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SOCIETE DES TRANSPORTS INTERCOMMUNAUX DE BRUXELLES (TRAMWAYS BRUXELLOIS) #1511,BRUSSELS,BELGIUM

SOCIETE DES TRANSPORTS INTERCOMMUNAUX DE BRUXELLES
(TRAMWAYS BRUXELLOIS)
#1511,BRUSSELS,BELGIUM

 42 passenger, 1936 Ateliers Metallurgiques de Nivelles

Compiled by Old Pueblo Trolley, April 2002*

LIFE IN BRUSSELS

1400 pulling trailer

Tram 1400 pulling a trailer on the circular route 91/90 about 1960. The location is at Gare Du Nord-Esplanade
Mupdofer Photo Collection

Car 1511 is a typical "tram", as electric streetcars are called in Europe. It was built for service in Brussels, Belgium in 1936 as car # 1400, and was one of 685 cars built between 1934 and 1938 that were known as "standard motor cars". Officially, the building of these cars was called a "transformation" because Tramways Bruxellois was prohibited from building completely new cars, so they dismantled cars dating from 1905 to 1920 with the intent of using the still serviceable parts in the new cars. In practice very few older parts were used, and no individual mid-1930s car can be traced to any specific earlier car. These cars were numbered 1001-1236, 1241-1455, 1601-1603, 1801-1840, 1884-1899, 1931-1963, 3379-3399, 3401-3500, 3801-3805 and 3856-3871. All these cars were painted in a "yellow hollyhock" paint scheme with blue trim, and tan and black trucks, that has been used in Brussels since 1913 and continues in use to this day on modern trams.

Sometime between 1947 and 1951, modifications were made equipping the “standard motor cars” with automatic doors, a new seating arrangement, and a fixed post near the rear door for the ticket collector (conductor in the U. S.). Prior to that the seating arrangement in the front compartment was the same as that in the rear compartment. Originally, the front compartment was first class (higher fare) and the rear compartment was second class.

1511 in hollyhock paint scheme

Postcard view of #1511 with its “yellow hollyhock” paint scheme in service in Brussels shortly after the 1967 remodeling. The red disk at bottom of window level on the right front indicates that the tram was being operated by a single agent. The location is at Rue de la Vierge Noire on Route 88.
Robert Temmerman Photo

With a more extensive remodeling in October of 1967, car 1400 was renumbered 1511. The “standard motor cars” were equipped to haul trailers, and thus the piping and electrical sockets on the rear. During its days as #1400, OPT’s car would have hauled a trailer when needed during peak hours. During the 1967 remodeling, the trailers were remodeled too. While the trailer hauling capability was retained on the 1500 series cars, in practice the trailers were used only with the 1600 series cars which were “2 agent (2 employee - motorman and conductor) cars”. Trailers were not used with the 1500 series cars that were mainly “1 agent cars”, but could be converted to “2 agent cars”.

1511 on #63 line

This March 22, 1970 photo shows tram 1511 at Square Ambierix on the 63 line.
Rene Stevens Photo

1511 on #45 line

Tram 1511 in operation on the 45 line in Brussels.

In 1967, car 1511 was one of 15 trams (1501-1515) remodeled for intended for use in the pre-metro tunnels. This remodeling was designed to allow either one or two man operation depending on the line to which it was assigned. It included lighted roll type destination signs instead of the previous wood plates mounted on the roof, and florescent interior lights instead of tulip shaped shades over incandescent bulbs. In addition these cars had the right side windows sealed due to the narrow clearance, the side, roof mounted advertising signs lowered and a new “driving cab” installed. After the modifications were made, insurance underwriters would not allow the use of these cars in the subway due to their wood construction and lack of an automatic brake system. The 1967 rebuild also included a new truck. In 1968 the 1600 series cars were similarly updated.

Car 1511 was usually used on route 62, but was part of a group assigned for use on routes 88, 63, 76, 81, 41, 45, and 62. Since Brussels is a bilingual city, all the signs in the car appear in two languages, French and Flemish (Dutch). On the destination signs, red is used for “Depot” (carbarn), blue for special things like training, and yellow for special events (charters). The latter would also show a “S” (for “special”) in place of the route number, and the Brussels trolley museum now uses an “M” for “museum”. A slash through the route number indicated a shorter route, i.e., a trip where the entire length of the route was not covered, often called a “short turn” in the U. S. Other than mentioned above, there is no significance to the colors on the destination sign except to help distinguish a particular route at a distance. Car 1511 now has an older destination sign in the front, and a newer sign in the rear. The newer sign has small symbols, an “M” in a square indicating that the route connects to the underground Metro (subway), and a “T” with an arrow in a circle indicating that the route connects to the tunnel where streetcars ran, but which has since become part of the Metro.

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JOURNEY TO PHOENIX

Upon retirement in 1976, car 1511 was set aside to be shipped to Paraguay, but when the transit agency in Paraguay failed to pay for trams previously shipped, 1511 was instead imported to the United States in late 1979.

