Transportation Museum getting historic streetcar from Thomas Built Buses

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

HIGH POINT ó Thomas Built Buses is restoring one of its historic streetcars ó which once graced the streets of New Orleans ó and will place it among the historic trains, planes and automobiles at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.
It is the second of the High Point-based trademark vehicles to join displays at the state museum.
Before Thomas’ first school bus rolled off the line in 1936, North America’s leading manufacturer of school buses got its start producing streetcars early in the last century. Recently, six Thomas Built employees dove headfirst into restoring a 1923 Perley A. Thomas Car Works streetcar built on the same line the men work on today.
One of only 73 of its kind remaining, the streetcar graced the rails of New Orleans’ famous Canal Street until its final run May 31, 1964.
Streetcar 918, as she was known in her prime, is slated for exhibit in early 2010, and Thomas Built Buses has committed the funds necessary for the three-year renovation project.
“It’s an honor for Thomas Built vehicles to be showcased for the roles they’ve played in transportation history,” said John O’Leary, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses. “We are thankful to have employees with such a sense of community spirit and history, and Thomas is proud to support them in preserving this treasured piece of history.”
Last summer, Thomas donated a working 1940 school bus to the N.C. Transportation Museum. The all-steel bus boasts a six-cylinder gasoline engine and four long bench seats, on which children used to sit facing each other.
Perley A. Thomas Car Works was founded in 1916 and originally manufactured streetcars and trolley buses. It transitioned to production of school buses in 1936 and changed its name to Thomas Built Buses in 1972.
In 1998, Daimler Trucks North America LLC, which also owns Freightliner, bought Thomas Built Buses.
Perley A. Thomas, the company’s founder, was inducted into the North Carolina Transportation Hall of Fame, headquartered at the Transportation Museum in Spencer, in 2005.
Thomas Built Buses ( remains the leading manufacturer of school buses in North America, with more than a third of the market. Daimler Trucks North America LLC is the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer on the continent and a leading manufacturer of class 3-8 vehicles. Daimler Trucks North America produces and markets commercial vehicles under the Freightliner, Sterling, Western Star and Thomas Built Buses nameplates.