The story of the National Capital Trolley Museum is one of love, patience and quiet diligence. Streetcar service in D.C. ended in 1962. In 1959, knowing the system would soon meet its doom, streetcar fans founded the museum, which opened in 1969. Since then, they’ve kept the streetcar flame alive — to be rewarded, presumably this year, with the rebirth of streetcar service on H Street and Benning Road NE.
“Streetcar” and “trolley” both mean an electric vehicle that runs on fixed rails; if you want to be European about it, say “tram.” But heed the museum handout that shouts “NO TRAINS HERE, ONLY TROLLEYS.”
Stuff to See
As detailed by the Main Hall’s numerous placards, the D.C. area’s transit network went far into the suburbs, enabling easy commuting into the city from Maryland and Virginia. See real cars, from D.C. and beyond, in Street Car Hall, where even more-granular information awaits the streetcar fiend.
Streetcars to Ride
In warm weather, a 1934 open-air tram from Blackpool (the Ocean City of England) makes the 2-mile round trip on the museum’s demonstration railway, which wends through weeds and forest. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience an authentic malfunction: The pole connecting the boat-shaped car to the wires above may go astray, and you can watch the conductor adjust it. The 1907 Belgian tram’s loud and bumpy ride, akin to a wooden roller coaster’s, delighted the children onboard. The tamer Toronto trolley is the same model as the last streetcar to run in D.C.
In the Gift Shop
The $4.95 reproductions of a 1958 D.C. transit system map would sell for 10 times that price at a pretentious home-decor store.
National Capital Trolley Museum, 1313 Bonifant Road, Colesville, Md.; Sat. & Sun., noon-5 p.m., Thu. & Fri. through Aug. 15, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., $5-7 for admission and unlimited streetcar rides; 301-384-6088.
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