Trolley Service in Brookline
(1905-1966)

Outbound 39-Brookline moves along the
boulevard in the direction of Flatbush Avenue.
An outbound 39-Brookline moves along the 700-block of Brookline Boulevard, approaching the Flatbush Avenue Car Stop.

History Of Trolleys In Brookline         Take A Ride On The "T"

Brookline Trolley Photos         Related Links         Streetcars or Trolleys

Souvenir Spoon        Digging Up The Past        Pittsburgh Trolley History

Models Of The 39-Brookline Trolley And South Hills Junction

Click on images for larger photos

Inbound 39-Brookline passing Cape May
An Outbound 39-Brookline passes Cape May Avenue heading south along West Liberty Avenue in May 1966.


A Short History On Trolley Service In Brookline

Trolley service in the City of Pittsburgh dates back to the mid-1800s, when horses pulled cars along rails that ran through some of the city's busier districts. There was also a cable car service that ran along Warrington Avenue, serving the Allentown, Knoxville, Beltzhoover and Mount Oliver neighborhoods as early as 1859. Cable lines were in service throughout Pittsburgh until 1897.

In the 1890s, the first electrified service began in downtown Pittsburgh. Soon, there were over one hundred separate trolley companies operatoring within the city limits. These independent operators merged into larger traction companies in the mid-1890s. The Pittsburgh Railways Company was formed in 1902 as a consolidation several independant traction companies throughout the city.

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South Hills Transportation - The Early Years

For residents of the South Hills in the late-1800s and early-1900s, the only way to travel to Pittsburgh by rail was via the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, which offered passenger service from 1871 to 1912.

P&CSRR train travels through Fairhaven.    PRC#4817 in 1921.
A P&CSRR train runs through Fairhaven (left) and a turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh Railways Co. horse-drawn trolley.

Boarding stations at Glenbury and Whited Streets provided access to Brookliners. The train took travelers as far as Warrington Avenue, where they had to transfer to a pair of inclines to scale Mount Washington and reach Carson Street in downtown Pittsburgh.

By 1902, a horse-drawn streetcar line ran the length of West Liberty Avenue, extending south to Mount Lebanon. This single-track route passed the Brookline Junction at West Liberty Avenue and Hunter Avenue (Brookline Boulevard).

This made travel easier for early South Hills residents, but there was still no direct link to the city, except for the long trip over Mount Washington.

The Mount Washington Transit Tunnel - 1906.
The Mount Washington Transit Tunnel was constructed in 1904 and brought streetcar service to the South Hills.

Electrified service was expanded from Carson Street to the South Hills Junction with the construction of the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel in 1904. From the Junction, new high-speed trolley lines soon branched out to the developing southern neighborhoods, including Overbrook, Beechview, Dormont, Castle Shannon, Mount Lebanon and Brookline.

Freehold Real Estate
Advertisement - June 27, 1905
Freehold Real Estate Company advertisement from June 27, 1905 highlighting Brookline's high-speed traction line.

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Brookline's First Streetcar Route

In 1905 the Pittsburgh Railways Company laid the first single-track trolley line through Brookline. This one-way line came from downtown Pittsburgh across the Smithfield Street Bridge, then passed through the transit tunnel and on to Warrington Avenue. The line turned at West Liberty Avenue and continued to the Brookline Junction.

The streetcar passed on to the looping right-of-way and ran along the length of the present-day Brookline Boulevard loop to Pioneer Avenue. At that time the loop was for rail traffic only. Vehicular traffic turned left and followed the route of present-day Bodkin Street, then designated Brookline Boulevard, to Pioneer Avenue.

The line ran the length of Brookline Boulevard to Breining Street, where it exited the roadway and passed on to a right-of-way that extended through the wooded ravine towards Fairhaven (Overbrook). It connected to an old Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad spur line that once served a coal mine entrance in the valley.

The route passed under a West Side Belt railroad tressel (present-day Overbrook Tunnel) and merged with the Charleroi line that ran along the Saw Mill Run corridor. From there the streetcar headed back to Pittsburgh. The line was a continuous loop to and from Pittsburgh. This new route was designated 39-Brookline.

South Hills Junction - 1906    39-Brookline heads towards the Fleming Stop,
up the Boulevard from West Liberty Avenue.
The South Hills Junction in 1906 (left) and an old-style trolley car passing Brookline's Fleming Stop in 1928.
On the left is an outbound P&CSRR train on the hillside above the South Hills Junction.

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Route Terminated At Edgebrook Avenue

When the West Side Belt Railway upgraded it's Pittsburgh lines in 1909, the Overbrook trestle that carried trains over the cut was replaced with the present-day Overbrook Tunnel. This construction work caused a disruption in the Brookline route.

Unable to access the Charleroi connection at Saw Mill Run, the Brookline route was terminated at Edgebrook Avenue. Conductors ran the streetcar to the end of the line and stopped. They then had to exit the vehicle and move the electical guide wire to face in the other direction.

The drive controls were moved to the other end of the trolley to face forward, then all of the seat backs were changed to face in the proper direction. Once the car was prepared, the driver engaged the motor and began the inbound trip back through Brookline towards West Liberty Avenue and on to downtown Pittsburgh.

The Overbrook Tunnel - 2013
The Overbrook Tunnel was constructed in 1909 by the West Side Belt Railway. Shown here in 2013,
the tunnel was originally built as a pass-through for the 39-Brookline.

Anticipating that the route would return to the valley floor right-of-way after the railroad upgrade was completed, engineers placed metal hooks on the Overbook Tunnel walls for the trolley's electric guide lines. Some of these pins are still visible today. In the end, the streetcar line was rerouted and never returned to the Overbrook valley.

