© 2012 (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 10-03-12 (additions 10-07-13, 10-10-13) )
On April 5, 1920, the voters of the city of Detroit
approved the issuance of $15,000,000 in bonds that
would allow the city to build and operate a separate
street railway operation in competition against the
privately-owned Detroit United Railway
(DUR).  When
the city-run system struggled to survive against the
larger DUR system, the city began taking-over and
operating its cars over the DUR rails no longer under
a franchise agreement.  After a brief five-route joint-
operating agreement in early 1922, the DUR decided
to sell its lines to the City of Detroit for $19,850,000.
The transit vehicles displayed in this 1920's Photo Gallery were purchased under the city-owned
Municipal Operation
(MO) and the D.S.R. between 1921 and 1929.  When the fledgling city-run
system began operations on Feb. 1, 1921, a fleet of twenty streetcars operated over two lines, but
quickly grew to a fleet of 428 cars by year's end.  After the city's take-over of the DUR city lines in
May 1922, its streetcar and trailer-car fleet of 1,389 would grow to a fleet of 1,706 by 1929.
Please click-on link to return to the "PHOTO GALLERY" Main Page.
As a result of that April 1921 vote, the MO was able to purchase DUR trackage built since the 1911 "day-to-day"
operating agreement, including rails along Warren Ave., Twelfth, Epworth, Junction and Linwood streets, and
portions of the
Grand Belt and Hamilton lines.  An arbitration agreement was reached where the purchase of
128 of the DUR's streetcars and trailer-cars were also included in that sale, totaling $2,297,277.

Effective Dec. 23, 1921, the
Municipal Operation (MO) received 105 of the DUR's Double-Truck Steel Cars
(#3021-3125) built between 1915 and 1919 by both the
Kuhlman Car Company (79) and by the DUR (26),
23 trailer-cars (#5100-5122) built in 1916, also by the G. C. Kuhlman Car Company.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 8, 1921, voters approved an Ouster Ordinance referendum that ordered the
DUR to vacate
21¼ miles of track along the Woodward and Fort lines—routes where the franchises had expired.  With the
impending loss of its rails along Woodward
(south of Milwaukee) and the East and West Fort lines (between
Artillery (Livernois) on the west-side and Baldwin on the east-side)
, the DUR purposed a joint operating
agreement with the city system.   By January 16, 1922, joint-service was being operated along
five DUR routes
into downtown;
Trumbull, Hamilton, Woodward, Fort-East, and Fort-West.
In total, 250 of these single-truck Birney Safety Cars (#100-349) were purchased by the city in
1921; the country's second largest fleet of Birneys.  The Birney style streetcar—the first mass-
produced standard streetcar in North America—was a small, light-weight, inexpensive streetcar
designed in 1915 by Charles O. Birney and Joseph M. Bosenbury.   Initially, the fleet was stored
at a newly purchased site at Shoemaker and St. Jean streets
(the future Shoemaker Carhouse).
[Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University photo #48426 — see disclaimer below]
The city's first fleet of Birney cars were considerably smaller than the larger-size streetcars
Detroiters were use to or were promised by city officials.  In this Jan. 20, 1921 photo, car #117
(also built by Osgood-Bradley) is pictured in a line-up of Birneys near the Shoemaker carbarn
shortly after delivery.  Twenty cars had arrived by the MO's first day of service on Feb. 1, 1921.
[photo source: online – unknown (unidentified) photo collection]
On May 15, 1922, the Detroit Department of Street
Railways (DSR) began its first day of operation.
The first of the streetcars owned by the City of Detroit to be delivered was car #100—a Birney
Safety Car built by the Osgood-Bradley Company of Worcester, MA.  Delivered on Jan. 5, 1921,
car #100 was also the first car to be powered-up for a test-run on Jan. 16th along the newly built
track and overhead at St. Jean and Waterloo
(E. Vernor).  The new (32-pass) Birney streetcars
arrived sporting the city-run transit system's first adopted paint scheme of straw yellow body,
brown doors and windows with cream trimming, and black running gear
(under carriage).
