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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Bullet Cars to Norristown

Well before Blackpool's streamlined vee styled railcars were delivered in 1937 from the Brush Engineering Company, a suburban feeder line running from Norristown, PA to the 69th Street terminal of the Philadelphia Transportation Company on wholly reserved track was equipped with remarkable new cars.

Built by Brill and equipped with third rail current collectors these singular unique vehicles provided fast journeys for the many commuters feeding into Philadelphia from the outer suburbs to the west and northwest of the city. Known familiarly as they vastly improved on the journey time between the two terminals to the extent that they became known as the 'Bullet Cars' given their acceleration and speed. Similar cars were also used in the American West on the Bamberger Railroad running out of Salt Lake City.

In time the Norristown line together with associated trolley lines to the west of Philadelphia became part of the 'Red Arrow' brand before being absorbed into the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). This system took over then then extensive Philadelphia (PTC) streetcar network in the 1960s and consolidated the operation with two distinct groups. The Philadelphia streetcars using the subway which ran into centre city from the west on wide gauge tracks; and the the suburban Red Arrow lines to Media, Sharon Hill and seperate Norristown services on standard gauge track.

Below : somewhat less flattering image of SEPTA Bullet car 209 - in its final condition and part of the trolley museum at Orbisonia, PA.

Images : John Woodman

SEPTA's connection to Blackpool is of course the Authority's sponsorship of boat car 603 and its entry into tour service in Philadelphia for the US Bicentennial. Painted in a special livery with project funding from Pittsburgh Paint and Glass (PPG Industries) - this was a unique first inasmuch as it involved a British tram running in the streets of an American city. The rest is history.

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