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Permanent Two-Way Looping Route Established

A year later, in 1910, rapid residential development necessitated that the line be upgraded to two-way traffic. Pittsburgh Railways abandoned the continuous loop route. Instead, the line was extended from Edgebrook Avenue through to the 1400 block of Brookline Boulevard, near Witt Street, where a looping turn-around was constructed.

The Brookline route was upgraded to a double-track, dual-direction line from West Liberty Avenue to Breining Street, with a single-track extension leading towards the loop in East Brookline. Another major upgrade occurred in 1915, when the entire length of the trolley line was reconstructed along West Liberty Avenue.

Workers installing new double-track rails
 during the West Liberty Avenue reconstruction project in August 1915.
Workers installing new double-track rails during the West Liberty Avenue reconstruction project in August 1915.
The view is looking north from near Belle Isle Avenue towards Pauline and on to the bend leading to Capital.

The frequent and reliable streetcar service greatly contributed to the rapid growth and development of Brookline and the other southern neighborhoods. For many years, the trolleys were the primary mode of transportation to and from downtown Pittsburgh and beyond. Hundreds of miles of rail lines now linked all of Pittsburgh's communities, and interurban routes stretched far beyond the reach of the metropolitan area.

Freehold Real Estate Brochure from 1924.

Additional improvements were made in 1935, when the exclusive trolley right-of-way from West Liberty to Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue was expanded and paved with belgian block. Brookline Boulevard was permanently re-routed onto the widened, looping roadway, which would be used for both vehicular and rail traffic.

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Trolleys Used In Brookline

The first generation of electrified trolley cars were old wooden cars covered in steel-sheeting, referred to as "box cars." They were built by the St. Louis Car Company and introduced in Pittsburgh in 1902.

These four-wheelers had high floors, narrow doors and wooden seats. Although they served reliably for many years, these early streetcars were deemed uncomfortable by passengers and eventually phased out in the early-1920s.

Two 39-Brookline trolleys approaching
Capital Avenue in August, 1915.
Two inbound 39-Brookline streetcars on West Liberty Avenue, approaching Capital Avenue, in September 1915.
These were the original eight-wheeled "box cars" that made up the bulk of the Pittsburgh fleet at the time.

From 1915 to 1927, Pittsburgh Railways contracted with the Pressed Steel Company, located in McKees Rocks, for 1000 of the their new steel-framed Jones Cars. The forty-foot, double-ended, eight-wheel streetcars featured cushioned rattan seats, a lower-floor, fine woodwork and windows that opened to let in fresh air. They were quite an upgrade in passenger safety and comfort. Additional seating capacity helped ease overcrowding.

The original Jones Car color scheme was maroon with gold trim. In 1925 the Pittsburgh fleet was painted chrome orange to increase visibility in the "Smokey City." Pittsburgh pollution soon faded the color to a yellowish tint and the trolleys became commonly known as "Yellow Cars." This model remained in service until phased out in 1954.

A Jones Car marked for the 39-Brookline route
stands at the South Hills Junction in 1948.
A Jones Car marked for the 39-Brookline route stands at the South Hills Junction in 1948.

In 1936, the St. Louis Car Company introduced the sleek new Presidents Conference Committee (PCC) cars. Considered revolutionary in their time, these ultra-modern red and cream colored vehicles soon became the standard cars in the Pittsburgh Railways fleet.

Nearly 700 of these cars served the city and the surrounding suburbs for half a century, beginning in 1940. By the 1990s, only a handful of PCC cars were in operation. These vehicles served only along the southernmost section of the Shannon-Library route. The PCC Cars were completely phased out in 2002.

39-Brookline trolley passes Triangle Park
at the intersection with Queensboro Avenue.    39-Brookline approaches the turn-around loop.
Trolleys provided public transportation for the Brookline community for sixty-one years, from 1905 through 1966.
These President's Conference Committee models carried Brookline commuters for twenty-seven years.

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Riding The Streetcar To South Hills High School

The Pittsburgh Public School Board opened South Hills High School, in 1917. Located along Ruth Street in Mount Washington, the high school served students from Mount Washington, Banksville, Beechview and Brookline for sixty years, until 1977.

Conveniently located on the hill above the Pittsburgh Railways South Hills Junction, the school board provided students from the southern neighborhoods with passes to ride the streetcar to and from school. From the Junction, a set of city steps led up the hill to Paur Street. A short walk led to Ruth Street and the school building.

Streetcars line up at the South Hills
Junction in 1935 to transport South Hills HS
students home to Brookline and Beechview.    Outbound 39-Brookline approaches the
South Hills Junction transit stop.
Streetcars line up at the South Hills Junction in 1935 to transport South Hills High School students home to
Brookline and Beechview (left); An outbound 39-Brookline streetcar approaches the Junction transit stop.

For the generations of Brookline teenagers who attended South Hills High School, their school days were filled with many memories. One remembrance that most look back on with fondness was their daily ride on the 39-Brookline, especially the trip home from school.

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Brookline Streetcar Route Discontinued

In Brookline, trolley service was discontinued in September 1966 and replaced by Port Authority bus service. The old tracks that ran down the center of Brookline Boulevard for sixty-one years were paved over. The divided section of the road from Edgebrook Avenue to Breining Street was widened to a broad, four-lane avenue.

The era of rail traffic through the heart of the Brookline community had come to an end. Brookline's Port Authority route designation was changed to 41-Brookline and the PAT bus became a reliable and convenient replacement for the vintage streetcars.

PCC trolley car approaches Edgebrook Avenue
on its way towards the commercial district.    39-Brookline heads up Brookline Boulevard
from West Liberty Avenue intersection.
Red and cream colored PCC trolley cars travel along Brookline Boulevard during the 1960s.

