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English   Thomas Built Buses
26.09.2008 von admin

Attractive offers from the competition

Then, however, the situation changed overnight, when a fire in the plant destroyed 14 of the vehicles already under construction. The President of the streetcar manufacturer J. G. Brill offered Thomas a five-year agreement for 5,000 dollars a year, or the entire amount as a lump sum, in return for an undertaking not to reopen the plant. Thomas rejected this offer, and instead spent an advance payment of over 100,000 dollars from New Orleans on repairing the damage, so that the streetcars could be delivered as soon as possible. With over 100 units - almost one third of the total production of Perley A. Thomas Car Works - New Orleans became the company’s most important customer, closely followed by Detroit, with an order for exactly 100 streetcars placed in 1929.

But the story was coming to an end. A further order for four vehicles was received in 1930 from Mobile, Alabama, but no sales were made over the next several years. The era of the streetcar in the USA was over.

New Orleans was the Number One customer for Thomas streetcars.

From streetcar to bus

The Great Depression of the 1930s had created a new situation: local authorities were facing high deficits, and yet there had been little or no increase in fares. Streetcars had also been operated by electricity utilities, but they, too, were in crisis. In any case, their main priority was to develop a comprehensive grid network, and they therefore withdrew from the public transport sector. Meanwhile, large vehicle manufacturers were seizing the opportunity to promote the use of diesel-powered buses.

In the company’s heyday, Thomas had employed 125 people, but the staff had now dwindled to barely a dozen, waiting in vain for new orders. The situation was relieved to some extent in 1934, with orders from Greensboro, North Carolina, and from Greenville and Anderson, both in South Carolina. The Greensboro and Greenville orders were each for two trolleybuses, which proved very successful, in spite of complaints that trolleybuses were disrupting radio reception. The third order, from Anderson, was for ten city buses. This was not enough to halt the company’s decline, but the increased volume of orders did convince Thomas to enter a new segment of the market. And when the State of North Carolina put a major contract for over 500 school buses out to tender just two years later, he saw his opportunity.

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