New York

New York Railways Company, Hobble Skirt Cars on Broadway

From the American Art Publishing Company of New York City we get this postcard showing Broadway with a row of what were popularly called Hobble Skirt cars. The destination on the car reads "BROADWAY" and "59TH ST. - 7TH AV.". The shows on the theatres indicate that the photograph was taken early in 1914.

One thinks of low floor trams as a modern idea, but these cars were called Hobble Skirt cars as the sills of the doors were only about 8 inches from street level. This allowed ladies of the day who were wearing the then fashionable long tight dresses to board the car with ease. Once inside the floor sloped up into each saloon to give space under the floor for the bogies. The correct name for these trams was Low Level Centre Entrance cars or Hedley-Doyle cars after their designers. Frank Hedley was Vice-President and General Manager of the New York Railways Company and James S. Doyle was the Superintendent of Car Equipment. In 1912 they produced three prototype low-floor cars for the company, 5000 the Hobble Skirt car, 6000 a double-decker (see Postcard) and 7000 a 4-wheel battery car.

A batch of 175 single-deck Hedley-Doyle cars, numbered 5001 to 5175, was delivered to the New York Railways Company in 1914. Prototype 5000 had been built by J. G. Brill and was mounted on a pair of their 62E maximum traction trucks, but due to Brill's full order book the production batch was built by the St. Louis Car Company and used fabricated arch-bar trucks of their design. These had 30in driving wheels and 19in pony wheels, used outside-hung Westinghouse 553-R3 50 horsepower motors, Westinghouse air brakes, Peacock hand brakes. There was a large "duck-bill" bumper (fender) which was mounted on the trucks, not the car body as was normal, and the trucks were enclosed by steel-plate shrouds. The cars used conduit current collection and were controlled by Westinghouse 1PK controllers. The bodies were double ended, were 39ft 8in long, 8ft 3in wide and seated 51 passengers.

Brill supplied sample cars of the Hedley-Doyle design to Vancouver in Canada, and to Perth and Brisbane in Australia. They supplied a batch of 36 cars to the Southern Pacific Company for use on the Pacific Electric Railway local services and on the city systems in Stockton, San Jose and Fresno (all in California).

The service life of the New York cars was not long. By 1919 the company was in financial trouble and cut-backs and one man operation were instituted. The Hedley-Doyle cars were not suitable and were progressively withdrawn, the one last running in 1925. The Pacific Electric cars did a little better, lasting until 1934, although one Fresno car body survived as a diner and the steel frame of another is at the Orange Empire Railway Museum, Perris, California. The Vancouver car was scrapped in 1939 and the Brisbane one in 1933. However, the Perth car was running until 1950, and the body still exists at the Perth Electric Tramway Society's museum at Whiteman Park, Perth.

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