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J. G. Brill Company
Type Private
Founded 1868
Founder(s) John George Brill
Headquarters Philadelphia, PA, USA
Industry rail transport
Products streetcars, buses, and trolleybuses

A 1903 Brill-built streetcar on a heritage streetcar line in Sintra, Portugal in 2010.

The J. G. Brill Company manufactured streetcars and buses in the United States. The company was founded by John George Brill in 1868 as a horsecar manufacturing firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, merged with the American Car and Foundry Company (ACF) in 1944 to become ACF-Brill and ceased production in 1954. Brill manufactured over 45,000 streetcars (also known in the U.S. as trolleys), buses, trolleybuses and railroad cars. At its height, it was the largest manufacturer of streetcars and interurbans in the U.S. It produced more streetcars and interurbans and gas electrics than any other manufacturer.


J. G. Brill began fledgling operations in 1868 and operated with the Brill name until 1956.

In 1926, ACF Motors Company obtained a controlling interest in J. G. Brill. In 1944 the two companies merged, resulting in the ACF-Brill Motors Company.[1] On January 31, 1946, controlling interest in ACF-Brill was acquired by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation for $7.5 million. Consolidated Vultee was sold on November 6, 1947, to the Nashville Corporation, which sold its share to investment firm Allen & Co headed by Charles Allen Jr on June 11, 1951. In early 1954, ACF-Brill ceased production and subcontracted remaining orders. The properties were sold, and on December 30, 1955, the company was merged with supermarket companies into ACF-Wrigley Stores Inc.

ACF-Brill announced in 1944 that Canadian Car and Foundry of Montreal, Quebec were licensed to manufacture and sell throughout Canada 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.


  • Fageol/Brill Twin Coach 44S.
  • Birney safety car - by subsidiary, the American Car Company.
  • Traditional arch windowed all wood interurban cars. 1890-1920s.

Model 55 and Model 75 Brill Railcars stand at Adelaide, South Australia, in 1962

  • Steel heavy interurban cars built 1920-1930s. The Brill "Center Door" car was typical of suburban trolleys and interurbans built around 1920. These tended to be large, heavy, double-end cars, with passengers entering and exiting via doors located at the center of the car. Many rebuilt into one man cars.[Springirth,p86-100]
  • Brill "Master Unit," built 1930s. All steel, had standard controller stand, capable of 70 mph.[p86-100]
  • Brilliner - Brill's competitor to the PCC (Presidents' Conference Car) looked somewhat like the first PCCs. The Brilliner was not successful when compared to the PCC. Underpowered. Few were sold whereas PCCs were well sold world wide. Twenty four built for Atlantic City's Miss America Fleet.[Springirth p86-100]
  • Brill "Bullet" car. 1929-1932. For suburban/interurban use.[Springirth, p86-100]

ACF-Brill bus

Edmonton CCF-Brill trolleybus 202.jpg
  • C-36 city bus
  • IC-41 intercity bus
  • Peter Witt
    • Large cars with trailers
    • Small cars

The unique Bullet cars

Later-model train from the P&W line, "Bullet" No. 206 on display at Steamtown in Scranton, PA.

The lines that operated interurban passenger cars recognized in the mid 1920s that they badly needed faster and more efficient equipment. Up to that time, both the wood and the steel interurban cars were very large, sat high, and were heavy. Car manufacturers such as Cincinnati Car Co., St. Louis Car Co., and Pullman worked to design equipment for a better ride at speed, improved passenger comfort, and lower power consumption. This included designing trucks to be able to handle rough track. Brill in conjunction with Westinghouse and General Electric worked on a new design. The result was the 1929 aluminum and steel wind tunnel developed slope roof Bullet cars, the first of which were purchased by the Philadelphia and Western Railroad, a third rail line running from 69th Street Upper Darby to Norristown in the Philadelphia region.[4] This line still runs as SEPTA Route 100. These Bullets were successful and operated until the 1980s, but not many others were sold. Only central New York state interurban Fonda, Johnstown, and Gloversville ordered Bullets. Five were procured in mid-Depression 1932. In 1936, the abandoned FJ&G sold its Bullets to the Bamberger Railroad in Utah where they ran high speed service Salt Lake City to Ogden until the mid 1950s.[2] The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) was a client of Brill's and purchased many buses and streetcars over the years. (See TTC Streetcar roster.) Brill produced many trackless trolleys for U.S. cities.

Three of the SEPTA cars are now at the Seashore Trolley Museum.


  • Philadelphia Rapid Transit Street car system.
  • Philadelphia and Western Railway Suburban interurban line.
  • Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (Red Arrow Lines) Suburban interurban line.
  • Toronto Transportation Commission
  • Hamilton Street Railway
  • Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia Railway Pigeon Mountain Scooters 1922-1951
  • Erie Railroad
  • South Australian Railways[2]
  • Numerous U.S. interurban and street railway systems


The American Car & Foundry Co. controlled, as of January 26, 1926:

  • The Brill Corporation, which controlled:[3]
    1. American Car & Foundry Motors Co: owned Hall-Scott Motor Car Co (owned 100%) and Fageol Motors (Ohio) (controlled 90%)
    2. The J. G Brill Company, 62nd and Woodland Streets, Philadelphia. Absorbed and owned American Car Co. (not American Car and Foundry), Kuhlman Car Co. of Cleveland, Wason Mfg. Co. of Springfield, MA., Stephenson Car Co. of Elizabeth, NJ, Hall-Scott of San Francisco. In Europe, Cie. J. G. Brill of Gallardon, France, which was sold to Electroforge in 1935.

Other companies that built licensed versions of Brill vehicles:

Canadian railway car builder Preston Car Company was acquired in 1921 and operations were closed in 1923.


  • 1. Middleton. List of U.S. interurban car manufacturers, pp416–417. Bullet design, p68-70.
  • 2. Volkmer. Photographs pf P&W Bullets and SEPTA Bullets. Brilliners, built 1932.
  • 3. Hilton. Development of improved interurban car design.{eight pages]
  • 4. Springirth. Development of Bullet design.
  • 5. Bradford, Francis H. Hall-Scott: The Untold Story of a Great American Engine Maker


  1. Sebree, Mac; and Ward, Paul (1973). Transit’s Stepchild: The Trolley Coach, p. 127. Los Angeles: Interurbans. LCCN 73-84356.
  2. Brill Railcars of the South Australian Railways Bird, K Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, October;November;December, 1981 pp213-236;237-260;272-282 January, 1982 pp1-8
  3. Brill (2001), p 165.
  • Brill, Debra (2001). History of the J. G. Brill Company. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33949-9.  The author of this book is a direct descendant of company founder John George Brill of the JG Brill Company of Philadelphia, manufacturer for many years of street cars, interurban cars, the famous "Bullet"cars, and busses. The largest (number produced) manufacturer of such equipment in the world. Over time, absorbed other manufacturers of interurban cars and street cars.
  • Middleton, Wm. D. The Interurban Era. Kalmbach Books Milwaukee, WI, 420pp, 1962 reissued 2000.. ISBN 7-. 
  • Volkmer, Wm. D. Pennsylvania Trolleys in Color, Vol II, Philadelphia Region" 92pp. Morning Sun Books, Scotch Plains, NJ. 1998ISBN 1-878887-99-8. Photographs of Brilliners and Bullets and other Brill designs on Philadelphia and Westernline and in shops.
  • Hilton, George and Due, John The Interurban Electric Railway in America, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA. Reissue 2000.
  • Springirth, Kenneth. Suburban Philadelphia Trolleys 128pp. Arcadia Publishing, 2007. (ISBN 9780738550435)

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