Note: This short history of
the Pittsburgh Railways Company will cover the bus operations of the company, not the rail
operations which are very well documented by others. The bus operations of PRCo tended to
be ignored by other sites but the bus side is important in understanding the overall operation of the
company and in how Port Authority Transit is structured.
The largest and most well
known of the PAT acquisitions was the Pittsburgh Railways Company (PRCo). This was the
first company to be acquired by PAT, however, it also took the longest time to actually
complete due to being tied up in court for a number of years.
PRCo bus operations traces
itself back January 31, 1925 when it successfully purchased the Pittsburgh Auto Transit Co
(PATC). When formed, the new bus operation was called the Pittsburgh Motor Coach Company
(PMCC) and was a subsidiary of PRCo. This operation started out with the 3 PATC routes and
3 new routes approved by the Pennsylvania Public Service Commission although only 4 were
ran. at first.
The original PATC routes were
set up as supplements to the rail lines and not as direct competition even though they
went into Downtown. The PMCC seemed to like this set up as it also set its new routes up
in the same manner. Most of the the PMCC routes at this time were considered deluxe
service and had a premium 25 cent fare structure. Only one of the original routes ran with
the 10 cent trolley fare and was quickly abandoned due to poor ridership. The routes
tended to be set up along busy trolley lines and crisscrossed the line to serve the nearby
residential areas. The original routes were all in the East End of the City. It wasn't
until 1927 until the first non-east route was implemented and this was to Mt. Lebanon.
Between 1925 and 1932, PMCC
instituted 21 new routes. Some were Sunday/holiday only routes and one was a sightseeing
route. Not one of these routes replaced a trolley line. Also not one feeder route had been
implemented until May 25, 1932 when the first feeder route was instituted from McKees
Rocks to the North Side with a streetcar fare and transfer privileges. 1932 also saw the
first rail to bus conversion which was the route 33 car line which became the 101 bus line
to Mt. Washington. This rail line was little used and a prime candidate for conversion as
the route 40 car line to Mt. Washington was much faster.
PMCC continued to expand
deluxe route bus system until 1937. A ruling caused by the City of Pittsburgh Council, and
upheld by the PUC, cut fares on these routes to 15 cents. At this time, the PMCC retired
the deluxe buses in favor of less expensive standard transit buses and the existing deluxe
routes were renamed from "deluxe" to "through routes" with a nickel
higher fare than the trolleys had.
At the time PRCo was starting
to modernize its trolley fleet with PCC streetcars, PMCC was looking towards trolley
coaches. A demonstration loop around the Gulf Building in Downtown was put up and a demo
Twin trolley coach was put in service in September of 1936. This demonstration project
failed for a number of reasons. Primarily it was the fact that the PCC's could use the
existing infrastructure and thereby reducing capital costs. Also the management of PRCo
and the public literally fell in love with the new PCC design. It is also reported that
the Belgium brick streets of the area proved a very rough ride in the trolley coach.
Pittsburgh was perhaps the shortest lived trolley coach operation in the nation, lasting
only a few weeks.
By the time PRCo received
its last order of streetcars in 1949, political pressures were coming down on the company
to start converting routes over to bus operations. A few insignificant low ridership
routes were converted over but no major rail routes were converted. Plans were in place as
far back as 1941 to convert some rail routes over but these routes held on until the early
A major company
reorganization took place in 1951 when the Philadelphia Company was forced, by the PUC, to
divest itself of transit and gas holdings. The Philadelphia Company was trustee for PRCo
and PMCC at the time. The reorganization included the merging of PRCo and the PMCC into
one company which retained the PRCo name. The PMCC was now the Motor Coach Division of
PRCo and remained that way up to the PAT takeover.
some companies in Pittsburgh favored and were known for certain buses, PRCo was most known
for its Brills, primarily the 1948 C-27 model that they had many of. Many systems in the
country that had them, didn't like the C-27, PRCo liked them as they worked well with
narrow winding roads of the Pittsburgh area. PRCo removed what were called turning blocks
on the C-27's so they could make extremely tight turns which is one reason these buses
were liked by operators. They also operated larger Brill C-31 and C-36 buses along with
September 2, 1952 marked the
largest rail to bus conversion in PRCo history. This was when the Etna and Millvale
trolley lines became bus. These 2 routes also had the distinction of being the first bus
routes to have 24 hour service. This conversion also was important enough to PRCo that 30
GM TDH4509's were purchased to run the lines. Also of note, this was the first order of
buses to carry the route number on the destination sign.
followed with the closing of the 9 remaining rail shuttle lines between 1952 and 1953.
