A PCC car on SEPTA's Route 15 line. The vintage trolleys return to the road this fall, mixing with buses to serve Girard Avenue. (PlanPhilly)

Update: The historic trolleys returned to Route 15 on Sunday, Sept. 10.

Historic trolleys are on track to be back up and running on Girard Avenue in September, SEPTA confirmed to Billy Penn.

The vintage 1947 trolleys on Route 15 stand out from the others in the system. They’re easily recognized by their retro design: the signature green-and-cream paint job, silver-winged central headlight, rounded white roof, and red stripe running beneath the windows.

Those vehicles — a model of streetcar called Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) cars — haven’t been carrying passengers along the route since January 2020. But they are in the testing phase right now, and you can expect some of them to be rehabbed and back on the route in about two months.

They’ll have some company upon their return, though.

“The plan is to use trolleys and buses to serve Route 15, which allows us to deploy the restored trolleys while maintaining frequency on the route,” a SEPTA spokesperson told Billy Penn.

Route 15 runs from Port Richmond to West Philadelphia by way of Richmond Street and Girard Avenue. For the past three years, it’s operated entirely as a bus route, thanks in part to scheduled road and highway repairs, but also because the 76-year-old trolleys were in sore need of maintenance.

That repair process is underway right now. The transit agency initially foresaw a return of the streetcars sometime in 2021, but that hasn’t happened yet.

As of last week, five trolleys had been “restored and tested,” according to a SEPTA spokesperson. If you’ve spotted them moving along the route in recent months, that’s because operators and mechanics have been training on them.

At its Woodland Shop, SEPTA workers have been replacing the cars’ deteriorating frames and upgrading the vehicles to include new floors, windows, wheelchair lifts, and HVAC units, CBS Philadelphia reported earlier this year.

Five more trolleys are still “in various stages of repair,” per SEPTA, and the transit agency is targeting September to have “at least eight” total trolleys fixed up and ready to use on the route.

Eventually, the retro cars will be replaced with a newer fleet of trolley cars, a SEPTA official told KYW earlier this year — but that’s still several years down the road. The rehabbed PCC cars will be able to function as a holdover until then.

The upcoming new cars are part of a larger, multi-year trolley modernization project that SEPTA has been embarking on, with improvements in mind like new on-street stations that are fully accessible, infrastructure improvements, and possible line extensions.

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...