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Reminders Of Yesteryear

The trolleys may have disappeared from the Brookline landscape, but the old rails remained buried under the asphalt. They occasionally made themselves a visible reminder of the the community's streetcar past when a deep pothole emerged.

The old tracks were briefly exposed, in their entirity, during the reconstruction of Brookline Boulevard in 2014. When the aging asphalt was milled down to the base, the four lines of steel tracks once again stretched down the center of the boulevard.

For a brief time, Brookliners could once again gaze at these historic remnants of the community's railway heritage. After just two days above ground, the tracks were again hidden under eight inches of black top.

39-Brookline trolley approaching the loop.    39-Brookline at the turn-around loop.
39-Brookline trolleys at the turn-around loop at the end of the Brookline route.

Another throwback to yesteryear came in 2011. During a reorganization of Port Authority bus service, Brookline's route designation was changed back to number thirty-nine. When a bus now makes the local run, the marquee is emblazened with the vintage 39-Brookline.

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A Slice Of Americana

Brookline's trolleys may be gone, but they will never be forgotten. The four-wheel box cars, the yellowish Jones Cars, the red and cream PCC Cars, and the steel rails will forever be a part of Brookline's transportation heritage that evoke nostalgic memories.

Urban rail car enthusiasts still yearn for the thrill of riding the rails through the city landscape. Photos of the 39-Brookline trolleys, making their way past the Boulevard shops, are like a classic Norman Rockwell slice of Americana.

Inbound 39-Brookline approaching Flatbush Avenue.
An inbound 39-Brookline approaching Flatbush Avenue on Brookline Boulevard in the Summer of 1966.

A last note on the PCC cars of the old Pittsburgh fleet. A few are scattered about in Trolley Museums around the country, and others are still operating in the San Francisco Bay Area, ferrying passengers through the Old Town to the harbor.


Take A Ride On The "T"

For those who still have an itch to ride the rails, the Port Authority's "T", a modern light rail system, still operates along the old Shannon-Drake, Shannon-Library, Beechview and Mount Lebanon routes. The Potomac Station in Dormont is just a short drive or a brisk walk for most Brookliners, making the "T" a viable alternative for local commuters.

The Station Square Passenger Station
Light rail cars pass the Station Square stop at Carson and Smithfield Streets.

The Port Authority's subway system connects these southern light rail routes with locations throughout downtown Pittsburgh and the North Shore. A quiet ride to South Hills Village or a run to the Library suburbs is reminiscent of the old days.

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Light-Rail Service Comes To Brookline

Although Brookline lost it's direct streetcar route in September 1966, residents of East Brookline could still walk down the Jacob Street Steps and through the Overbrook Tunnel to a car stop along the Shannon-Drake line. This was the only streetcar stop located within the confines of the Brookline community.

The Port Authority's Shannon-Drake line ran along the route of the old Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad. In the Saw Mill Run valley it passed through Bon Air and Carrick on the northern side, then crossed over to the southern side of Saw Mill Run at Whited Street.

The line then passed through a small section of Brookline, where the local Car Stop stood near Overbrook Elementary School. This long-serving streetcar line, one of the oldest in the South Hills, was discontinued in 1993.

South Bank Station.    South Bank Station.
South Bank Station is a light-rail transit stop located within the Brookline community.

After the turn of the century, the Port Authority began a reconstruction project along the length of the Shannon-Drake route to convert it to the modern light-rail system. Due to elevation changes in the new line, the Overbrook station was eliminated.

When the refurbished rail line opened in 2004, a passenger platform was installed near Jacob Street. between Whited Street and the lower end of Brookline Boulevard. It is located the portion of the route that is shared by the rail line and the South Busway.

Known as South Bank Station, the bus stop had been in existence since 1977, when the South Busway opened. Now doubling as a bus and light-rail station, South Bank has become a popular car stop for residents living in the East Brookline part of the neighborhood.


Photos Of The 39-Brookline And Streetcar Service
Downtown Pittsburgh To Brookline


Downtown Pittsburgh   **   South Hills Junction

West Liberty Avenue

Brookline Boulevard - West Liberty To Pioneer

Brookline Boulevard - The Commercial District

Brookline Boulevard - Edgebrook to the Loop

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Downtown Pittsburgh

Inbound 39-Brookline exiting the Smithfield Street Bridge.    Outbound 39-Brookline at Carson Street.
An inbound 39-Brookline on the Smithfield Street Bridge (left) and another heading outbound at Carson Street.

Outbound 39-Brookline at the Smithfield
Street Bridge and Carson Street.
Outbound 39-Brookline on the Smithfield Street Bridge heading towards Carson Street and the transit tunnel.

39-Brookline at Mellon Plaza on Smithfield Street.    39-Brookline passes the City County
Building on Grant Street in 1963.
39-Brookline at Mellon Plaza on Smithfield Street (left) and another passing the City County Building on Grant Street.

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South Hills Junction

39-Brookline passing through the South Hills Junction.
A 39-Brookline PCC passes an old Jones Car as it approaches the South Hills Junction.

Crossing the Palm Garden Trestle
heading towards the Junction    39-Brookline exits the Palm Garden Tressel
on it's way towards the South Hills Junction
39-Brookline trolleys crossing the Palm Garden tressel on their way toward the South Hills Junction.

39-Brookline passing through the
South Hills Junction in 1959.
A 39-Brookline trolley passing through the South Hills Junction yard in 1959.

39-Brookline at the South Hills Junction    An outbound 39-Brookline exits the Mount
Washington Transit Tunnel at the Junction.
An outbound 39-Brookline at the Junction Car Stop (left) and an inbound approaches the transit tunnel entrance.

Streetcars picking up students from
 South Hills High School, which can be seen
 atop the hill in the distance - 1963.
Streetcars picking up students from South Hills High School, which can be seen atop the hill in the distance in 1963.

