Brief Bio of Perley Thomas, Streetcar and Bus designer

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Brief Bio of Perley Thomas, Streetcar and Bus designer
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, December 03, 2017 12:30 AM
Streetcar designer Perley Thomas who worked for Southern Car Company of HIGH POINT, North Carolina, has a legacy in New Orleans. The Perley Thomas steel streetcars in NEW ORLEANS on the historic St. Charles Street car line  now are a national historic landmark, the "chatham daily news" reports in an op-ed column:Image result for St. Charles streetcar
Perley A. Thomas then lent his expertise to Thomas Built Buses Inc.
By Jim and Lisa Gilbert, Special to The Daily News
Friday, December 1, 2017 4:16:27 EST PM
 
Have you heard of Perley A. Thomas? Neither had I until a short time ago, but considering what he accomplished in his lifetime, I really think we should have, at least, a passing knowledge of his life story. Let me start you off with some basic background on this remarkable man.
Thomas was born in 1874 on a farm owned by his grandparents outside of Chatham. A few years later the family moved from Harwich Township and into the City of Chatham.
His parents were John and Margaret (Milne) and his father was a millwright. Following in his father’s footsteps, Perley was trained as a millsmith specializing in woodworking.
In 1901 he moved from Kent County, along with his wife, and settled in Detroit where he was a design engineer for the Detroit United Railway. He worked in this position for five years and then moved to Cleveland where he worked for the Kuhlman Car Company.
While working for Kuhlmans, the ambitious Thomas took night courses at Case Institute of Technology and learned technical drawing, design skills and structural engineering.
As the streetcar manufacturers transitioned from wooden to steel construction his academic expertise allowed him to accept, in 1910, a better job offer with the Southern Car Company in High Point, North Carolina. Here Thomas became chief engineer, draftsman and designer for the company. It was here that he made good use of not only his mechanical skills but also his earliest training as a skilled wood worker.
Unfortunately, the Southern Car Company went bankrupt in 1916. Desperate for steady employment, Thomas was persuaded to assume a position with the Southern Public Utilities Company of Charlotte, North Carolina renovating streetcars in the now vacant Southern Car Company’s factory.
Within the year, Thomas decided to make a major move in his career. He organized the Perley A. Thomas Car Works and in a short period of time his attention to detail, expert craftsmanship and solid construction made his company the first choice of many North America cities including Detroit, New York City, Miami, San Juan Puerto Rico and New Orleans.
In the late 1940s Tennessee Williams’ famous and iconic play entitled, “A Street Car Named Desire” was filmed in New Orleans and of course the streetcar which ran on the line “Desire”, was one constructed by Thomas’ company.
Competing with other and older streetcar manufacturers such as the J.G. Brill Company of Philadelphia was not an obstacle to the Thomas Company. New Orleans chose Perley Thomas’ streetcars above all the other manufacturers to supply the 73 streetcars that were needed by New Orleans.
In fact, if you go to New Orleans today and travel on the St. Charles line streetcars (as Lisa and I have on several occasions), you will be still travelling on one of the Thomas Streetcars that have been renovated and is still in use.
I have on several occasions commented when we were in “The Big Easy” on these beautiful and historic streetcars but not at the time realize they had such a direct Chatham and Kent County connection. In fact, 35 of the original 73 cars supplied to New Orleans are still in use today.
Perley Thomas, ever the forward-thinking innovator, realized the transition from streetcars to buses was on the way. In order to take advantage of this move he guided his company through a transition into bus manufacturing in 1936.
The Perley A Thomas Car Works transformed itself into the Thomas Built Buses Inc. and became one of the three principal builders of large school buses in the United States by the end of the 20th century. The company is still based in High Point, North Carolina and is now part of the Freightliner Group of Daimler AG.
Thomas A. Perley was inducted into the North Carolina Transportation Hall of Fame in 2004 and the North American Railway Hall of Fame in St. Thomas in 2010.
Now both you and I know about the innovative, progressive and skilled Perley A. Thomas who died in 1958. Just another Chatham-Kent citizen who played a major role in the wider world.
 
[end text]
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Edward B. Havens
Tucson, Ariz.  
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Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, December 03, 2017 9:03 PM

Does San Francisco or other trolley systems besides NOLA run Thomas trolley cars?  Are there some in museums?

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, December 04, 2017 10:23 AM

By the 1960's, the Perley Thomas cars in New Orleans were the only non-PCC cars in revenue streetcar-light rail service in North America.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by wanswheel on Monday, December 04, 2017 1:18 PM

daveklepper

North American Railway Hall of Fame

http://casostation.ca/perley-thomas/

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Posted by wanswheel on Monday, December 04, 2017 1:27 PM
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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, December 05, 2017 4:23 AM

[quote user="CSSHEGEWISCH"]

By the 1960's, the Perley Thomas cars in New Orleans were the only non-PCC cars in revenue streetcar-light rail service in North America.

