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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Eating & Drinking Allowed

The rumours of Blackpool's heritage operation expanding further with a dining on board experience prompt some recollections and pointers to examples both historic and current. The most famous European tram ride which offered on board refreshments in regular service was the interurban run from Dusseldorf to Duisburg ('D' Service). Over the years this fifty minute ride offered a bespoke 'Speisewagen' which allowed modest service for tired office workers (and others) heading home. The eating element was limited to warm wurst on bread rolls, or 'kaiser brotchen' with beer or coffee to hand from a small counter. I believe three of the later lengthy articulated Duwag cars were provided with a small kitchen section in the middle unit and equally small side counters between centre facing seats. I recall a singularly impressive journey from Jan Wellem Platz in the centre of Dusseldorf which was the terminal for this service as far as the outskirts of Duisburg in the 1960s, - the only occasion I managed to experience a true German interurban tram operation. The less lengthy interurban run to Krefeld ('K' service) was similarly endowed with a buffet unit but Duisburg buffet service lasted longer.

In the United States the famous 'Electroliners' of the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railway (actually a famous electric interurban complete with trolley poles on sometimes lengthy coupled units with four or five cars) which served communities along the extensive line came with art deco interior bar - again in one of the articulated sections. Here too a modest kitchen allowed the hungry traveller to consume from a slightly more extensive menu with the inevitable local brew among other liquor refreshment. Two such units were placed in service in 1941 just before Pearl Harbour took America into a world war. They would become the high point of American interurban trolleycar design as the postwar era saw a swift decline in remaining operations throughout the US. One exception was to the west of Philadelphia where 'Red Arrow Lines' operated to northwest communities as far as Norristown. Here a joined up link was made with the Lehigh Valley system. Other Red Arrow services ran to small towns such as Media and Sharon Hill. The Norristown line was standard gauge - which afforded Red Arrow management - then taken over by a regional transportation authority - SEPTA - to acquire the two Electroliners when their Chicago days ended. Using third rail power collection and naturally rebranded by the new owner, the duo had a second lease on life into the 1970s - albeit without the former onboard catering. Both units are now safely preserved in seperate 'trolley' museums for those interested in such things. The lengthy lines running on street in Sharon Hill and Media - typical small town America, still operate from the 69th Street terminal in west Philadelphia. The former Red Arrow Brill cars have long been replaced by Kawasaki bogie cars of forgettable design, but follow the same right of way originally built in the early decades of the last century. Rides worth taking if you are visiting Philadelphia with its own city streetcar services most of which use an east west subway in the centre district to emerge onto street running in outer districts. An all street line (15) along Girard Avenue was reintroduced using heavily rebuilt PCC cars (complete with air conditioning and in traditional green and cream livery). Of course Blackpool boat car 603/228 operated in Philadelphia in a noteworthy trans-atlantic 'first' in 1976.

One of the two former 'Electroliners' in their final service condition on the Norristown high speed service out of west Philly. Seen here at rest in the Rockhill Furnace trolley museum in Pennsylvania during the 1980s. Both Images Copyright John Woodman

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