[photo courtesy of the S. Sycko photo collection]
When the Municipal Operation began its first day on February 1, 1921, sixteen cars were utilized
to begin service along both the Charlevoix-Buchanan and St. Jean routes.  The longer of the two
lines—Charlevoix-Buchanan—began with ten cars operating along Charlevoix from Alter Road
(city limits) to Bellevue with 3-6 minute headways.  The line was later completed to Buchanan
and Junction by late August.  Car #194, displaying the "CHARLEVOIX" route sign, was one of
100 Detroit Birney cars (#150-249) built by the J. G. Brill Company of Philadelphia, PA.      
[photo courtesy of the S. Sycko photo collection]
As the city-run operation grew to seven routes by year's end, the Birneys played a significant
role in providing service along the new city-built routes.  The 250 Detroit cars were all built as
double-ended cars with two controls, two entrance doors, and two overhead trolley-poles for
operation at both ends.  Other features included air-operated snow scrapers, tail lights, electric
heat, center lighting with opal light shades, and reversible-style wooden seats.  
[photo courtesy of the S. Sycko photo collection]
Unfortunately, the small Birney Safety Cars turned out to be very unpopular with Detroit riders.
The small single-truck wooden seat cars were considered uncomfortable and just didn't hold up
to the heavy demands of a large city transit system.  After the arrival of the much larger Peter
Witt style cars, Detroiters would sarcastically refer to the Birneys as "Half-Witts."  Within two
years the DSR attempted to sell-off 200 of the cars, but only 56 were ever sold.  By 1931, only
98 Birneys remained on the roster, but only eighteen of those were able to be used in service.  
[photo courtesy of the S. Sycko photo collection]
The 250-car fleet of Birneys purchased under the MO were purchased through six orders built
by the following four manufacturers.  There were subtle differences among the six orders.
The Osgood-Bradley built cars #100-124 and #325-349, and some J.G. Brill cars came equipped with
General Electric 264 motors, while the remaining fleet powered by Westinghouse 508A motors.
100–124  (25)
Osgood-Bradley Car Co.
2-GE 264
125–149  (25)
Osgood-Bradley Car Co.
2-W 508A
150–249  (100)
J. G. Brill Car Co.
2-W 508A
250–274  (25)
McGuire-Cummings Mfg. Co.
2-W 508A
275–324  (50)
St. Louis Car Co.
2-W 508A
325–349  (25)
Osgood-Bradley Car Co.
2-GE 264
(Info courtesy of Detroit's Street Railways Vol II: City Lines 1922-1956)
First Birney fleet (cars #100-124) originally equipped with coal stove heaters.
After the DSR take-over of the city lines, the Birneys quickly found themselves reserved to light
service lines such as E. Lafayette, Myrtle, Mt Elliott and Woodmere.   However, a number of the
remaining Birneys not sold or scrapped were rebuilt and converted from double-ended cars to a
single-ended car with double doors added.  This was done to speed up passengers boarding and
existing the car; as was done to car #183 seen here working the Mt. Elliott line.  By 1937 only ten
Birneys remained.  The last Birney car saw service on the East Lafayette line on Feb. 28, 1939.  
[photo source: Detroit's Street Railways  Vol. II: City Lines 1922-1956 (Elmer Kremkow photo)]
In July 1921, the Municipal Operation ordered 50 Peter Witt style streetcars from the G. C.
Kuhlman Car Company of Cleveland, OH.  The city's first fleet of Peter Witt cars began arriving
Oct. 8, 1921, sporting the same paint scheme used on the Birney cars—a straw yellow body with
brown windows and doors, cream trim and black under carriage.  Car #1000 seen in photo was
the first of the fifty-car fleet; initially numbered #1000-1049.  The large Peter Witt cars were
purchased to provide service along two major downtown routes—Woodward and Fort Street—
where the city had intended to oust the DUR streetcars off large sections of those lines.
[Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University photo #75463 — see disclaimer below]
Back in 1911—after the city had refused to renew the franchise agreements on those DUR tracks where the
franchise rights had expired—an agreement was reached that granted the
DUR "Day-to-Day" operation along
those expired rails and along any new trackage built by the
DUR thereafter.  This agreement also included an
option for the city to purchase those rails at any time upon voter approval by the citizens of Detroit.

On April 4, 1921, the voters of Detroit approved a ballot proposal authorizing the city to purchase
29.5 miles of
DUR trackage operated under that "Day-to-Day" plan.  With the city now authorized by voters to run its cars
along the former
DUR rails into the downtown area, city officials decided that larger size Peter Witt style cars
would be needed in order to handle the anticipated increase in the municipal system's ridership.
Facing the inevitable ouster of it cars from portions of the Woodward and Fort Street lines, the
DUR entered into a joint-service arrangement with the city in late-1921, where cars from both
the DUR and MO operated over 5 DUR lines into downtown.  To avoid conflicting numbers with
the #1000-series DUR cars, the city-owned Peter Witts were renumbered from #1000-1049 to
#11000-11049.  In this photo Peter Witt car #1037 has now been renumbered as car #11037.
During the joint-service operation, the Peter Witts were primarily used on the Trumbull line.
[photo source: Detroit's Street Railways  Vol. II: City Lines 1922-1956 (Schramm Collection)]
This photo shows the interior (rear facing) view of one of the city's first Peter Witt streetcars.   
The Detroit Peter Witt cars
(at 48'6" long, 8'6" wide) utilized this typical (52-passenger) seating
arrangement of long front perimeter bench seats and cross-seats behind the center exit doors.
As part of the 1921 "Day-to-Day" trackage purchase, the MO acquired 105 large-size Double-
Truck Steel Body Cars from the DUR.  Seventy-nine of these 46-passenger cars (#3021-3099)
were built by the Kuhlman Car Company between 1915–1917, and became part of the MO fleet
on Dec. 23, 1921.  In this August 1917 photo, car #3036
(at that time owned by the DUR) can be
seen at the Log Cabin Loop turn-around in Palmer Park at the north end of the Woodward line,
where the DUR had erected a log cabin style waiting station just east of the Thomas W. Palmer
Log Cabin—which in that day was a major summertime Detroit tourist attraction and museum.
[photo courtesy of the R. W. Jackson estate, donated to website by Sandy Jack]
PETER WITT STREETCAR: The Peter Witt was a streetcar designed and patented in 1914 by Peter
Witt, a Cleveland Street Railway Commissioner.  The streetcar's design—with the addition of the center
doors as the only exit—reduced the passenger boarding and alighting time at stops, and thus improving
schedules.  With the conductor now stationed near the center doors
(note stool visible left-center of photo)
passengers could quickly board through the front doors and then choose to either immediately pay the
conductor and sit in the rear seats, or sit in the front and pay the fare just before exiting the car.
[Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University photo #75463_1 — see disclaimer below]
PETER WITT STREETCAR: The Peter Witt was a streetcar designed and patented in 1914 by Peter Witt, a
Cleveland Street Railway Commissioner.  The streetcar's design — with the inclusion of the center doors as
the only exit — reduced the passenger boarding and alighting time at stops, and thus improving schedules.  
With the conductor now stationed near the center doors
(note stool visible left-center of photo) passengers
could quickly board through the front doors and then choose to either immediately pay the conductor and sit in
the rear seats, or sit in the front and pay the fare just before exiting the car.
With the purchase of the fifty large Peter Witt cars, along with the former DUR large-size streetcars and
trailers, the five-line joint-operating arrangement into downtown made it possible for the small fledgling city-run
transportation department to become an integral part of the Detroit transportation scene.  By early 1922, the
municipal system operated with a total fleet of
428 cars.   In addition to the five DUR joint-lines, the operation
now provided service along
eight city built streetcar routes.
