J. G. Brill Company

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The J. G. Brill Company (sometimes shortened to simply, "Brill") manufactured trams/streetcars, interurban coaches, motor buses, trolleybuses and railroad cars in the United States for almost ninety years; it was the longest lasting trolley and interurban manufacturer. At its height, Brill was the largest manufacturer of streetcars and interurban cars in the US and produced more streetcars, interurban and gas-electric cars than any other manufacturer, building more than 45,000 streetcars alone.

The company was founded by John George Brill in 1868 as a horse car manufacturing firm in Philadelphia. Over the years it absorbed numerous other manufacturers of trolleys and interurban manufacturers such as G. C. Kuhlman Car Company in Cleveland and Jewett Car Company in Jewett (OH). In 1944, with business diminishing, it merged with the American Car and Foundry (ACF) to become ACF-Brill. Although the company ceased production in 1954, some of its inter-urbans served the Philadelphia area until the 1980s.


In 1868 the Brill company was founded as J.G. Brill and Sons. After James Rawle joined the firm in 1872 it was renamed J.G. Brill & Company.

In 1902 Brill bought out the American Car Company; in 1904 G. C. Kuhlman Car Company and Stephenson Car Company; and in 1907 Wason Manufacturing Company. Brill acquired a controlling share of the Danville Car Company in 1908, dissolving it in 1911, and Canadian railway car builder Preston Car Company in 1921, which ceased operating in 1923. In 1919, the Jewett Car Company was absorbed by the J. G. Brill Company. In 1926 American Car and Foundry Company acquired a controlling interest in what had become the Brill Corporation. The new structure consisted of:

In 1944 these two companies merged, forming the ACF-Brill Motors Company.

In the same year, ACF-Brill licensed Canadian Car and Foundry of Montreal to manufacture and sell throughout Canada motor buses and trolley coaches of their design as Canadian Car-Brill. The firm built about 1,100 trolley buses and a few thousand buses under the name. Brill had earlier (in 1908) established a company in France (Cie. J.G. Brill of Gallardon, which was sold to Electroforge in 1935.

In 1946 Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation acquired a controlling interest in ACF-Brill for $7.5 million. Consolidated Vultee was sold the following year to the Nashville Corporation, which in 1951 sold its share to investment firm Allen & Co. In early 1954, the Brill name disappeared when ACF-Brill ceased production and subcontracted its remaining orders.

Brill granted licenses to build its vehicles to the Canadian Car and Foundry (Peter Witt streetcars, trolley buses and motor buses) and the South Australian Railways (Model 75 railcars).


General information

  • 1868: Company founded as J. G. Brill and Sons.
  • 1872: Company renamed J. G. Brill and Company after James Rowle joins the company.


  • 1911: Dissolution of Danville Car Company brand name.
  • 1935: J. G. Brill of Gallardon sold to Electroforge.
  • 1944: ACF and Brill merges into one brand name, ACF-Brill. Canadian Car and Foundry acquires licenses to manufacture buses and trolley coaches using ACF-Brill specs.
  • 1926: Brill Corporation formed.
  • 1931: Subsidiaries become J. G. Brill Company of ....
  • 1931: The J. G. Brill Company of Missouri shuts down.
  • 1932: The J. G. Brill Company of Massachusetts shuts down.
  • 1932: The J. G. Brill Company of Ohio shuts down.
  • 1937: The J. G. Brill Company of Missouri and Ohio dissolved.
  • 1944: The J. G. Brill Company of Massachusetts dissolved.
  • 1941: Last electric cars built by the J. G. Brill company.
  • 1944: ACF and Brill merges into one brand name, ACF-Brill. Canadian Car and Foundry acquires licenses to manufacture buses and trolley coaches using ACF-Brill specs.
  • 1946: Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation acquires controlling interest in ACF-Brill.
  • 1947: Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation acquired by Nashville Corporation.
  • 1951: Nashville Corporation sells its share of ACF Brill to investment firm Allen and Company.
  • 1954: Brill brand name disappears when ACF-Brill closes production, and sub-contracts remaining work.

Introductions of models

  • 1900: Semi-convertible car introduced.
  • 1901: Naragansett car introduced.
  • 1938: First Brilliner ordered.


This list is incomplete.


