Saturday, February 23, 2013

Perley A. Thomas Car Works, Inc. Morphed Into Thomas Built [School] Buses

I am sure many of us have made the pilgrimage to New Orleans to ride the Perley Thomas streetcars.  Or being there for another reason, rode them.  They are the dark green cars that run on the Saint Charles Avenue Line.

Some have been painted red for the Riverfront Line.

Perley A. Thomas started his streetcar company in High Point, NC in 1916 to rebuild open cars as enclosed cars for Charlotte, NC.  He built cars for many cities including Helena, MT as shown in this ad.  In its hayday the company was the fourth largest streetrcar builder producing over 400 cars.

The Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire was set in New Orleans, Louisiana where Perley A. Thomas streetcars were operated on the Desire Line around the period of 1947.  The Desire Line has not existed for decades.

There are nearly a dozen Perley Thomas cars saved outside of New Orleans at museums and San Francisco.  The new streetcar line just opened in New Orleans will use Perley Thomas cars.  Actually the transit agency there is capable of building new Perley Thomas cars and has.

The St. Charles Line loops on Canal Street for one block.  A good hotel room can provide excellent photo ops.

And as this and the next picture shows, it is not just an historic artifact.  The St. Charles Line provides well used local transportation.

This is my favorite picture of a Perley Thomas car slightly panning one as it hurries around Lee Circle.

Hurricane Katrina wiped out the St. Charles line.  Here is a picture the evening it reopened out to its midpoint in November 2007.

Your child or grandchild may have ridden a Perley Thomas to school this morning.  Well sort of.  Thomas Built Buses, Inc. is a descendant company building school and other speciality buses in High Point, NC.  I could not see any buildings on their site that looked old enough to have been there during trolley building though I'm told some remain but modified.  Here is a picture of their main entrance.

Perley A. Thomas has been inducted into the North Carolina Transportation Hall of Fame.  A Perley Thomas trolley is under reconstruction at the North Carolina Transportation Museum.  The work has nearly stopped because many of the volunteers working on it were Thomas Built employees and were laid off because of the recession.

A lot on this subject exists on the Internet.  Just Google "Perley Thomas".

God's Side of the Tracks

In the tiny village of Huntdale, NC, up in Appalachia is a Free Will Baptist Church, Established in 1900.    

The Church is on the north side of the Clinchfield RR (now CSX) tracks.  There is no road on the north side of the tracks.  The only way to get to the church is to cross the tracks at an unguarded crossing.  

Because of a sharp curve the trains go slow through there.  But the noise is still significant.  Today there is about one train every 2 hours.  At one time a steam-engine-pulled train came by much more often.  I hope the preacher times his sermon so the fire and brimstone part comes as a train goes by.

I guess on a snowy Sunday morning coming out of the church if you slip and fall on the tracks and get run over you go straight to heaven.

Do you remember the song with the first line "The railroad comes through the middle of the house".  Huntdale comes as close as I have ever seen to making that true.  Look at how close the back yards are to the tracks in this picture I took seconds before the one of the train above.

The version of the song by Vaughn Monroe charted at #11 in September 1956.  Maybe we can rewrite the song to "The railroad came up the aisle."  In 1975 the Lawrence Welk Show turned the song into a skit as seen here: