Two vintage trolley cars filled with children and parents collided head-on at the National Capital Trolley Museum in Montgomery County yesterday, causing numerous minor injuries and sending 19 passengers to two hospitals.
The trolleys, each traveling 10 to 15 miles per hour, rammed each other about midway on the 1.25-mile-long track, throwing passengers to the floor and briefly creating pandemonium, police said. Police estimated that 70 to 100 passengers were on board the two vehicles, which remained nose to nose on the track after the collision.
Rescue trucks from several fire departments rushed to the scene. Some passengers were treated there, and others were taken to Montgomery General and Holy Cross hospitals. "There were a lot of scratches and bruises and possibly some broken bones," said Officer Tim Boyle of the Montgomery County Park Police.
Holy Cross Hospital reported treating and releasing four adults and six children, all with minor injuries. Montgomery General reported treating nine patients. A spokeswoman said all had been released by 8:30 p.m. One of the train conductors, identified as Barry Smith, incurred a broken leg. The other patients were treated for cuts and bruises.
The collision -- the first in at least 10 years at the popular museum in Northwest Branch Regional Park near Layhill and Bonifant roads north of Wheaton, according to museum officials -- occurred when a World-War-I-era wood and metal trolley was heading into the passenger station on the single-track line and unexpectedly met an outbound 1935-vintage trolley on a curve.
Boyle identified the operator of the inbound trolley as Smith and the operator of the outbound trolley as Larry Glick. In accordance with museum procedure, Boyle said, when Smith reached the far end of the line and turned the trolley around on a track loop for the return trip inbound, he "telephoned the station for instructions and then proceeded."
Boyle said investigators were waiting to question Smith after his release from the hospital.
Tom Hiers, a member of the museum board of directors, said the older trolley was more heavily damaged. It can seat 28 to 30 passengers, he said, and the newer trolley seats about 48 -- for a combined total of up to 78 passengers in the accident. He said the museum does not permit standees on the trolleys. Boyle said police estimated a total of 70 to 100 passengers because several parents appeared to be holding children in their laps.