A merry band of neo-trolleyists led by lobbyist Ron Linton who are promoting the idea of returning street cars to Washington may be surprised to know they already face a legal restriction on the design of the vehicles they may run over their proposed Georgetown and Foggybottom Railway Co., whoose creation is being studied under a federal grant.

The 1981 edition of the D.C. Code, the basic body of laws that governs the District of Columbia, requires that "street cars operated by other means than horsepower must be provided with proper fenders for the protection of the lives and limbs of all persons . . . " That law was passed by Congress in 1894 and, 90 years later, remains on the books.

And the D.C. Code, in another law passed in 1905, requires that any streetcar company in the District "shall provide each vehicle with a glass vestibule, surrounding, as nearly as possible, the place where the motorman, operating said car stands, so that said motorman shall be protected from inclement weather."

Lest you think these laws are archaic, the current edition of the D.C. Code of Municipal Regulations volume dealing with transportation, issued in 1981, makes it quite clear that a motorist shouldn't pass a streetcar on the left, except on a one-way street where the track runs down midstreet. And if you're driving on a car track in front of a trolley, you must "remove the vehicle from the track as soon as practicable after signal from the operator of the streetcar."

Ve-r-r-r-y interesting. The laws are still very much on the books, but the cars haven't been on the tracks since Jan. 28, 1962.