Rail models

  • Hedley-Doyle Streetcar -
  • Semi-Convertible Car - (1900-?) Traditional arch-windowed, all-wood interurban cars.
  • Birney Safety Car (1915-1930) – By numerous subsidiaries. This smaller car, most of them on single trucks, allowed smaller cities to afford these streetcars, and were sized for the lower patronage numbers, usually between 30-35 persons. In addition, they were lighter, being approximately one-third the weight of a standard car.
  • Brill "Nearside" streetcar (1911-1916?), designed by Thomas E. Mitten's in-house engineers. Named due the fact that the cars boarded and discharged passengers at the "nearside" of the intersection, rather than the "farside", which conventional cars did. The "muzzle load" idea was shown to not block traffic in an intersection while a streetcar was stopped just past the intersection, making the boarding and unboarding safer for passengers and surrounding drivers. Approximately 1500 cars were ordered by the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT), the International Railway Company (IRC) and Chicago Surface Lines (CSL), with a few additional agencies testing one or two cars. Originally designed with wider "muzzle load" doors only at the front of the car, some of the cars had middle doors cut into them, essentially making them Peter Witt cars. The International Railway Company also had a variation that was single-trucked, very similar to the Birney Safety Car in their 7000-7016 series cars.
  • Single-truck
  • Double-truck
  • Large cars with trailers
  • Small cars
  • Model 55-Interurban Combine, or "Doodlebug" (1924–38)
  • Model 65 (1924)
  • Model 75-South Australian Railways (1924–) railcars.
Collectively between the models 55, 65 and 75, almost 300 were built for US and foreign railroads. A major purchaser was the South Australian Railways, which bought 12 Model 55 power cars plus trailers in 1924, followed in 1928 by 39 Model 75 power cars (all but the first being constructed in South Australia at the Islington Railway Workshops) plus trailers. The last was withdrawn from service in 1971.
  • The Brill "Center Door" interurban car was a steel heavy interurban cars built 1920-1930s. The car was typical of suburban trolleys and interurbans built around 1920. These tended to be large, heavy, double-ended cars, with passengers entering and exiting via doors located at the center of the car. Many rebuilt into one man cars.
  • Brill "Bullet" car, 1929–1932. For suburban and interurban use.
  • Brill "Master Unit" streetcar, built 1930s. All-steel; had standard controller stand, capable of 70 mph.
  • Brill "Brilliner" – Brill's competitor to the Presidents' Conference Committee Streetcar looked somewhat like the first PCCs, but was not successful when compared to it. One of the complaints was that the cars were under-powered. Due to this and other issues, few were sold, whereas PCCs were well-sold worldwide. Even with this, however, twenty-four Brilliners were built for Atlantic City's Miss America Fleet.

Bus models

  • T30
  • T40
  • 40SMT
  • 44SMT
  • TC-44 (ACF-Brill)
  • T46 (ACF-Brill)
  • TC-46 (ACF-Brill)

Rail components


  • 11 (maximum traction, introduced in 1890)
  • 13
  • 21, 21E (introduced in 1892)
  • 22
  • 27, 27-E-1, 27-E-2, 27-G (introduced in 1895)
  • 27-MCB
  • 39-E, 39-E-1
  • 76
  • 77-E-1
  • 78
  • 79, 79-E
  • 177
  • 420
  • Eureka
  • PIR
  • Radiax

Fare boxes

  • Brill Fare Box No. 1A: (four-till):
  • Brill Fare Box No. 2: top-deposit, with a four compartment cash box separate from the fare box, to make change for customers, when warranted. The inner cash box vault is self-locking upon removal, and is only able to be opened at a cash office.
  • Brill Fare Box No. 3:
  • Brill Fare Box No. 3-A: Compact version, with a rounded top, fare totalizer which operates when the handle drops the fares into the inner vault. Another security feature makes it impossible for the driver to let fares accumulate and stay in the hopper after the fare boxes removal.
  • Brill Fare Box No. 4-A:


  • Type 105 - Brill Non-Reversible Seat
  • Cumfit
  • Type 103 - Brill Interurban Seat
  • Type 201-A - Brill Car Seat
  • Type 201-B - Brill Reversable Car Seat
  • Winner


  • Brill diners – Brill sold and designed diners, generally through one of its four subsidiaries, the Wason Manufacturing Company. The last one believed to be operating is the Capitol Diner in Lynn, Massachusetts, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. Wikipedia, J.G. Brill Company, accessed May 9, 2018.