A major industrial force, Pittsburgh was the 17th largest city in the United States in the 1850s, housing nearly 1,000 factories. The town of about 50,000 produced large amounts of the durable material and was growing each year, earning its nickname, the Steel City. In 1859, a horse-drawn carriage began carrying passengers between downtown Pittsburgh and 34th Street as part of Pittsburgh’s first public transit system.
Pittsburgh’s transportation systems evolved as the city grew and technology advanced. There were 33 private companies running bus, incline, and trolley routes in the 1950s. Pittsburgh Railways Company operated 666 streetcars. Some railroads also ran passenger trains, like the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. They had different fares and different drivers’ unions that paid different wages. Most of the vehicles ran on overlapping routes. With declining ridership, each company was struggling to make money.
In the early 1960s, PAT decided to phase out the streetcars in favor of buses gradually. The Port Authority did not eliminate trolleys immediately; instead, it focused on updating its bus fleet, adding park-and-ride parks for suburban residents, and introducing brightly colored, stripy “mod” style buses. New buses were purchased with some assistance from the federal government. A new alpha-numeric system, which was inspired by city corridors, was used to name the routes.
The last streetcar rolled through downtown on July 6, 1985. In parallel with the trolley’s disappearance, the T-rail system started to emerge.
These vintage photos were scanned by Marty Bernard from Roger Puta’s Pittsburgh PCC Streetcar slides, which show Pittsburgh’s streetcar system in 1965.