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Peter Witt Trolleys

May 18, 2012

If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, seen San Francisco, or hell, heard of San Francisco, then you’ve probably heard about the city’s throwback transit system.  Along with picturesque spans, the surface-level transportation is easy on the eyes.  Not to be outdone, Milan is also home to the same Peter Witt trolleys, a fitting home considering their Italian influence.

Since 1928, Peter Witts have combed the streets, although San Francisco and Milan are the only remaining cities to permanently incorporate them into their transit system.  At the highest point, Peter Witts were the transportation of record in 15 American cities, Toronto, Mexico City and three other Italian cities.  They’ve been the mainstay in Milan since the beginning.

Always a sucker for trains, trolley and the like, I’m really into these and enjoy the fact that they’re still a legitimate mode of transport.  Fitted out with wooden details and original paint jobs, the only real additions these trolleys have seen since their introduction is a new GPS system.  Not bad for 84 years of service.

An 1841 Peter Witt Trolley I snapped in Milan earlier this year.

An 1859 Peter Witt trolley spotted in San Francisco last month along with an 1807 (above).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. rob permalink
    January 25, 2013 01:28

    Trying to figure out how Peter Witts originally ended up in Italy. Explanation would be nice.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    April 25, 2013 13:48

    Hi Rob-
    Philadelphia, upon request, sent a Peter Witt 8000 to Milan. The city transport fathers loved the car- so says the story- and they got the rights from JG Brill to manufacture the car in Italy, paying royalty and whatever else was needed. Look at the cars and then compare the Philly car. Pretty class, even though it is narrower. Even down to the placement of the Route number and destination. The fact that the car has lastest in Milan for over seeventy years and continue to run.
    Love those Peter Witts.

  3. Tram28 permalink
    July 30, 2013 19:16

    I think Anonymous gave us a fish tale. All 535 Philadelphia 8000s remained in service until at least 1945 when the first was retired.There is no mention of any 8000s being shipped to Milan in published histories of Philadelphia’s trolley fleet. Philadelphia was known for running its trolleys into the ground. Milan’s 502 Ventottos were all built in Italy between 1927 and 1930. JG Brill never shows up in the text of Guido Boreani’s book Un Tram che si chiama Milano even though it discusses Peter Witts in Toronto and Detroit with passing mention of Philadelphia.There is a strong resemblance to some of Detroit’s earlier Peter Witt cars.Still there are enough differences that I believe this design originated in Milan. What is known is that some Milan traction officials did go to Philadelphia and tour the Brill plant in the process of doing research. All of the 502 trams were built in Italy by six different builders. Tram controllers and motors were designed in Italy, the controllers by Italian General Electric and motors designed by Ansaldo with TIBB as the sub-builder. Peter Witt held the patent for the streetcars named after him and royalties were paid to C.S. Wright & Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, not JG Brill. Furthermore, JG Brill is known to have been very lax in taking out patents in foreign markets and later regretted this. In many respects the Milan Ventottos (or Carrelli) are vastly superior to the typical under powered trolleys ordered by US traction lines.

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