Brussels Tramways No. 96

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Photo: Jim Dignan

Snow could be a major problem for tramway operators, particularly in parts of the world such as North America and Central and Northern/Western Europe that were prone to severe winter weather. In the early days the only solution was to purchase one or more purpose-built snowbrooms to help keep the tracks clear enough for the trams to get through.

Brussels 96 is an excellent example of this type of specialist vehicle and was one of 360 snowbrooms to have been built by J.G. Brill & Co of Philadelphia, which for many years was the largest tramcar manufacturer in the world. Although they produced more than 45,000 tramcars (or ‘streetcars’ as they were known in the States) – more than any other manufacturer – 96 is the only example of a Brill tramcar in the collection as well as being the only surviving snowbroom (and indeed the only complete Brill tramcar) in the United Kingdom. Leeds operated five similar cars, also built by Brill, to keep its tram system clear of snow in the harsh Yorkshire winters but none of these survived into preservation.

The tramcar’s important function is clearly reflected in its design, with a very high clearance between the tramcar’s body and trucks in order to accommodate the huge revolving brushes made of rattan – somewhat like giant bottle brushes.


Type of tram
Single deck four wheel snow broom
Seating capacity
Date built
Manufacturer of body
J.G. Brill & Co., Philadelphia
Manufacturer of truck
4’ 8½”
Current collector
Trolley pole – fixed head

1930s Both ends of the car rebuilt to resemble a standard Brussels passenger car of the period. Original oil lamps replaced by electric lights at around the same time and air brake system fitted..
1939 direction indicators fitted
1940 electric side lights added
End of World War II repainted in brown and white livery.
1950s base of trolley pole modified.

Withdrawn from service

Ca. 1975

Subsequent history

Acquired for a time by the West Yorkshire Transport Museum at Bradford (1987-1995) before being purchased by the Tramway Museum Society

Restoration history

Cosmetically restored to ‘as new’ condition for display as a static exhibit. This required a restoration of the original match board panelling to the ends of the car, replacement of electric light fittings with original oil lamp and tail lights, removal of air brake equipment, sand box and other modifications together with a restoration of the original brown livery and application of the manufacturer’s name over the side door. A low voltage power supply was also installed to enable the operation of the snow broom to be demonstrated and low-voltage lighting was installed in the position of the original light fittings to provide authentic looking illumination.

Current status
Cosmetically restored; on display
Current location
Exhibition Hall
  • 1905 – 1975Operational on original tramway
  • 1975 – 1987In storage
  • 1987 – 1995On display at the former West Yorkshire Transport Museum
  • 1995 –On display at Crich

Crich Tramway Village is a brand name for the National Tramway Museum (Accredited with Arts Council England), solely owned and operated by The Tramway Museum Society, incorporated in England with liability by guarantee (no. 744229). Registered charity number 313615. Our ICO number is Z6700136.