In 1869, the year that rails first joined America's east and west coasts, two German immigrants skilled in cabinetmaking founded the J.G. Brill Company in Philadelphia. At first, John George Brill and his son George Martin Brill built any kind of rail passenger vehicle, including horse-drawn streetcars, cable cars, and passenger cars for steam railroads.
The firm's fortunes improved dramatically in the mid-1880s, however, when it began to concentrate on the booming streetcar market. And as the twentieth century dawned, Brill became a leader as the streetcar business matured and consolidated. The firm absorbed many of its competitors, including the American Car Company in St. Louis, the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company in Cleveland, the John Stephenson Company in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and the Wason Manufacturing Company in Springfield, Massachusetts. These acquisitions gave the Brill Company access to strategically located plants in most parts of the country.
Brill was also known for technological innovation. One its earliest notable designs was the patented Brill Convertible Car; removable side panels enabled the same trolley to be an open car in warm weather and a closed car in colder seasons. Later, the patented semi-convertible design enabled the removable panels to be stored in the car's roof. Other Brill innovations included the "Narragansett" car, an open car with a patented two-step running board to facilitate boarding by women in tight skirts; heavy steel high-speed articulated cars built in 1926 for the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis interurban; and lightweight, high-speed Bullet cars developed in 1930.
The RailKing Brill Semi-Convertible Trolley is equipped with the Proto-Soundr 2.0 transit program, whose unique features make creating an automatic trolley run simple and fun - even in Conventional Mode. When configured to run on automatic, the Brill Semi-Convertible stops itself at locations you define and calls out station names that you select in advance.
Did You Know?
Introduced in 1902, the "semi-convertible" was used in all parts of the country. To give better airflow in the summer, both upper and lower window sashes could be raised up into roof pockets for storage. For trolley companies, this was considerably more efficient than the removable side panels of earlier convertible cars. The patent drawing below shows how the roof pockets worked.