USA - Seattle


During April 2002, we had the great pleasure of touring both the Seattle and Vancouver trolleybus systems.

Seattle had at the time in the order of 380 trolleybuses of four types. The first were the AM Generals dating from 1979. These 40' vehicles replaced the Brills, Twin Coaches and Pullmans of earlier times - there is one of each of these preserved at Atlantic Base. The 109 AM's were being steadily scrapped and the electrical equipment transferred to new Gillig body shells to form effectively a new fleet, of which there would eventually be 100. A couple of the AM's would probably be preserved. The third type were 46 MAN articulated trolleys dating from 1987, which were almost life-expired. The fourth were 236 "tunnel buses",  duo-buses produced specially by Breda for operation in the downtown tunnel. These latter vehicles operate on overhead in the tunnel system to avoid fumes, and on diesel engines outside. Dating from 1990/1 these are also almost life expired (they really only have the life of a diesel bus), so they were experimenting in converting them to straight trolleybuses to make them last longer, and to replace the MAN's. There were also 5 ex-Melbourne trams running on a Waterfront heritage line.

The AM's look very much like the San Francisco Flyers, having been built to the same design under licence. The Gilligs are very smart, with dot matrix destination boxes. Metro runs 14 trolleybus routes covering well over 100 route-miles, the longest  being the 7 at some 15 miles long. Route 36 had recently been extended by a mile or so. The hills around the central basin are very steep - excellent fodder for the trolleys, and it wasn't a surprise to find that Seattle once had cable cars, but they are long gone. The bus tunnel has since closed for refurbishment and the relaying of the tram track for light rail implementation. The MAN's had all been replaced by converted Breda's by 2007.

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Two of the AM Generals, 972 & 951, on the main street. 972 is on route 2 to Queen Anne. The life expectancy of these could be measured in months, as they would be stripped down for parts to be fitted into Gilligs by the autumn of 2002.
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953 sets out up the long drag from the city on its way to Jefferson Park on the 36.
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Two more AM's at the University end of the 70 - 965 & 930.
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A trio of AM's led by 945 on a 14-Mt.Baker service in downtown Seattle.
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Two of the new Gillig trolleys, led by 4105, wait to set off from the city terminus of route 70.
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The same two trolleybuses with two ex-Melbourne trams on Waterfront service 99, the nearest of which is 482. They will pass in a loop at the bottom of the hill.
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Almost the first AM (905) and almost the last Gillig at the time (4118) at the Queen Anne terminus of the 2. In fact 4118 is on route 1, and will return to the city in the opposite direction from here.
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4033, one of the MAN articulated trolleybuses. Note the pushbike on the cycle rack, a universal feature fitted to all Seattle trolleybuses and buses. The rack is capable of holding two bikes when down, but when folded up it occupies hardly any space, as can be seen in the next picture.
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A pair of MAN's, including 4018, at the University end of the 43.
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Seattle's preserved fleet - a Pullman Standard (1005), a Twin Coach (643) and a Brill (798). These get out and about periodically for 'exercise' and on occasional tours.
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Two 'Tunnel Buses' on the overhead in the downtown tunnel at Pioneer station. The tunnel system is a magnificent construction, with marble walls and floors and art deco lighting and other features. The constant flow of trolleys silently emerging from and diving into the tunnels is quite eerie.
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Three 'Tunnel Buses' which have just left the northern end of the tunnel. This is where they lower their poles and continue to the suburbs on diesel power.