National Capital Trolley Museum
Toronto PCC streetcar 4603 at National Capital Trolley Museum in 2002.
1313 Bonifant RoadColesville, Maryland
The National Capital Trolley Museum (NCTM) is a non-profit organization that operates historic trolleys (or trams) for the public on a regular schedule. It is located at 1313 Bonifant Road, Colesville, Maryland USA.
NCTM was incorporated in 1959 as the National Capital Historical Museum of Transportation. Progress was slow at first, but the Museum eventually combined efforts and streetcar collections with a group from Baltimore. The organization found its first home in Robert E. Lee Park at Lake Roland in Baltimore, Maryland. After efforts were thwarted by adjacent property owners, the group divided the collections in 1966. National Capital Trolley Museum moved to its present site in suburban Washington, DC, while the Baltimore Streetcar Museum was formed to focus on Baltimore transit. NCTM's original intention was to operate streetcars owned by DC Transit president O. Roy Chalk, but it was not until 1970 that Chalk donated several historic Washington streetcars. In the interim, the museum acquired a small fleet of European trams and a car from Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
NCTM ran its first streetcar in October 1969, and since then the museum has operated consistently over its one-mile line.
In the winter of 2008–2009, the Museum moved into three new buildings: a visitors' center, a display building for the streetcars, and a streetcar storage-and-maintenance building. Construction of the Intercounty Connector, (ICC) which crosses the Museum's former location, required the Museum to shift locations in the Park. The Museum reopened on Saturday, January 16, 2010.
The Museum offers a variety of education programs and activities throughout the year. Each spring and fall, the Museum hosts school field trips by advance reservation. On some Saturday afternoons, visitors can also enjoy a story and craft time. Special summer programs are offered on Thursday and Friday from June 15 to August 15. Age-appropriate activities include: story time and craft, story and hands-on experience with trolley artifacts, and a role-playing exercise for older children.
Membership and funding
As of 2008, 125 members and friends support the Museum with dues, donations and volunteer service. The Museum receives most of its money from admission fees and revenues from its gift shop. Other funding for a variety of projects is provided by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Heritage Tourism Alliance, the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission, and the Maryland Historical Trust. The State of Maryland, Montgomery County, and private donors provided capital funding support for the current relocation.
At one point or another, the NCTM has owned an example of nearly every type of Washington streetcar to be preserved. These include:
- DC Transit 0522 and 0509*, pre-1900 wooden streetcars
- Washington Railway and Electric 650, a 1912 center door car
- Capital Transit 766, a 1918 deck-roof standard car
- Capital Transit 1053*, the only complete preserved pre-PCC streamliner
- DC Transit 1101, Washington's first PCC streetcar
- Capital Transit 07*, 09, and 026*, wooden snow sweepers
- Capital Transit 1430, a PCC car built during World War II
The NCTM collection has also included streetcars from Berlin, Düsseldorf, Graz, The Hague, Toronto, Vienna, New York City, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Brussels and Blackpool. NOTE: cars marked with asterisk were lost in the 2003 carbarn fire.
During public hours, street cars leave the Museum from the Dispatcher’s Desk in the center of the Visitor’s Center. The Demonstration Railway is the largest and most popular exhibit of the Museum. The one mile line goes past Street Car Hall and the Maintenance Barn and down into the woods past Dodge siding, along North West Branch, and on to Fish Hook loop to turn around for the return trip.
Street Cars Go to the Movies
Harold Lloyd’s silent films are excerpted and displayed continuously in a small theater. Exhibits on the walls leading into the theater link the importance of movies and street cars to community life in the early part of the 20th century.
Street Car Communities & Rock Creek Railway Co.
This exhibit highlights street car transportation in our local communities and includes a working model of the street car line through Chevy Chase, one of the first street car suburbs in the country. This exhibit includes images of the power house at the end of the line, a worker emerging from a plow pit where each street car travelling between downtown and the suburbs is converted from collecting underground power with a plow to an overhead trolley pole. Visitors can use the controller handle to start the street car and can operate a dynamo to generate electricity for the lights in the buildings along the track.
An actual piece of track and the steel framework for the underground electrical conduit is on display in Conduit Hall along with a model of a conduit switch. Also in conduit hall are overhead trolleys and a hands-on controller from the early 20th century.
Street Car Hall
Adjacent to Conduit Hall and the Visitor Center is Street Car Hall. At any one time seven or more street cars are on display in this spacious building. Near the cars are illuminated kiosks with information about the street cars in the collection and their history. The display includes the oldest street car in the collection, DC Transit 0522 from 1898. At the end of each street car trip, a docent will take passengers into Street Car Hall and discuss the history of street car development and answer questions.
Accidents and Fires
In 1970, its unique air-conditioned PCC car 1512, the "Silver Sightseer," was damaged by arsonists and scrapped. In 1987, cars 1053 and 766 were severely damaged in a collision. One of the worst disasters to ever befall a North American trolley museum occurred at NCTM on September 28, 2003, when one of the two carbarns at the museum's former site burned down. Eight pieces of equipment, comprising about half of the museum's operating fleet and one-third of its total collection of street cars, were destroyed. Washington cars lost included 0509, 1053, 07, and 026. Johnstown 352, Graz 120, and Vienna 6062 and 7802 were also destroyed. The cause of the fire was not definitely determined, though the fire inspector did conclude that it was an accidental fire and not a case of arson. Immediately following the fire, the museum's remaining cars resumed operations. Street cars from Brussels, Belgium; Blackpool, England; and Washington, DC have since been added to the collection to take the places of cars lost in the fire.
- Kraut, Aaron (April 18, 2012), "Trolley museum reclaims piece of history", Montgomery County Gazette, retrieved 2012-08-11
- Young, Andrew (1983). Trolley to the Past. Glendale, California: Interurban Press.
- Kohler, Peter (2001). Capital Transit. Silver Spring, Maryland: National Capital Trolley Museum.