From a small horsecar building firm established in 1868, the J. G. Brill Company grew to be a world leader in a rapidly evolving and growing industry that at the time of the First World War was the fifth largest in the United States. Besides its successful line of trolleys and other electric cars, Brill built horsecars, cable cars, narrow-gauge and gas-propelled cars for railroads, and even buses and trolley buses. The Brill policy was to build whatever the customer wanted. With no job considered too small or too peculiar, some delightfully wacky cars were produced, and Brill employees gained valuable experience in all the varied aspects of car building.
As the transportation industry’s motive power evolved from horse to cable to electricity to gasoline, the Brill Company kept in step, gradually expanding its business, buying out trolley car builders in five states, and even establishing a plant in France. As it grew, the company maintained its reputation for quality to such an extent that when J. G. Brill went out of business in 1944, its successor took the name for itself, becoming the ACF Brill Motors Corporation. Through a better understanding of Brill Company management and exposure to previously unpublished office documents concerning the later years of the company, the reader will gain new insights into the Brill/ERPCC/Brilliner situation.
A fascinating variety of open, closed, convertible, and semi-convertible cars, propelled by horse, steam, cable, and electricity, parade through the pages of this book. These old cars have a hold on the affections of many, and hundreds of them have been preserved in museums throughout the world. Just about every type of Brill-built product mentioned here is represented in a railway museum somewhere. Appendix A lists many of the world’s trolley museums and tourist trolley lines where Brill cars can be found, and gives a breakdown of cars built by the firm. Appendix B lists the trucks and other specialties of the Brill Company.
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Debra Brill is a great-great-great granddaughter of John George Brill, the founder of the J. G. Brill Company. She was born in Philadelphia within five miles of the former Brill Company plant, although that event occurred several years after the firm had closed its doors for good. Curiosity regarding the family business and an interest in historical writing prompted her to embark on a mission to unearth as much information as possible about the Brill Company and record the facts for posterity. She is currently self-employed as a medical transcriber and resides in southern New Jersey.
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