Campus Landmarks: The Class of 1956 Trolley

Situated directly across from the Quad at 37th and Spruce Streets, the class of 1956 Trolley is one of the most remarkable nostalgic pieces on campus. Created in the style of trolley that used to rumble down Woodland Avenue in front of College Hall throughout much of Penn’s history, the trolley car serves not only as the entrance to the 37th Street Septa station, but as a reminder that in the not so distant past campus was even more urban than it is today. Donated as part of the class of 1956’s 50th reunion gift in 2006, a plaque inside the trolley tells its story as such:

“The Class of 1956 Trolley is a replica of the Peter Witt Trolleys that carried generations of commuting students to Penn from all parts of the region and also provided convenient access from campus to cultural and other attractions in Center City Philadelphia.

With noisy steel wheels and clanging bells, these trolleys created a constant interruption to campus life and were an unforgettable part of the Penn experience. Operated by the Philadelphia Transportation Company (a precursor to Septa), routes 11, 34, and 37 ran through the Penn campus on Woodland Avenue and Locust Street for nearly 65 years. In 1956 they were relocated underground, enabling the University to begin conversion of the university to a unified and attractive landscape environment. Woodland Avenue and Locust Walk became the first pedestrian walkways through the campus.

The Class of 1956 Trolley was fabricated by the Gomaco Trolley Company in October of 2006. The original Peter Witt trolleys were manufactured by J.G. Bell from 1923-1926.”

Trolley Tracks in front of College Hall. Date Unknown.

The Class of 1956 Trolley. The Quad is visible in the background.

Controls at the front of the trolley appear much as they did in the original Peter Witt cars.

Benches inside the trolley allow a weary passenger or passerby a place to have lunch or enjoy the view.

The actual entrance to the 37th Street station provides access to trolleys heading eastbound towards Center City.

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Filed under Campus Life, Historical, Jason S.

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