20 December 2008
Hybrid "wireless" streetcar line makes debut
Savannah, Georgia — A short, somewhat experimental streetcar tourist line made its debut earlier this month, running along an approximately one-mile (1.6 km) single-track line through a restaurant and tourist district adjacent to the Savannah River. The line serves River Street, a former industrial corridor converted into a more upscale recreational, retail, and restaurant area.
The lines's single streetcar (a converted heritage-type car from Melbourne, Australia) was rolled out to participated in Savannah’s Climate Action Parade on River Street on December 9th. On Dec. 13th, the public were invited to take a free test ride on the new line.
According to an article in Rail Transit Online (December 2008), the retired Melbourne W5 streetcar, over 70 years old, has been fitted with an on-board biodiesel generator to supply electricity to the traction motors, somewhat similar to the propulsion configuration used on several other lines, such as one in Galveston. Typically, with these kinds of low-cost systems, project managers have sought to avoid the expense and logistical aspects of overhead contact systems (OCS) for supplying power. However, project designers envision eventual conversion to conventional OCS power distribution. According to news reports, the 47-foot-long (14.3-m) car seats about 50 and will accommodate another 50 standing passengers.
The entire project, under the direction of TranSystems, cost about $1 million, including almost $600,000 to buy the right-of-way, $100,000 for engineering and $207,000 for TranSystems to restore the car in Pennsylvania. Rail Transit Online notes that "Savannah has a long history of street railways, with the first horse cars starting operation in 1869 followed in 1890 by electric trolleys. The system closed on Aug. 26, 1946."
The official line opening is scheduled to take place in January.