The Palm Garden Tressel led to the Junction.    39-Brookline at the top of the trolley ramp
heading towards the merge with West Liberty Avenue.
A 42/38-Mt Lebanon/Beechview on the Parm Garden Tressel (left). The 39-Brookline streetcar used the bridge
from 1940 to 1966. To the right, a 39-Brookline enters the trolley ramp heading towards West Liberty.

An inbound 39-Brookline passes the outbound
loading platform at the South Hills Junction.
An inbound 39-Brookline passes the outbound Junction loading platform on the way to the transit tunnel.

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West Liberty Avenue

A trolley passes homes along West Liberty
Avenue, north of Brookside Avenue, in 1909.
A trolley passes homes along West Liberty Avenue, north of Brookside Avenue, in 1909.
In 1910 the streetcar line along West Liberty Avenue was double-tracked.

Outbound streetcar approaches
Brookside Avenue  - March 1915.    Inbound streetcar passing Stetson Street
heading towards Cape May - March 1915.
An outbound streetcar approaches Brookside Avenue and a billboard advertising lots in Brookline (left),
and an inbound streetcar passing Stetson Street heading north towards Cape May in March 1915.

Streetcar at Belle Isle Avenue - March 1915    Streetcar at Belle Isle Avenue - August 1915
An outbound streetcar approaches Belle Isle Avenue in March 1915 (left) and another at Belle Isle in August 1915.

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An inbound 39-Brookline streetcar heads north towards Cape May Avenue in March 1912.

Two inbound 39-Brookline streetcars approach Capital Avenue.    A family waits for the streetcar
at the Capital Avenue Car Stop.
Two inbound 39-Brookline streetcars approach the Capital Avenue on West Liberty Avenue (left), and a
well-dressed family wait for a streetcar at the Capital Avenue Car Stop in September 1915.

Construction at the Brookline Junction - May 1915    Construction at the Brookline Junction - August 1915
Construction work at the Brookline Junction in May (left) and in August 1915, looking south towards the city line.

West Liberty Avenue at Stetson
Avenue - August 1915.
A man and three boys pass Stetson Street as they ride the rails south towards Capital in August 1915. The young
lad standing on the edge of the wagon is looking back at a streetcar coming up behind the wagon.

Inbound streetcar passes Pioneer Avenue - December 2015.    Outbound streetcar passes Cape May - December 2015.
An inbound streetcar passes Pioneer Avenue approaching the intersection with Warrington (left)
and another heading outbound past Cape May Avenue in December 1915.

From Brookline Boulevard looking north.    From Ray Avenue looking north
towards Capital Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue in 1916, looking north from the Brookline Junction (left) and the intersection of Ray Avenue.
The year-long reconstruction project is finished. The roadway was widened to four lanes and paved in Belgian
block. New sewers and electric has been installed as well as a complete upgrade of the streetcar line.

Looking north from the city line
towards the Brookline Junction - June 1916.
An outbound streetcar passes the Brookline Junction heading uphill towards the city line in June 1916.

West Liberty Avenue and Saw Mill Run Boulevard
at the intersection with the Liberty Tunnels.    The Liberty Tunnels South Portal - 1936.
Prior to 1940 and the construction of the trolley ramp, the Brookline route ran the length of West Liberty Avenue
to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. From there it turned onto Warrington Avenue, then entered the South Hills Junction.
The trolley ramp was built to ease traffic congestion at the Liberty Tunnels intersection. The ramp led to
a junction with the Beechview line and proceeded over the Palm Garden tressel to The Junction.
The two photos above show the busy intersection in 1930 (left) and again in 1936.

A PCC car comes off the newly constructed
West Liberty Avenue trolley ramp in 1940.    Coming down the West Liberty trolley ramp.
A 39-Brookline PCC comes off the newly constructed West Liberty Avenue streetcar ramp in 1940 (left) and in 1965.

A 39-Brookline passes Downtown Pontiac used car
 lot heading outbound towards the Ray Avenue Stop.
A 39-Brookline passes Downtown Pontiac's Used Car lot heading outbound towards the Ray Avenue Stop.

39-Brookline on the West Liberty trolley ramp.    39-Brookline at West Liberty trolley ramp.
A 39-Brookline heading outbound along the West Liberty Avenue trolley ramp (left) and another
making the inbound trip, entering the ramp in 1966.

Entering the trolley ramp on West Liberty Avenue.    Outbound 39-Brookline passing Cape May Avenue.
A 39-Brookline enters the West Liberty trolley ramp (left) and an outbound car passes Cape May Avenue.

Inbound 39-Brookline heading towards Capital Avenue    Inbound 39-Brookline approaches Capital Avenue in 1966.
Inbound 39-Brookline streetcars approaching the Pauline Avenue (left) and Capital Avenue car stops.

Outbound 39-Brookline passes the Brookside
Car Stop on West Liberty Avenue.    Outbound 39-Brookline at Capital Avenue in 1966.
An outbound 39-Brookline passes Brookside Avenue (left) and another outbound approaches Capital Avenue.

An inbound trolley passes the Brookline Junction
along West Liberty Avenue in the mid-1960s.
An inbound 39-Brookline passes billboards at the Brookline Junction as it merges onto West Liberty Avenue.

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Brookline Boulevard
(West Liberty Avenue to Pioneer Avenue)

A view taken from Brookline Boulevard (Bodkin Street)
in 1909 showing the Pittsburgh Railways right-of-way
for streetcars and also some of the landscape in
Dormont, including new homes on Espy Avenue.
A 1909 view taken from Brookline Boulevard (Bodkin Street) and Pioneer Avenue showing the Pittsburgh Railways
streetcar right-of-way that would one day become part of the Boulevard Loop. At that time the Brookline
route was only a single-track line. The homes in the distance are on Espy Avenue in Dormont.