 

[/quote above]

Not quite:   Red Arrow (Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co.) was operating 10 St. Louis cars that had double-end PCC bodies but GSI outside-frame trucks and cam-control non-PCC control equipment.  My understanding is that the two that were preserved at Branford are now going to become true PCC cars, rebuilt by Brookville, and will be operated on the San Francisco E-line.  You can correct me if I am wrong about the future of the two preserved cars at Branford.

Red Arrow was also still operating the 10 1939 Brill double-end sort-of-Brilliner cars and the mechancially and electrically similar 1930 sort-of-Master Unit cars.   All 30 of these cars made it to SEPTA ownership.

I also need to check on the absolutely last day a Boston Type 5 operated in revenue service.  I think it was later than 1960.  The very last ones were replaced in two stages by the Dallas Double-end PCCs.

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, December 05, 2017 4:25 AM

Mention should be made that Perley Thomas built 19 one-man single-truck safety cars.  15 were built for Augusta, Georgia in 1926, and 4 for Mobile, AL in 1930, possibly the last streetcars they built before converting to build school buses.

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 7:48 AM

There were tramcars in Adelaide, South Australia that were very similar to the New Orleans Perley Thomas cars.

http://vicsig.net/trams/class/H/1

These were built in 1929 in Australia and operated on a former suburban railway and not on street trackage except in the city centre. They had tapered ends in order to use the sharp curves in the city to reach the depot.

These were important because they remained in service, like the New Orleans cars, for many years after all other routes in Adelaide were closed. They had automatic (Tomlinson?) couplers and usually ran in pairs.

Peter

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 12:54 PM

Peter, still are!  The Glenegg (Sp?) line they run on has been extended back into the town center and railroad station; new articulated (low-floor?) light rail cars carry near all the service; but a few of the classic interurban cars have been renovated with more modern motors and controls and are available for peak and charter service and are popular.   I think the voltage may have been raised from 600V  to 750V, but I am not sure.  I think a second extension has either been planned or completed at the other end.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, December 07, 2017 3:15 AM

The thirty Red Arrow cars continued to provide non-PCC light-rail service until 1982!  The very last Type-5s in regular revenue service were gone by the end o 1960.

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Posted by M636C on Thursday, December 07, 2017 6:28 AM

daveklepper

Peter, still are!  The Glenegg (Sp?) line they run on has been extended back into the town center and railroad station; new articulated (low-floor?) light rail cars carry near all the service; but a few of the classic interurban cars have been renovated with more modern motors and controls and are available for peak and charter service and are popular.   I think the voltage may have been raised from 600V  to 750V, but I am not sure.  I think a second extension has either been planned or completed at the other end.

 
Dave,
 
The line ran to Glenelg, a beachside suburb, and the terminus was right at the beach, but at right angles.
 
The system is doing very well. The line was extended to an Entertainment Centre beyond the city area, involving a right turn at the north edge of the city to pass the railway station. The line was extended a short distance straight ahead to provide a terminus clear of the extension. A further extension up North Terrace in the opposite direction from the railway station to the eastern edge of the CBD is under construction.
 
Three additional French Citadis cars are being obtained, second hand from Madrid where they were never used, for a total of nine cars.
 
The German Flexity cars now number 15.
 
However, although the two H class cars that were upgraded are still held at the workshops, but are only operated on special occasions. I think this is due to them not meeting disabled access regulations.
 
There are examples in operating condition in a number of tramway museums in three states, so it is possible to ride on them. Just not often in Adelaide....
 
Peter
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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, December 07, 2017 2:14 PM

Were all preserved?  About how many?

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Posted by M636C on Thursday, December 07, 2017 5:06 PM

daveklepper

Were all preserved?  About how many?

 

 

There were thirty cars built: Class H numbers 351 to 380

Four are preserved in Victoria, 355, 368, 369 and 373

One in South Australia, 360

One in NSW, 358

I think these are all in working order. There is at least one other complete body without trucks.

 

Peter

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Posted by daveklepper on Friday, December 08, 2017 12:31 AM

And the numbers of the two in Adeleid?  Of the saved cars, were all renovated or were some still as original?

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Posted by M636C on Saturday, December 09, 2017 5:31 AM

Foolishly, I still work in an office...

When I posted the last contribution, I was at work and things seemed to be quiet so I wrote it up. Just as I was about to post, an important AND urgent task came up. So I posted what I had.

I subsequently found my sources were incomplete....

So, seventeen in all..

There were thirty cars built: Class H numbers 351 to 380

Four are preserved in Victoria, 355, 368, 369 and 373

Four in South Australia, 360, 362, 364 and 365

Two in NSW, 357 and 358

Two in Western Australia, 371 and 372

The two held operable in Adelaide: 351 and 367

An additional three held in storage in Adelaide: 370, 374 and 380

Peter 

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