
There are dozens of heritage cars in the U.S. Some of them are owned by or affiliated with a streetcar or light rail line; others are owned by rail museums. Many heritage cars are "one of a kind," the only car of a particular type that was preserved, or salvaged and restored.
Heritage car operations affiliated with a transit system
The first group of links are to information about heritage car operations affiliated with a transit system
New Orleans, LA
In the section on replicars, there is information about the streetcar system in New Orleans
. The Regional Transit Authority uses 24 cars built in the 1920s, and rebuilt in the 1970s; some consider these cars heritage cars. To provide service on the new Riverfront and Canal Street lines, the RTA built 31 replicars, that is cars that have dimensions and body styles similar or identical to cars built in the 1920s and 1930s, but have modern propulsion and braking systems. Both the heritage and replicars operate in daily service. For more information about New Orleans:
Memphis was one of the first cities to build a streetcar line serving the downtown, including a pedestrian/shoppers mall similar to State Street in Madison. In the early years of service, the system relied on a variety of heritage cars acquired from various places in the U.S. and abroad. As a result of two incidents in 2014 involving fires on cars in service, the system was shut down indefinitely.
For more information about Memphis:
The photos on this page illustrate the variety of cars used in Memphis, including cars from Australia and Portugal. As the line expanded, the Main Street Trolley organization purchased replicars built by Gomaco. Both the heritage and the Gomaco replicars
operated in daily service until service was suspended.
In Portland, the regional transit service agency, Tri-Met, purchased four replicars in 1990-1991. The cars are designed to look like the traditional Portland Streetcar, the "Council Crest"
car, named after one of the original streetcar lines. These cars operate on a two-mile segment of the Portland light rail line, from Downtown Portland to Lloyd Center, a major shopping district. They operate daily June through December, and weekends March through June. They do not operate in January or February.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco reintroduced regular streetcar service on Market Street in 1995, 14 years after the last daily service. The operation was expanded in 2001 with the addition of a line connecting Market Street at the Embarcadero with Fisherman's Wharf. Service on the F line is provided every eight to fifteen minutes by a fleet of rebuilt PCC cars
and cars acquired from Milan, Italy
Heritage streetcar operation is provided by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) in partnership with Market Street Railway, a nonprofit organization devoted to streetcar restoration, maintenance and operation. The initial heritage service was operated on Market Street during Trolley Festivals in the 1980s. Since service has been restored on Market Street, heritage cars are run as supplements to the scheduled streetcars on an occasional basis. Service is provided with a fleet of 14 "historic and international" cars, including original San Francisco streetcars number 1, 130 and 172. For more information about this heritage trolley operation:
Heritage streetcar service in Dallas grew out of the desire of local business owners to improve access to their stores. The discovery of existing streetcar tracks under the pavement on McKinney Avenue provided the stimulus. The service is provided by the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority, an organization established to own and operate the line. Daily service is provided using four streetcars, including a restored Stone and Webster streetcar, many of which ran in Texas, and a Birney replicar. For more information about this heritage trolley operation:
Museums that operate heritage streetcars
There are many streetcar or trolley museums in the United States (for links to many of them, go to
There are two museums in this area that operate heritage streetcars:
East Troy, WI
The East Troy Electric Railroad Museum owns more than 25 pieces of electric railway equipment, including five operating heritage streetcars. They are East Troy car 21 - a replica of an 1890s open car, Twin Cities Rapid Transit car 1583, and Milwaukee Electric car 846..
East Union, IL
The Illinois Railway Museum, locate east of East Union, IL, has a large collection of streetcars. The current (2004) equipment roster lists 23 electric streetcars; some of the cars are operational. Fourteen of the cars operated in service in the Chicago area. Chicago Surface Lines 144 was built in 1908 and is occasionally operated at the museum. Two of the cars were operated by the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company.