Brookline Boulevard and West Liberty Avenue - 1909    Wm J Harley's Express Moving and Hauling
near the Brookline Junction in 1915.
The Brookline Junction (left) at West Liberty Avenue in 1909, and the 39-Brookline tracks passing the front
of Harley's Express Moving and General Hauling, located at the Brookline Junction, in 1915.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.    West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with Brookline Boulevard, called the Brookline Junction, in March 1915.
The narrow dirt roadway was paved only along the trolley line, which doubled as a pedestrian walkway.

The web of overhead wires and the Car Stop
sign at the Fleming Car Stop.
A web of overhead wires and the Car Stop sign that hung at the Fleming Place stop.

Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - November 1935.    Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - November 1935.
Two 1935 views showing the construction of the Boulevard Loop from Pioneer Avenue to West Liberty Avenue.
The boulevard was rerouted off of present-day Bodkin Street onto the streetcar right-of-way.
To the left is a view of the Fleming Car Stop and to the right a view towards Pioneer.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.    A 39-Brookline trolley at the Fleming
Car Stop near Kenilworth in 1935.
West Liberty Avenue, at the intersection with Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue, in June 1916 (left) and
an inbound trolley, a Jones Car, on Brookline Boulevard at the Fleming Car Stop, near Kenilworth, in 1935.

Trolley passing from West Liberty Avenue
onto Brookline Boulevard.
An outbound 39-Brookline makes the turn from West Liberty Avenue onto Brookline Boulevard.

A PCC Car passes the Fleming Car Stop in 1940.    An outbound 39-Brookline trolley passes
Kenilworth Avenue in the late-1950s.
A new PCC car passes the Fleming Car Stop (left) as it heads inbound towards West Liberty Avenue in 1940,
and an outbound trolley passes Kenilworth Avenue, heading towards Pioneer Avenue in the late-1950s.

At the intersection with Kenilworth
heading towards Pioneer Avenue.    At the intersection with Kenilworth
heading towards Pioneer Avenue.
Outbound 39-Brookline trolley cars passing Kenilworth Street on the way up hill towards Pioneer Avenue.

Heading past Pioneer Avenue
towards Kenilworth Avenue.    Passing Kenilworth Avenue and
heading to West Liberty Avenue.
Inbound 39-Brookline streetcars pass Pioneer Avenue (left) and Kenilworth Avenue (right) enroute to West Liberty.

Passing Kenilworth enroute to Brookline Boulevard.
A chartered outbound trolley passes Kenilworth Avenue enroute to Brookline Boulevard in 1966.

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Brookline Boulevard - The Commercial District
(Pioneer Avenue to Edgebrook Avenue)

Brookline Boulevard, 1910
Brookline Boulevard in 1910, at the corner of Chelton Avenue. The Freehold Real Estate office is located on
the corner island where present-day Triangle Park and the Veteran's Memorial stand. A vintage
39-Brookline four-wheel box car can be seen to the left passing Queensboro Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard, looking towards Stebbins Avenue, in 1916.    Brookline Boulevard in 1924, looking in the
direction of Creedmoor Avenue.
A 1916 view of Brookline Boulevard, looking towards Stebbins Avenue (left) and Brookline Boulevard, in 1924,
looking along the streetcar rails in the direction of Creedmoor Avenue.

Streetcar tracks at the bottom
 of Creedmoor Avenue - 1919.
Looking down Creedmoor Avenue, from Clippert to Brookline Boulevard and the streetcar tracks in 1919.

Brookline Boulevard, 1928.    A Jones Car approaches the Stebbins
Avenue Car Stop on Brookline Boulevard in 1933.
A view of the rails along Brookline Boulevard, taken from Pioneer Avenue in 1928 (left) and a 39-Brookline
Jones Car approaches the Stebbins Avenue Car Stop along Brookline Boulevard in 1933.

Brookline Boulevard - 1924.
Inbound and outbound trolley rails cut a path along Brookline Boulevard, near Castlegate Avenue, in 1924.

Brookline Boulevard, 1933.    Brookline Boulevard, 1933.
Two views of Brookline Boulevard in 1933, near Glenarm Avenue (left) and Flatbush Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard, 1936.    Brookline Boulevard, 1936.
The Brookline Boulevard Commercial District (left), looking west from Chelton Avenue and Veteran's Memorial Park.
Two streetcars are passing near Stebbins Avenue. To the right is the passenger island at Pioneer Avenue in 1936.

Two trolleys pass at Flatbush Avenue in 1965.
Two trolley cars, one inbound and one outbound, pass near Flatbush Avenue along Brookline Boulevard in 1965.

A trolley approaches Flatbush Avenue in 1965.    An outbound 39-Brookline trolley
passes Glenarm Avenue in 1965.
An inbound 39-Brookline trolley approaches the intersection with Flatbush Avenue (left) and an
outbound car passes the intersection of Glenarm Avenue in 1965.

Outbound 39-Brookline approaching
Castlegate Avenue in 1966.    Two inbound 39-Brookline trolleys
near Stebbins Avenue on Brookline Boulevard.
Outbound and inbound streetcars approaching Castlegate Avenue (left) and two inbound cars near Stebbins Avenue.

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Brookline Boulevard
(Edgebrook Avenue To The Trolley Loop)

Outbound 39-Brookline head towards
Breining Street and the trolley loop.    A conductor checks in at
the trolley loop in 1965.
An outbound 39-Brookline approaches Breining Street (left) and a conductor checking in
at the Brookline Trolley Loop, marking the end of the route, in 1965.

At the intersection with Birchland
Street approaching the Trolley Loop.    39-Brookline heading towards the Brookline Loop.
An outbound streetcar passes the intersection with Birchland Street (left) and another approaches the trolley loop.

