Special Report: Making the Milwaukee Streetcar

Special Report: Making the Milwaukee Streetcar

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee’s first streetcar is scheduled to arrive next month. The company making it let CBS 58 inside on Thursday so we could show it to you.

The factory is about 600 miles away from Brew City in the tiny town of Brookville, Pennsylvania. CBS 58 Morning News anchor Jessica Tighe traveled there to get the first look at it and talk to the workers involved.

“The reality is these are modern transit vehicles. They are state of the art,” Joel McNeil, Vice President of Business Development for Brookville Equipment Corporation said.

Brookville Equipment Corporation has 85 streetcars in service across the country, but workers say Milwaukee’s streetcar is a little different.

“This car is going to have video monitors in each vehicle to show destinations and it’s a little more modern. It’s going to have a full video recording system to monitor vehicles for safety and for the safety of other people around,” electrician Chris Lasher said.

It’s also all-electric.

“It’s actually equipped with onboard batteries similar to supercharged sports cars you see out there that are battery powered,” McNeil explained.

Milwaukee’s streetcars are 67 feet long and can go more than 40 miles per hour. The factory is making five for the city. The first four are for the initial route. The fifth is for the lakefront line. Construction on that route is supposed to begin this spring.

A look inside the factory immediately reveals which streetcar will arrive in Milwaukee first. The three sections of it are already pieced together. Work still needs to be done on the interior, but once that’s complete, the streetcar will fit 120 people. There are options to stand or sit.

A handful of Wisconsin companies supplied parts for the project. Milwaukee Composites donated the flooring.

“They really upped the game. Obviously, they see the commitment and the long-term benefit and were excited to contribute,” Ben Crana, Supply Chain Director for Brookville Equipment Corporation said.

You won’t find a steering wheel in the streetcars, but there is a joystick and a horn. In fact, you’ll find those two parts in more than one spot.

“The streetcars are actually double-ended, so they can be operated from either side of the car,” McNeil said.

It takes nine months to make each car. Then the company needs to test them at the Brookville facility and on the tracks in Milwaukee. If all goes as planned, people should be riding the Milwaukee Streetcar this fall.

The price tag for the design and creation of the streetcars is $23 million. The federal funds being used for it cannot be used for anything else.

The streetcar will be named “The Hop.” That’s part of the sponsorship deal with Potawatomi. The goal is to have the individual cars delivered to Milwaukee with “The Hop” logo and the Potawatomi decals already installed.

Watch the extended "CBS 58 Sunday Morning" version of this story here:

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