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An Atlanta Trolley

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The Life of an Atlanta Trolley

by Paul Grether

This story begins in 1922.

The Georgia Railway and Power Company is slowly beginning to modernize its fleet of streetcars in Atlanta. To replace some two-axle cars and older four-axle heavy streetcars, an order for twenty modern lightweight streetcars is placed with the McQuire-Cummings Company in Paris, Illinois.

The new cars are numbered in the 600-619 series and the GR&PCo builds 20 identical cars in its Fulton County Plant on Virginia Avenue in Midtown Atlanta numbered 620-639. #636 is born in 1924.

Trolley #636 roars through the 1920s and then last rides through the Depression, which Georgia Power survives reasonably well thanks to its modernization program.

In the late 1930s Georgia Power begins replacing the streetcars with trackless trolleys. World events block this plan and #636 sees hyper-inflated wartime transit demand and a temporary streetcar reprieve as a result of World War II. #636 serves valiantly for a country that is besieged by gasoline and tire rationing, and takes wartime commuters to and from jobs supporting the war effort. The trolley cars even have women conductors and motormen for the first time.

After the war, flurries of orders are placed with trackless trolley manufacturers and as soon as they are delivered, streetcars are taken out of service. Faithful trolley #636, one year before the last streetcar runs in Atlanta, is taken out of service in 1948. But for parent Georgia Power, A Citizen Wherever We Serve is not just a slogan and #636 begins her second career as a home in Monticello, Georgia, to help alleviate the post-war housing shortage.

For exactly fifty years the trolley serves as a home, providing the basic need of shelter rather than transport. Now #636, after being moved from Monticello to Duluth last fall by museum personnel, has begun her third chapter in life--retirement at the Southeastern Railway Museum. The museum plans to make #636 the centerpiece of an exhibit on Atlanta transit history, to include Georgia Power trackless trolley #1296, in the next phase of exhibit hall development.

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Last updated June 13, 2006