Two trolleys at the Brookline Loop.    Making the return trip towards
Brookline Boulevard from the loop.
Two trolleys at the Brookline Loop (left) and another beginning the inbound trip back along Brookline Boulevard.

39-Brookline approaching Breining Street.
An inbound 39-Brookline passes Birchland Street heading towards the Breining Street Car Stop.

39-Brookline at the Trolley Loop.    39-Brookline at the Trolley Loop.
Trolley cars at the Brookline Loop along the 1400 block of Brookline Boulevard. This was the end of the local route.

39-Brookline at the Brookline loop.    39-Brookline at the Brookline loop.
Two images showing the 39-Brookline trolley cars at the Brookline Loop in 1966.

39-Brookline heading at the trolley loop
along the 1400 block of Brookline Boulevard.    39-Brookline at the Brookline Loop.
The Brookline Loop was built in 1910 when the local route was double-tracked. Prior to that, the Brookline route
ran into the Overbrook Valley to Saw Mill Run, where it intersected with the Shannon and Charleroi lines.


Artwork by Doug Brendel.

Related Links

<The Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad (1871-1912)>
<The Pittsburgh Railways South Hills Junction - 1904>
<South Hills Junction to Brookline Boulevard in 1912>
<Reconstruction of West Liberty Avenue in 1915>
<Reconstruction of Brookline Boulevard in 1935>
<Reconstruction of Brookline Boulevard in 2013>
<Brookline Junction Trolley Accident - 1930>
<A Short History of Trolleys in Pittsburgh>
<History of Pittsburgh Railways Company>
<Photos of Trolleys Around Pittsburgh>
<Pittsburgh Light Rail Photo Gallery>
<The "T" Light Rail Transit System>
<The Skybus Project in the 1960s>
<PAT Bus Service in Brookline>
<Trolley Parks in Pittsburgh>
<Pittsburgh's Old Inclines>
<Pennsylvania Trolley Museum>
<Port Authority Transit History>
<Wikipedia: Pittsburgh Light Rail>
<Wikipedia: Pittsburgh Railways Company>
<Wikipedia: Port Authority of Allegheny County>

39-Brookline Schedule - June 1966


Are They Called Streetcars Or Trolleys?

There is some debate over whether the proper term for the vehicles that ran the rails on Pittsburgh streets were called "Streetcars" or "Trolleys."

The answer is ... both!

The official terminology might sound a bit strange:

A TRAM (also known as a tramcar; a streetcar or street car; and a trolley, trolleycar, or trolley car) is a rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets (called street running), and also sometimes on separate rights of way. Trams powered by electricity, which were the most common type historically, were once called electric street railways. Trams also included horsecar railways which were widely used in urban areas before electrification.

For a more detailed history of trams, visit Wikipedia (Trams).

An old Car Stop sign.
One of the old-time Car Stop signs that hung
along overhead wires around Pittsburgh.


Original Brookline Souvenirs

In 1907, during the initial residential building boom in Brookline, the Freehold Real Estate Company offered solid sterling silver commemorative spoons to homebuyers. With respect to the Pittsburgh Railways streetcar line that brought this new prosperity to the emerging community, the ornate spoons featured an image of a trolley along with the name "Brookline."

A few of these spoons, now over a century old, have survived the test of time, like the one shown here. These spoons were the very first commemorative Brookline souvenirs ever offered, and a prized piece of our community's streetcar heritage.

Freehold Brookline Commemorative Spoon - 1907.

Freehold Brookline Commemorative Spoon - 1907    Freehold Brookline Commemorative Spoon - 1907

The Brookline Herald was a Pittsburgh Press insert that ran for a few weeks in October 1907. The Herald ran a small contest in the October 20 issue, and some of the prizes offered were commemorative spoons like the one shown above.

The contest winners were published in the October 27 issue. Both editions are shown below. Could the spoon shown above have been one of those lucky spoons?

Brookline Herald - October 20, 1907    Brookline Herald - October 27, 1907

The October 27 issue of the Herald also reminds readers that Brookline is only fifteen minutes from downtown Pittsburgh via the transit tunnel, and the new high-speed electric railway will cut that time in half. What an excellent reason to invest in Brookline!


Digging Up The Past - 2014

Beginning in February 2013, Brookline Boulevard was the site of a seventeen month reconstruction and renovation effort. The project included infrastructure improvements like new sidewalks, overhead lighting and signage. The highlight of the project was the repaving of Brookline Boulevard from Starkamp Avenue to Pioneer Avenue.

Although, in the end, the reconstruction effort unveiled a picturesque new boulevard, the process of getting to that point was a difficult and frustrating experience for the merchants and motorists.

Work was halted in November due to the onset of winter, and by the spring of 2014 the cold months had taken quite a destructive toll on the boulevard. Enormous potholes turned the road surface into a veritable moonscape. Mastery in the Art of Pothole Dodging has become a pre-requisite to anyone brave enough to run the gauntlet.

In the midst of this urban chaos came one award-winning pothole. The old-school strut-shocker was spotted on April 7, 2014. It wasn't the size that made it stand out. Although it was large, it paled in comparison to some of the truly abyss-like crevices nearby.

Brookline's Pothole to the Past.
Brookline Boulevard's Pothole to the Past.

What gave this pothole character was the old red paving brick road surface and the trolley track. This historic part of Brookline Boulevard has been in place since the early 1900s. In 1966, when the trolley line was discontinued, it was paved over in asphalt.

Forty-seven years and five inches of asphalt later, the forces of nature, accompanied by liberal amounts of rock salt, brought this bygone part of Brookline Boulevard back into the light of day, if only for a few days. The following day it was paved over with cold patch.

