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Pittsburgh Railways Company

Acquired by PAT on March 1, 1964


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 its 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 50's.

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.

Where 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 GM's.

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.

Additional conversions 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 company reorganization.

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 its 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 in number.

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.


Acquired Equipment (with PAT number if re-numbered)
PRCo Number Make Model Year PAT Number
45-59 ACF C-31 1951 45-59
60-69 Mack C47DT 1957 60-69
70-83 Mack C47DT 1958 70-83
150-153 ACF C-27 1948 150-153
155 ACF C-27 1948 155
158-166 ACF C-27 1948 158-166
169 ACF C-27 1948 169
171 ACF C-27 1948 171
175 ACF C-27 1948 175
177 ACF C-27 1948 177
179-181 ACF C-27 1948 179-181
184-185 ACF C-27 1948 184-185
188-193 ACF C-27 1948 188-193
200-229 GM TDH4509 1952 200-229
230-249 GM TDH4509 1953 230-249
250-273 GM TDH4512 1953 250-273
274-288 GM TDH4512 1956 274-288
289-317 GM TDH4512 1959 289-317
376-380 ACF C-27 1949 376-380
382-391 ACF C-27 1949 382-391
393 ACF C-27 1949 393
501-519 GM TDH4517 1960 501-519
971 (329) ACF 31S 1940 971
972-973 (365,362) ACF 31S 1942 972-973
974-975 (331,334) ACF 31S 1940 974-975
976-977 (330,344) ACF 31S 1940 976-977
978-979 (335,332) ACF 31S 1940 978-979
980-981 (324,343) ACF 31S 1940 980-981
982-983 (338,320) ACF 31S 1940 982-983
984-985 (365,88) ACF 31S 1942 984-985
986 (336) ACF 31S 1940 986

Note: Coaches 971-986 were converted from passenger bus to salt bus and carried work truck numbers in the 900 range. These were all ex-Pittsburgh Motor Coach Co buses and the original number is shown in parenthesis.

PRCo numbers were the basis for PAT's renumbering and thus not re-numbered..


Routes (shown with PAT numbers)
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Note: Looking up the route conversions

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This page was updated on June 26, 2008

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