American Trams Get Their Heart from the Czech Republic

American Trams Get Their Heart from the Czech Republic
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American Trams Get Their Heart from the Czech Republic

This article first appeared in the Railway-News magazine, Issue 3 2022.

Although the popularity of trams in the United States is far below the level of their popularity on the old continent, tram lines still enjoy popularity in several American cities.

At present, more than two thirds of gearboxes installed in trams on new lines in the USA were manufactured by the Czech producer Wikov.

PCC as Salvation

Martin Sychrovský, Marketing Director of Wikov, says:

“Our role in the renaissance of American tram transport is key. And it is also worth mentioning how much the USA and the Czech Republic are connected in this way.”

So let’s go back to the period after the First World War, when the rapid development of motoring in the USA began to seriously threaten tram transport.

Sychrovský, illustrating the situation, said:

“Back then, only small two-axle trams were produced, which did not have a chance to succeed economically compared to cars and buses. It was necessary to come up with a new concept – a modern tram design with a large passenger capacity and user comfort and which wouldn’t be forced out of the streets of big cities easily.”

The new concept was called the PCC (President’s Conference Committee).

The Miracle Did Not Happen, But…

In the autumn of 1936, the first PCC trams rolled out on the streets of New York. They featured rotating, two-axle chassis guaranteeing quieter and smoother operation as well as other innovations. Each axle had its own traction motor, with the axes of the motors being perpendicular to the axles. In addition, the trams’ speed was controlled by a multistage resistor, the so-called accelerator.

“However, the miracle didn’t happen. In the years 1936–1952, only about 5,000 units of trams of the PCC concept were produced in the USA. But… the Americans started selling licences for the PCC concept,” Sychrovský explains.

Download the full PDF here.

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