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 of 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 features transit stop simulation available only from M.T.H. Designed specifically for our municipal transit cars, the unique Proto-Sound 3.0 transit program features Station Stop Proto-Effects, allowing you to program the trolley to stop automatically at designated transit stops, even in Conventional Mode. When configured to run on automatic, the Brill Semi-Convertible stops itself at locations you choose and calls out transit stops that you select in advance; the trolley essentially runs itself. And when you program the Semi-Convertible for an out-and-back route, it even reverses itself and heads back downtown when it reaches the end of the line - stopping along the way to broadcast the name of each stop and the hustle and bustle of passengers coming and going.
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.