The official records in Brussels show it was shipped by Blackpool Trolleycar, Ltd. of New York, who paid 35,000 Belgium Francs the car. They also paid an additional 15,000 Belgium Francs for work done on the car prior to shipping, which included repainting the car, repainting of the advertising panels, 2 sets of controller keys, 12 brake blocks (shoes), and one set of fuses and light bulbs.

Blackpool Trolleycar originally imported a Blackpool, England “boat car” to Philadelphia for the Bicentennial. The organization was headed by John Woodman and at the time was working with the 42nd Street Redevelopment Corporation to promote a trolley line along 42nd Street in Manhattan. They imported Brussels car 1504 (it left Brussels on July 3, 1980), and Hamburg car 3584 to Newark, and placed them on display in Manhattan to promote the concept. When the proposal floundered, car 1504 and 3584 both ended up at the Trolley Museum of New York in Kingston, New York.

While arranging for car 1504 for the New York project, Mr. Woodman had made a deal on two cars in Brussels. The second, car 1511, had no connection to the New York effort. It left Brussels on March 5, 1979, was shipped to Long Beach then transported to San Diego for auction by a California trading company specializing in heritage items. It appeared in their catalogue along side old bar interiors and all manner of furnishings. After the car was auctioned off, so the story goes from people in Phoenix, the new owner got into a poker game in San Diego with one of the owners of Entz-White hardware in Phoenix. As the evening went on and the San Diego man kept loosing, he ended up betting the streetcar and loosing it too.

1511 in front of Entz-White store in Phoenix

Car 1511 on display in front of the Entz-White store renumbered to 909 to reflect the street address of the business.
Cirino Scavone Photo

So, in 1980, Car 1511 ended up in Phoenix, Arizona on display in front of Entz-White hardware store at 909 East Camelback Road. They repainted it with a lighter yellow, changed the number to 909 to reflect the address of the store, and decorated the car with a long line of blue “EW’s” across its length. In 1982 it was moved inside the store for use as part of a coffeehouse or café called “Jacksons”. At that time it was painted red with large letters across the front and the door side announcing the business name.

1511 being maneuvered out of Wattis' yard in Phoenix

Maneuvering out of the Wattis’ yard in Phoenix.
Dave Dykstra Photo

Crane unloads 1511 in Tucson

Hook Crane unloads the car in the Old Pueblo Trolley yard in Tucson.
Dave Dykstra Photo

About 1985 Rodney and Candice Wattis purchased it at a bankruptcy sale. About that time, representatives of Old Pueblo Trolley approached Mr. Wattis concerning the car. However, since there was ongoing discussion about a possible heritage trolley line in downtown Phoenix, Mr. Wattis wished to keep it. He was a developer who bought and sold properties regularly. Initially he kept the car inside in a warehouse downtown. Later he had it moved from property to property and even had a metal cradle made so it could easily be picked up by a crane. Eventually, it ended up in the backyard of his east Phoenix home. When his wife tired of looking at it, he approached Old Pueblo Trolley about donating. On December 15, 1994, Fred Bennett of the San Jose Historical Museum completed an appraisal placing the value of the car at $80,000. Satisfied with the appraisal amount, Mr. Wattis donated car 1511 to Old Pueblo Trolley on December 29, 1994. It was moved to Tucson in April 1995.

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RESTORATION IN TUCSON

Structural wood inside picture

The structural wood shows well with the side panels and windows removed during restoration.

In the summer 1995 restoration work began on the car. Much of the work was done by OPT’s “Friday crew”, consisting of Dave Hunt, Don Early and Ed Peal. Later Bob Whalen and Dave Johnson joined the effort. It was found that the aluminum body panel sheathing was loose because the steel screws had rusted. All panels were removed, a small amount of rotted or broken support wood was replaced and the panels remounted with new screws and bolts.

The seats and small “tables” were removed and refurbished by Tom Van Atta. He repainted the metal parts and reupholstered several seats that had torn vinyl. Gary Afseth refinished the interior wood. The Friday crew spent many hours sanding and preparing the interior metal parts for new brown and white paint that was applied by Gene and Dan Caywood.

A major effort was the replacement of the sealed right hand side windows. Jim Tyron made new window frames, Architectural Openings provided glass, and the windows were installed and made to open by the “Friday crew”. In addition significant work had to be done to the left side windows to bring them back to working condition.

All the layers of old roofing were removed, the wood sanded and a new canvas roof installed. Jim Tyron replicated the wood for the roof platform that was modified for two trolley poles, and Paul Horky welded up replacement brackets replacing the badly rusted originals.

Paul Horky spend many Sunday afternoons needle scaling the old flaking paint off the truck, with some assistance from Joe Abney, II.