Brookline's Pothole to the Past.
The old bricks and tracks were brought back to the surface in June 2014.

In June of 2014 the reconstruction project reached it's final phase, and the roadway was completely milled down to the bricks, exposing the complete length of the trolley tracks that ran down the center of the boulevard. Once again, the old red bricks and tracks were exposed.

After this brief glimpse back to the glory days of Brookline's transit history, the paving company out a fresh layer of asphalt on the boulevard and, just like that, the tracks were once again buried. It may take another fifty years before they see the light of day.


A Short History On Trolley Service In The City Of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's trolley history dates to the 1850s when the State Legislature passed a law allowing "motor power companies" to operate passenger railways by cable, electrical or other means. The first passenger service was a horse-drawn trolley that operated in East Liberty in 1859. Since then, the city has been at the forefront of trolley transportation.

Cable Trolley on Warrington Avenue in Allentown     Horse-drawn trolley in 1859 making
its way up Warrington Avenue.
A cable trolley in Allentown (left) and a horse-drawn trolley on Warrington Avenue in 1859.

JUNE 1887: Pittsburgh Traction Company constructs a cable line beginning at the foot of Fifth Avenue and running east along Shady, Penn and Highland Avenues, a distance of 5.5 miles. The line opens for passengers on September 12, 1889. Various cable lines operate in the City of Pittsburgh until 1897.

Brookline's Pothole to the Past.
The Pittsburgh Traction Company's cable line loop, located at
Fifth and Liberty Avenues in 1890.

THE LATE 1890's: The first electric line is constructed from South 13th and Carson streets to Knoxville Borough. That is followed by development of successful and consistent electric trolley service on the North Side and the South Side. In the ensuing years, competing lines are built by 190 trolley operators in the city. The wooden trolley cars have four wheels.

"It was really a hodgepodge," says Scott Becker, executive director of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, near the Meadowlands.

Rare Stock certificate - West End Traction Company    Rare Stock certificate - Consolidated Traction Company

Rare Stock certificate - Duquesne Traction Company

Rare Stock certificate - Pittsburgh,
Allegheny and Manchester Traction Company    Rare Stock certificate - Pittsburgh and
Allegheny Valley Traction Company

JANUARY 1, 1902: Pittsburgh Railways Company is formed as a result of several companies consolidating their operations. There are 1100 trolleys in operation along 400 miles of single track. Yearly ridership totals 178.7 million passengers with revenue of $6.7 million.

The standard turn-of-the-century streetcar has eight wheels, high steps and narrow doors. This makes traveling slow and cumbersome, particularly for women whose clothes don't allow them to negotiate the cars.

1912: Pittsburgh's trolley network is growing fast and the number of passengers increasing. Because of the over-crowded conditions during peak times, P.N. Jones, head of Pittsburgh Railways, leads the effort to produce a standard car. The city tries out double-decker cars. About a dozen were built between 1912 and 1924, but they never really catch on here.

Pittsburgh Railways
 Double Decker Trolley
Pittsburgh Railways Double-Decker.

1915: Pittsburgh Railways decides that the new, low-floor Jones Car, built in McKees Rocks, with its sloping floor is going to be its standard car. The company purchases 1000 of them between 1915 and 1927. The steel cars run on 600 volts of direct current and feature rattan seats, beautiful woodwork, windows that open and shaded light bulbs. The cars are well-received by the public.

The trolleys are painted orange but their color fades to yellow, prompting most people to call them yellow trolleys. They are used in Pittsburgh until the mid-1950s, when many trolleys are phased out in favor of buses.

In the ensuing years, Pittsburgh Railways experimented readily with a variety of cars, testing aluminum, fiddling with control systems and trying a number of options with wheels.

Conductor Owen Richard McCaffrey Sr. of Overbrook.    Conductor Owen Richard McCaffrey Sr. of Overbrook.
Long-time Pittsburgh Railways conductor Owen Richard McCaffrey Sr. of Overbrook, pictured in the early 1920s.

1926: Pittsburgh Railways operates 590 miles of single track; carries 396,679,675 passengers a year and has revenue of $21.7 million.

1928: Pittsburgh Railways begins producing high speed trolleys for its lines that run to Washington, Pa., and Charleroi. The company makes fifteen cars that are painted red and feature bucket seats.

Portions of the Charleroi line remained in service until September 4, 1999 as the Port Authority's Library Light Rail Transit line. A portion of the Washington line survived as the Drake line, service that ended in the late-80s and will pick up again in the year 2004.

President's Conference Committee streetcar diagram

THE 1930s: Pittsburgh, like the country, is in the depths of the Depression. Pittsburgh Railway is losing ridership, but the company does not lose its tradition of supporting innovation. The company is enthusiastic about the ideas for a new car being developed at the request of the American Electric Railway Association Advisory Council.

The plan for the car's development is overseen by the Electric Railway Presidents Conference Committee, which turns to Pittsburgh's Westinghouse Company for help designing the revolutionary new car.

The inside of a PCC car looking towards the front.    The inside of a PCC car looking towards the rear.
The inside of a PCC car, looking towards both the front and rear.

JULY 26, 1936: The first Presidential Conference Committee car, # 100, goes into service in the city. Pittsburgh Railways, trying to lure Depression-weary riders back to the trolleys, promotes the car in newspaper advertisements and on sandwich boards and with demonstration rides. It becomes the first PCC car to carry passengers for a fare on September 26, 1936, when it covered the 50-Carson Street Route.

A7 model President's Conference Committee streetcar diagram

Over the next twelve years, Pittsburgh Railways orders 666 of the cars, at a cost of $28,000 apiece, from the St. Louis Car Company to replace the oldest trolleys in the fleet, which still included several of the original high-floor trolleys. The new PCC streetcars were painted in a red and cream color scheme.

