top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Kenosha, Wisconsin

This small town of around 100,000 souls in the heartland of the mid-west is not usually in the international media headlines. But the senseless shooting of a black man by several uniformed police firing into his back as he got into his car with three children on board has again stirred up national sentiments in the United States. Outrage by wide sections of the local population have made Kenosha a flashpoint requiring influx of the National Guard to protect Federal buildings in the town centre. Local vigilante groups ostensibly protecting business premises in Kenosha and naturally armed - have already resulted in two shooting deaths overnight on Tuesday with likelihood of even more unrest.

Kenosha is unusual inasmuch as the town hosts an electric tramway (trolleyline) which operates vintage cars along some of the town's streets. A collection of classic American PCC cars has been assembled to run a visitor service - similar to the Market Street Railway in downtown San Francisco. The Kenosha PCCs (all seven of them) are painted in the colours of different US cities which once operated PCC cars - plus Toronto, Canada. There is no regular light rail service using the line and the PCC cars thus represent a token image of how US towns and cities looked when 1937 era trams were the accepted norm of urban travel.

Understandably it is to be hoped that this latest outrage finds calming voices as well as justice for the victim of what appears to be police violence of the worst degree. Anyone who has watched the movie 'Mississippi Burning' or the 'Heat of the Night' gains awareness of the issues and ever present problems of racial distinction in America.

Another US small town - Fort Collins, Colorado, has a parallel operation retaining a portion of the former trolley system along which an original 'Birney' car typical of this system provides a scheduled visitor service. The car is based in the original depot building, now preserved, and is well looked after by a local civic group. Fort Collins was the last system in the United States to operate 'Birney Cars' which were once ubiquitous features on many American systems. Examples also got as far as Australia, Portugal and Canada. They were the prototype one man cars on two axles, with a very low seating capacity but easy to maintain and low on energy consumption. Below : The Fort Collins 'Birney Car' 21 trundling sedately over immaculate grassed tracks on its visitor service.

Below : Not Kenosha, Wisconsin but Golden, Colorado with a PCC car on static display in Los Angeles Railway 'fruit salad' colours of the National City Lines operator in the late 1950s; Both Images : Steven Meyer-Rassow 2017

Featured Posts
bottom of page