In 1996, Claude Sabot from Canada was visiting Tucson, noted the trolley tracks and followed them to the carbarn where he was amazed to find a tram from his native Belgium under restoration. He immediately offered his help in obtaining parts from the transit agency and tram museum in Brussels. He has since become a friend of Old Pueblo Trolley without whose assistance the restoration project could not have been completed. On his many trips to Brussels he has always returned with needed parts. When other inquiries regarding replacement flooring had failed, Claude located the original manufacturer and arranged for a special order. When the material arrived, he spent a week in Tucson working with Dave Hunt, Eric Sitiko and Gene Caywood to install it in 1511.

The restoration effort was not without setbacks. At one point, the front panel of the car, with headlight attached was stolen from directly in front of the car. Replacing the metal was rather easily accomplished, but the headlight was another matter. No extras were available, so Claude Sabot had a copy made from the one on his car (he owns car 1247 which is in Canada). Another time, a person we had hired to help do body work and strip paint, removed interior paint he had been told to leave alone, and dripped paint remover on plastic control panel labels. Undoing what he did cost many hundreds of additional hours of otherwise unnecessary work.

In between all the body and interior work, Dave Dykstra attacked the mechanical workings of the car. Countless hours were spent tracing wiring, checking and testing electrical parts, and sealing leaks and testing the air system, including hydrotesting the air tank. When Dave was unable to continue putting in long hours, Eric Sitiko took over and completed the work.

The car was essentially complete when received except for the resistors. Joe Abney, I, built resistor banks from scratch using a “back of the envelope” design, and supervised mounting them under the car.

First test run of 1511

First test run under its own power to the end of the line at Tyndall Avenue and University Blvd. in November 2001.
Gene Caywood Photo

Test run up 4th Ave

Eric Sitiko motors car 1511 up Fourth Avenue while Dave Dykstra stands by during the first test run to the end of the line in November 2001.
Gene Caywood Photo

Eric Sitiko supervised testing of the car, and designed and installed modifications to enable operation from the rear platform. Once the “wye” track is completed at 8th Street and 4th Avenue, and once the loop is installed at the University end of the line, the car will be returned to its original “single end” configuration. Eric also trained OPT’s staff of Platform trainers headed by Superintendent of Operations, Sam Haney so operators would be available to run the car.

Dan applying paint on 1511

Dan Caywood applies the blue stripe and numbers to the car on April 1, 2002.
Gene Caywood Photo

Finally, Gene Caywood spent countless hours covering screws with polyester body filler, then sanding and preparing the car for painting. At the end “Idaho” Mike Ross assisted him for 13 days during his winter vacation. Dan Caywood expertly applied the yellow and blue paint, with the assistance of Idaho Mike, and others, completing the car in time for dedication.

In addition to all the volunteers mentioned above (and others who were not mentioned) who put in an estimated 12,400 hours, Old Pueblo Trolley is indebted to those who provided funding for the restoration. Major contributors were Art Jones and Joe Brogan of the 20th Century Electric Railway Foundation; the Pie-Allen Neighborhood Association, which donated money for painting the car, and Pat Dunford and Dick Guthrie who, paid for the new flooring. In addition Scott Supply provided fastners. Finally, the bulk of the $26,000 direct expenses came in the form of smaller donations and membership fees provided by OPT’s friends.

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DEDICATION AND OPERATION IN TUCSON

1511 drives through banner

The dedication speeches over, Eric Sitiko moves car 1511 through the banner at the Old Pueblo Trolley carbarn.
Pat Dunford Photo

Guests boarding 1511 on dedication day

Dedication guests board 1511 on 8th Street for an ignaural free ride, Sunday, April 7, 2002.
Dave Dykstra Photo

On April 7, 2002, friends of Old Pueblo Trolley gathered for the dedication and inaugural run of restored car 1511. After appropriate speeches and recognition of the donation of the Wattis family and the amazing help of Claude Sabot, champagne bottles were broken over the bumper by Claude Sabot, Dave Dykstra, Art Jones and Joe Brogan, then Eric Sitiko motored the car through the banner, followed by free rides for all present.

1511 in new paint job

Car 1511, resplendent in its new paint job, poses on University Blvd. three days prior to its dedication for service on Old Pueblo Trolley’s heritage streetcar line.
Pat Dunford photo

*The Brussels history of car 1511 was complied from various correspondence as follows:

  • Letter dated 20 August ’94 from Alain G. Piette, Vice President of Musee Prive De Documentation Ferroviarire, Bruxelles.
  • Information sent to the Pueblo (Colorado) Street Railway Foundation, August 9, 1996, from Roger Walraevens, Societe des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles
  • Notes of interview with Claude Sabot, 8/12/97
  • E-mail dated October 10, 1999 from Philippe Matagne of the Brussels tram museum to Dick Guthrie
  • Various E-mails in July 2001 between Gene Caywood and Dick Guthrie of OPT and John Woodman
  • E-mail dated July 25, 200l from Philippe Matagne to Gene Caywood
  • Documentation of the purchase of 1511 by Blackpool Trolleycar, Ltd., provided by John Woodman

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