These rail shuttle conversions had been mentioned as far back as 1941 in an earlier
In 1953, PRCo applied to the
Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission for a fare increase from 17¢ to 20¢. This
generated much resistance by the City of Pittsburgh which filed suit to block the increase
and push for a full scale conversion of the remaining rail lines to bus operations. The
City of Pittsburgh won the first round and succeeded in blocking the fare increase and
getting an order to allow for the full scale conversion to buses. PRCo appealed the ruling
and then went on a public relations blitz to the public to explain why they needed the
fare increase and that converting the system over to a 100% bus operation would not lower
the fares. The appeal to the PA State Superior Court was successful for PRCo. This
allowed PRCo to increase fares and keep the streetcars but the political pressure was
still on to abandon the streetcar lines. The action by the City of Pittsburgh in 1953 was
an attempt to basically bankrupt PRCo which would force them into yet another
reorganization and would then allow the overseeing trustees to abandon the rail lines.
Express service entered the
scene on June 21, 1954 with 3 routes running on the Parkway East. New GM TDH4512's were
the primary buses run on these routes. As with the through bus routes, the express routes
were extra fare.
Between 1954 and 1960, not
much happened outside of some forced rail to bus conversions. The conversion of 3 North
Side lines was prompted by the State Department of Transportation's decision to resurface
some of the roads that the trolleys operated on. This prompted the purchase of 10 Mack
C-47-DT transit coaches to run the lines, primarily the Spring Garden route. The City of
Pittsburgh resurfaced Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill during 1958 which forced the
conversion of 3 more routes and the purchase of more Mack C47DT coaches. The most notable
closure was the closing of the Point Bridge, replaced by the Ft. Pitt Bridge, which caused
the elimination of all 6 West End lines. The purchase of 29 new GM TDH4512's was done to
accommodate the conversion.
The year 1960 saw a flurry of
activity. First was the conversion of 3 routes due to the resurfacing of Butler Street.
Second was the purchase of 19 new GM TDH4517 coaches for use on through and express
routes. Third was a system-wide renumbering converting the old cumbersome system to an
easier to manage method. Fourth was the converting of the Homewood car barn to a bus
garage and finally a fare increase.
1961 through 1964 was also
rather active as more conversions continued and the PAT takeover was looming. PAT's
initial engineering survey stated several recommendations including the conversion of all
but 3 South Hills lines (35, 36, 37) which had high ridership and was mostly on
private right of way. PRCo also announced a plan that it had in place which stated 100%
bus operation by 1972 in an attempt to try and escape the PAT takeover.
By the time of the PAT
takeover on March 1, 1964, PRCo was down to 287 trolleys and 219 buses. Although the
takeover occurred on March 1, 1964 through the use of the eminent domain law, the
acquisition was tied up until 1967, in litigation, over arguments regarding PRCo's value.
The above numbers did not include many older PCC cars and the PRCo 100
series of GM coaches as the condition of those vehicles were in poor shape
and PAT did not want them. The buses not acquired were 15 GM TDH4007's
from 1945 (100-114) and 19 GM TDH3207's from 1947 (115-133). Part of the
issues behind the vehicles not being acquired had to do with animosity
between PRCo and PAT. The PRCo didn't want to be taken over and was
demanding far more money than the company was worth and PAT was refusing to
budge on the compensation numbers.
By 1965, the non-GM buses of
PRCo, including the close to new 1957 and 1958 Mack buses were scrapped by PAT. Another
interesting note on the PRCo buses was that of the 500 series GM TDH4517's. These coaches
skipped the 500 number and started at 501. To this day the reasoning behind this move is
unclear as PRCo usually started a new series at 00 or at the next number available in the
numbering sequence, as it did with the TDH4512's that immediately followed the TDH4509's
PAT used PRCo as the basis
for its fleet renumbering of the other independent's buses as well as its operating
practices. It also retained the existing PRCo rail route designations but reassigned the
bus route numbers to a new system. Even the through bus routes remained, with the premium fare, into the 1970's.