1939: Due to the growing vehicular congestion at the busy intersection of West Liberty Avenue and Saw Mill Run Boulevard, a new trolley ramp was constructed along the lower end of West Liberty Avenue. This diverted the 39-Brookline and 38-Mount Lebanon trolleys from the crowded junction and on to the line used by Dormont and Beechview trolleys.

The first inbound trolley to the West
Liberty Avenue trolley ramp was
photographed on August 15, 1939.
The first inbound trolley to use the West Liberty Avenue trolley ramp
was photographed on August 15, 1939.

The cost of the new ramp was $347,000. It opened to traffic in August 1939. The Brookline and Mount Lebanon trolleys now used the West Liberty ramp to connect to the Palm Garden Trestle on their way towards the South Hills Junction.

1949: The Pittsburgh Railways PCC trolley fleet is the 2nd largest in the country. Only Chicago, which operates 683 cars, is bigger.

SUMMER, 1953: Interurban trolley service, which had boomed during the World War II and Korean War years, is scaled back to the border of Allegheny County.

1960 Map of South Hills Trolley Lines
Map of South Hills Trolley Lines.

MARCH, 1964: The Port Authority of Allegheny County is formed to unify public transit services. Despite the declining trolley use, the authority inherits 283 PCC trolley cars and 219 buses.

1964 to 1967: Many rail routes are converted to bus routes, including the 38-Mount Lebanon and the 39-Brookline route, which made its final run on September 3, 1966.

1968: The Port Authority is operating fifty-eight miles of track, only ten percent of the Pittsburgh Railways network that was in operation forty years earlier.

The 38-Mt.Lebanon spur line was replaced.
The rails and passenger kiosks intersecting
West Liberty Avenue were eventually removed.    39-Brookline on West Liberty Avenue approaches
the Belle Isle Avenue Car Stop in 1963.
Many South Hills lines were replaced with bus service, including 38-Mt.Lebanon and 39-Brookline.
The rails and passenger kiosks along West Liberty Avenue were removed.

1972: The ninety-five remaining PCC cars servicing the South Hills get new paint jobs, including one that gets a psychedelic look.

LATE-1970s: An attractive feature that was introduced at the time was a new advertising scheme. Trolleys could be sponsored and then decorated at will. Soon, many of Pittsburgh's trolleys took on a new look. Some of the memorable designs that stood out were the Pittsburgh Steeler's trolley, the Clark Bar trolley and the Gateway Clipper Tripple Treat.

The Pittsburgh Steeler's Terrible Trolley     Gateway Clipper Trolley
The Pittsburgh Steeler's Terrible Trolley and the Gateway Clipper Triple Treat.

1981: The Port Authority decides to try to refurbish forty-five PCC trolleys. The $763,000 cost is prohibitive and only twelve are done before the program is abandoned in 1987.

JULY 3, 1985: Trolley street operations in the Golden Triangle cease when the downtown subway, part of the new Light Rail "T" System, is opened. All above ground tracks in downtown are eventually removed or paved over.

The only rail routes that remain in operation are part of the new Light Rail System. They are the Beechview/South Hills Village line, the Warrington/Arlington line and the Library extension. Soon, the only route still using the old PCC trolley cars was the Library line.

PCC Trolley at Wood Street Subway Station.
A PCC trolley at the Wood Street Subway Station in 1985.

AUGUST 1, 1988: thirty-six PCC cars are removed from operation because of deteriorated electrical wires. Twenty-seven of those are retired and used to supply parts for the ones that remained in operation along the Library line.

SEPTEMBER 4, 1999: The final PCC car makes the 4.4 mile Library extension run before the route was retired forever, being replaced by a shuttle bus. The three remaining functional PCC cars, all having logged well over 2,000,000 miles, were donated to trolley museums.

PCC Trolley on display at museum.
A PCC car stands outside the trolley museum in 2007.

2000 AND BEYOND: Pittsburgh no longer has hundreds of miles of trolley track lining our streets, but we still have a state-of-the-art Light Rail system servicing the downtown area, Warrington Avenue/Arlington Heights, Castle Shannon, Library and the South Hills.

The Port Authority completed reconstructing the old Shannon Drake line in 2004 and the subway now extends under the Allegheny River to stations on the North Side near PNC Park, Heinz Field and the River's Casino.

A modern light-rail car painted to
resemble an old PCC streetcar - 2014.
In 2014, a few of the modern light-rail cars were painted to resemble the old PCC streetcars
as part of the Port Authority's 50th Anniversary celebration.

Pittsburghers love their trolleys. From the horse-drawn carriages of the 1800s to the new "T" Light Rail cars that carry us into the 21st Century, our proud city will always have a rail system to ferry passengers to and from the downtown area.

For more information on the history of trolley service in Pittsburgh, visit the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum at the Meadowlands. The number to call for information is 877-PA-Trolley or 724-228-9256.

The 39-Brookline streetcar approaches
the Brookline trolley loop in 1966.
A 39-Brookline streetcar approaches the Brookline trolley loop in 1966.

* Copied from the Post-Gazette, and slightly edited, in 2004. *


Models Of The 39-Brookline And South Hills Junction

39-Brookline    39-Brookline
A replica of the 39-Brookline trolley made by Dr. Michael Brendel.

Scale model layout of the South Hills Junction
A model layout of the South Hills Junction by Bob Dietrich. For more Junction model photos, click here.


We are always looking for old photos and information on trolleys in Brookline.
If you have something to share, please contact us via our
guestbook.

* Compiled from various sources, including the Post Gazette - Last Updated: December 26, 2014 *
* Several of the Brookline trolley photos are from the collections of Tom Castriodale and George Gula *


39-Brookline drawing by Dan Bridy.

<Brookline History>