Buy Historic Trolley Cars And Much More At Detroit’s Bankruptcy Auction

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Detroit Historic Trolleys

Detroit’s on the path to emerge from bankruptcy, so it’s expected there would be an auction to liquidate some assets to pay down debt. But this auction has such an epic list that it could be part of a reality show.

Top of the list that caught our attention was “79 Transit Buses and Historic Trolley Cars.” What? Coasting over to the Detroit Government Facebook page, there’s a picture of a couple trolleys. We put it above.

Now, these aren’t the ones Detroit shipped off to Mexico when they ripped up the streetcar lines. Members of our team rode these when they were kids and they ran from Washington Boulevard near Grand Circus Park, down past Cobo and then over toward the Renaissance Center on Jefferson. Still cool, though and could be used for a myriad of things.

When it comes to vehicles there is a lot to choose from. As well as the trolley cars and buses, a total of 123 garbage trucks, 130 public lighting service vehicles, 41 truck mounted snow plows, 33 pickup trucks, SUVs, and cars, 24 aerial bucket lift trucks, 17 grapple trucks, six interior construction utility trucks, five dump trucks, four backhoe loaders, and three truck trailers.

Old Detroit Garbage Trucks

“Many of these vehicles are in very good working order and have a lot of life left in them,” said Gary Brown, City of Detroit Chief Operating Officer.

There’s a bunch of machine shop stuff, too.

Here are the details to get your hands on this stuff if you’re interested.

The first auction will be a Webcast/onsite auction on Wednesday, November 5, at 10 a.m. at 2 Woodward Ave., 13th floor.  Preview dates are available on November 3 and 4 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST).  Auction round two will be an online-only auction on November 13; closing times are available at  Preview dates for the second auction are available by escort only on November 10 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Preview dates for the Webcast/onsite sale are Monday and Tuesday, November 3 and 4, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the day of sale.  The majority of the assets are located at Herman Kiefer Center, located at 1151 Taylor; buses and streetcars will be located at the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) yard.  For earlier inspection, call 251-404-2367.  The preview date for the online sale, by escort, is Monday, November 10, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 1300 E. Warren, Detroit. The secondary asset location is 2425 Fenkell, Detroit.

Registration for both auctions will be available onsite or online through or For an early inspection on either auction, please contact Ken Planet at 248-238-7988 or email

  • Detroit is wasting an opportunity by selling those trolleys. They will make a few hundred dollars when they could have had millions of dollars in revenue and development. They ignored what the fact that other cities were experiencing development along their trolley lines. Developments that are worth millions of dollars. The is the kind of development that Detroit is looking for. Detroit trolleys were the first of their kind. Other cities did what they needed to do make them work for them and reaped the benefits. Detroit’s trolleys filed because officials decided they could not cope with problems that other cities worked on together to solve. Detroit could have communicated with them and made operating the trolleys easier for themselves, but chose not to. City official never understood that trolleys attract people to the area were they operate. Once in the area, people will spend time and money. That’s how these areas grow. Isn’t that what we wanted for downtown Detroit. They need to include the trolleys into the plans for the Riverwalk.

  • I think you are confusing these trolleys with the PCC streetcars formerly running on the Detroit DSR. These trolleys were brought in used from somewhere else and only ran from the Renaissance Center to Washington Boulevard. They were a novelty. And M1 rail is the big opportunity.

  • I am not confusing my trolleys. Trolley lines similar to the Washington Boulevard Trolley are responsible for hundred on millions of dollars in revenue and development. Check out the McKinney Avenue Trolley in Dallas, TX, the trolley in Little Rock, Arkansas, the trolley line in Memphis, Tennessee and the PCC’s and other antique trolleys in San Francisco. These are trolley lines using antique and/or replica trolleys. The Little Rock trolley started operations a few weeks before Campus Martius opened. 1 year later, I read an article stating that their trolley had been responsible for several million dollars worth of development. A few years ago, San Francisco didn’t have enough capacity to handle all of the people who wanted to ride their trolleys. They had to get more of them. In Memphis, the trolley helped breath life back into a pedestrian mall and resurrect a building that had been abandoned for about 100 years. The trolleys helped drive improvements to McKinney Ave in Dallas, including apartment buildings, shops, new landscaping, and better security. What they got is similar to what they wanted for Washington Boulevard here. We are still waiting for some of those things. Have you noticed that while Washington Boulevard looks better, there are now more empty storefronts there than there were before it was remade. All this information about other city’s trolleys and what they have done are not hard to find, but somehow no one in charge around here could see it or didn’t want to see it. So as other cities were having success with their trolleys, Detroit did nothing to make that happen here. And it could have happened here more than a decade before anyone every heard of M1 rail.

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