Transit Tuesday – Where Vintage is Just Fine

It’s one of my first memories of Rome after sleeping off my first bout of European jet lag: opening my Stazione Termini hotel room shutters to find a rather ancient streetcar below.

Decay has a different meaning in Europe. I thought about this on my recent trip to France. Driving through country towns south of the Loire valley, it is evidently okay that walls crack and stucco spalls. I saw some rather appallingly non-maintained collections in chateaux (dusty and scale-spalling Chinese fighting fish, caught in the 18th century!). And in cities where streetcar systems have remained in use since their inception, old streetcars continue to make due. Perhaps this isn’t always convenient, but you can’t argue that the gorgeous photo of the Cleveland-built Peter Witt streetcar running on a Milan street wouldn’t look quite as nice with the Czech cars Washington DC is buying for their resurrected streetcar program (would it be so awful – $$$- to rebuild some PCCs to run in DC for fun?). Peter Witt cars – so named for their designer, a Cleveland Street Railway commissioner – were built from 1914 until the mid-1930s. Milan purchased over 500 of them, and still run 200 of them today. You can ride decommissioned Milan Peter Witts on the historic Market Street Railway streetcar line in San Francisco, along with a number of other fun historic streetcars.

So, Cleveland, when you finally get around to rebuilding your streetcar system, how about some restored Peter Witts? A girl can dream – and evidently, so can other people. See this recently-launched website on the modern Cleveland streetcar movement.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.