That 1921 DUR rail purchase also included the acquisition of 23 (52-passenger) double-truck
trailer-cars (#5100-5122) built by Kuhlman Car Co. in 1916.  Trailers were motorless cars that
were pulled by streetcars.  The DUR began purchasing these large steel body trailers as a less
expensive way to service their heavily patronized lines.  In this photo, taken along Woodward at
Campus Martius in 1917, two of these attached streetcar/trailer combos can be seen operating
along Woodward Avenue.  The two #3000-series DUR Kuhlman "deck-roof" cars seen pulling
their #5100-series Kuhlman "deck-roof" trailers would all be owned by the city within 3 years.
[Detroit Publishing Company photo courtesy of Shorpy Historical Photo Archive]
All Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University photos posted with permission.
All rights, including those of further reproduction and/or publication, are reserved in full by the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.  
Photographic reproductions may be protected by U.S. copyright law (U.S. Title 17).  The user is fully responsible for copyright infringement.
(Click-on photo to view complete image)
(Click-on photo to view larger image)
Of the 105 Double-Truck steel cars received from the DUR, 26 of those cars (#3100-3125) were
built by the DUR between 1918-1919.  While the Kuhlman built steel body cars sported a deck
roof, the DUR built cars were built with arch roofs.   In this photo, car #3104, built by the DUR
in 1919, is seen during its last days worn and still sporting the DSR's third paint scheme of cream
with green trim, launched in 1927.   The car's coal stove's smoke stack can still be seen on top of
the front roof.  The last of the double-truck steel body cars were all retired by the DSR in 1947.
[ source: Detroit's Street Railways – Vol. II: City Lines 1922-1956 (Howard Babcock photo)]
THE 1920's
1  2  3  4
THE 1930's
1  2  3
THE 1940's
1  2  3  4  5
THE 1950's
1  2  3
THE 1960's
1  2  3
THE 1970's
1  2  3
THE 1980's
1  2  3
THE 1990's
1  2  3
THE 2010's
1   2
THE 2000's
1   2
Car #3048, built by the G. C. Kuhlman Car Company in 1916, was also one of those 105 ex-DUR
large-size Double-Truck Steel Body Cars acquired by the MO in 1921.  It's pictured here during
the 1930s sporting the DSR's third
(1927) color scheme while working the Mt. Elliott line.  Like
many of the ex-DUR cars, passengers boarded these cars at the rear.   These fast steel body cars
were equipped with four
(50 H.P.) motors and built to pull the large double truck trailers-cars.  
Facing the scrap yard by the early 1940s, these cars were placed back in service during WW-II.
[photo source: online – unknown (unidentified) photo collection]
After the take-over of the DUR operation by the DSR, the city's first Peter Witt fleet would be
renumbered again as #3200-3249; launching a numbering sequence to be assigned to following
fleets of Peter Witt cars.  A design unique to the first fleet was the rounded front-end around the
front route sign.  The first 425 Witts came with outward folding front doors, as seen in this 1948
photo of car #3243—not good when a forgetful motorman enters a safety zone with doors open.
[photo source: online – unknown (unidentified) photo collection]
This photo shows Peter Witt car #3229 west along Michigan Avenue, approaching the Scotten
Street overpass, while passing the former GM Cadillac Clark Street Assembly Plant
Although the first Peter Witt cars delivered arrived sporting a roof mounted headlight, the lamp
was later moved to the front dash below the motorman's window during the late 1920s.
[photo source: "Dave's Electric Railroads – DSR" — Bill Volkmer collection photo]
Over the nearly 29-year service life of these #3200-series Peter Witts, many would undergo up
to six different DSR paint schemes.  This 1949 photo shows car #3221 now abandoned after
twenty-eight years of service and parked at the Gratiot Carhouse while awaiting the scrap yard.
[photo courtesy of the S. Sycko photo collection]
(Click-on photo to view larger image)