Birney Safety Streetcar No. 224, Fort Smith Trolley Museum, Fort Smith, Sebastian County, AR
Fort Smith Trolley Museum, Fort Smith, AR
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Documentation compiled after 1968.
Survey number HAER AR-62
Unprocessed field note material exists for this structure (N931).
Significance: Streetcar Number 224 was built by the Saint Louis Car Company in 1926. It was bought that same year by the Fort Smith Light and Traction Company and served the Fort Smith, Van Buren area with distinction until 1933 when the line was closed. The Birney Safety Car was designed and engineered by Charles O. Birney and Webster Engineering Company in 1916. The design of the Birney Car, a single truck trolley, answered a need for a lighter and more efficient trolley car, particularly in small towns and in areas of marginal profitability. The Birney Car weighed approximately 13,000 pounds, consumed about 40% less electricity than the standard trolleys of the day, and provided single operator capability to systems which normally used two motormen per car. The $6,000 price of a new Birney Car was also substantially less than the older heavier trolleys. All these advantages were important. Fort Smith Light and Traction Company owned 14 of these cars and No. 224 was included in the last order before the system was abandoned and replaced by a bus system. Upon abandonment of the system, Car No. 224 was purchased by a Mr. Johnson in Ashdown, Arkansas. He turned the car into a diner called the "Streetcar Cafe" and sold short order meals in the town of Ashdown. When no longer used as a diner the car was bought by Louis Hennick of Shreveport. Louis is a streetcar historian who wrote "Streetcars of New Orleans" and "Streetcars of Louisiana." He purchased the car with the intention to restore it, but restoration was never done. Louis advertised the car in an antique journal in 1979. As a result of the research done by Charles Winters for an article on the history of the Fort Smith Historical Society, the advertisement was seen and action was taken. A non-profit organization was formed, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, and the Fort Smith Light and Traction Car No. 224 was returned to Fort Smith with the goal of restoring to operating condition.
Calhoun, Bert V., Field Team
Historic American Engineering Record (Library of Congress)
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