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U.S. Streetcar Systems- California – Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Farmers Market / The Grove
Americana at Brand

Began Operation: 2002

Route Miles: .4

Stops: 3 stops

Org: paid staff

Schedule: daily

John Smatlak photo

The Grove at Farmers Market

One of the more interesting variants on the Vintage Trolley concept is the battery powered trolley which has been in service at the Grove at Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles since 2002. Created by TIG/m, the double deck vehicle is not based on any particular prototype, but created to be an attractive and easily accessible people mover within a very large outdoor shopping area. The line connects the historic Farmers Market outdoor marketplace with the large “Grove” shopping mall immediately adjacent. The open-air mall is arranged around a themed streetscape, and the 1,200 ft. trolley line winds its way through several blocks of stores, restaurants, a large theatre complex, and a 3,500 space parking garage. The line’s single battery powered trolley operates seven days a week and carries patrons free of charge. Top speed of the vehicle is limited to about 8 mph in deference to the pedestrian intensive environment.

The trolley operation commenced in February 2002, and has exceeded expectations for both ridership and reliability. The car runs 8-10 hours a day, seven days a week and is rarely empty. During the occasional heavy rains that occur in the winter months, the car is withdrawn from service, but otherwise its fully open design is the perfect match for the area’s mild climate. Farmer’s Market receives about 3 Million annual visitors, and the trolley is currently carrying about 730,000 passengers annually (although an estimated 830,000 rode in 2003). Not surprisingly, the trolley also incorporates large advertising panels which serve as a revenue stream for the mall’s operators, managed by a large outdoor advertising firm.

The vehicle uses refurbished PCC streetcar trucks and an all new steel-framed carbody. Regenerative braking is utilized to recharge the batteries while enroute, and the system has also been fitted with Wampfler inductive charging apparatus for “opportunity charging” at one end of the line. This system allows the batteries to receive a quick “topping off” without being plugged in. The batteries receive a heavier charge each night while the vehicle is plugged in inside its storage bay.

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Aerial view of the trolley from the
top of the Grove parking garage

the trolley at the Grove end of the line

Wamphler inductive charging coil between the rails at the end of
the line stop.

On the way
back to the Farmers Market end of the line. The upper deck is
quite popular with the passengers.

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The car uses dual running boards along
its length to provide easy access to the bench seats on the lower

the Farmer Market end of the line.

replica historic gas station sits adjacent to the Farmers Market
stop (trolley in background).

The line has
one at-grade street crossing, although the street is used only for
parking and delivery access.


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upper deck
for another trip

car is fitted with a cassette-type wheelchair lift

PCC streetcar trucks are used for the running gear.

John Smatlak Photos 

Other Battery Powered Trams / Trolleys

Rendering of TIG Trolleys for Puerto Los Cabos

TIG/m has produced two additional vehicles for an operation at the new Puerto Los Cabos Marina in Baja Mexico, as well as a third vehicle for a new operation in Texas. The new vehicles are being manufactured in the Los Angeles area, and the cars for Mexico feature the same basic double-deck architecture as the car at Farmer’s Market, although with a different theme. All of the cars are equipped with refurbished PCC trolley running gear, and also feature a small on-board generator to permit battery charging enroute.

The Gomaco Trolley Company has built a pair of battery powered cars for the Americana at Brand shopping mall in Glendale, California. Other battery powered trolleys/trams now in operation include the tramway at the restored Southport Pier in the UK. This unique 3′ 6″ gauge operation began in 2005, using a modern vehicle constructed by U.K. Loco LTD.

The use of batteries is also increasing for supplemental propulsion in light rail vehicles. Vehicles in both the United States and Europe are being fitted with batteries to provide the capability of making short moves “off wire”. In some cases the batteries are intended only for short moves to navigate past interruptions in the overhead contact system or in maintenance facilities. In other cases, such as on Alstom’s Citidas trams for Nice, France, battery power will allow the line to routinely traverse two 500m segments through historic town squares without overhead wire.

In the UK, the Sustainable Transport Company (Sustraco) is developing an “ultra-light rail” system capable of being powered by a range of energy sources.

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2007- Work is progressing nicely at TIG on the two cars
for the Puerto Los Cabos Marina.

John Smatlak Photos 

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2008- Work continues to progress at TIG/m on the two cars
for the Puerto Los Cabos Marina.
2009- more detail parts applied to the first car
controller combines classic looks with modern control
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2009- Detail views of the first car under construction

Click here for additional information about this car (pdf

Update May 2009– In April, Los Angeles played host to the APTA/TRB Joint Light Rail Conference. As part of the conference activities, the APTA Streetcar & Heritage Trolley Subcommittee offered a “Battery-Powered Streetcar Circulators” tour. Participants visited the Gomaco-manufactured car set at the Americana at Brand in Glendale, and then traveled to Canoga Park to visit the facilities of vehicle manufacturer TIG/m. There the group saw a presentation from TIG/m about current and future streetcar projects and also got a hands-on look at the three vehicles presently in their shop. Pictures of the tour follow below.

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the Farmer’s Market, the Americana
at Brand
is a project of developer Rick Caruso.
This project combines retail and dining with

side of the streetcar “loop” runs along
Brand Boulevard, improving visibility of the
development from the street.

the “mall” setting the streetcar runs along
a planked trackway shared with pedestrians. Shops and restaurants
line this “street”, which is closed to
automobile traffic.

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themed “streetcar” consists of a
battery-powered vehicle plus a tow-behind trailer. The
vehicles were manufactured by Gomaco in 2008.

controls on the Gomaco car
participants inspect one of the cars being
manufactured at TIG/m in Canoga Park.
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over one of the rebuilt PCC trucks. The trucks have
been fitted with new AC motors.

addition the double-deck car for Mexico which is now
complete, two other cars are under construction.

cars for Puerto Los Cabos Marina feature battery drive
supplemented with a small on-board generator. 

of the APTA Streetcar & Heritage Trolley
Subcommittee pose with one of the new TIG/m cars.

John Smatlak Photos 

Update November 2009TIG/m is currently testing the first of two streetcars for the Puerto Los Cabos project. LA Metro has provided the Los Angeles-based company with access to some isolated trackage that is part of its Red Line maintenance facility. TIG/m plans to showcase the car for approximately one month as it is put through its paces prior to being delivered to Mexico.

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trolley undergoing testing at the Metro Red Line

John Smatlak Photos