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National Capital Trolley Museum
Photo of Toronto PCC streetcar 4603 at National Capital Trolley Museum in 2002.
Toronto PCC streetcar 4603 at the National Capital Trolley Museum's original location in 2002. The museum has since moved to a new facility, roughly in the same area.
Established 1959
Location 1313 Bonifant Road,
Colesville, Maryland
Type 501(c)(3) nonprofit museum
Key holdings Historic electric street railway vehicles
Owner National Capital Historical Museum of Transportation, Inc.
Toronto PCC streetcar 4602 and Haagsche Tramweg-Maatschappij (HTM) 1329 at the National Capital Trolley Museum.
Credit to owner, Toronto PCC streetcar 4602 and Haagsche Tramweg-Maatschappij (HTM) 1329 at the National Capital Trolley Museum.

The National Capital Trolley Museum (NCTM) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that operates historic street cars, trolleys and trams for the public on a regular schedule. It is located at 1313 Bonifant Road, Colesville, Maryland USA. The museum's primary mission is to preserve and interpret the history of the electric street and interurban railways of the National Capital region.

Hours of operation

The Museum is open every Saturday and Sunday from Noon until 5:00 p.m. except for Christmas and Christmas Eve; and New Years and New Year's Eve. It is also open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. during the following calendar dates: 15 March until 15 May, 15 June until 15 August, and 1 October until 15 November.

History

NCTM was incorporated on January 4, 1961, as the National Capital Historical Museum of Transportation, Inc. 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 Lake Roland Park 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 Colesville, Maryland, while the Baltimore Streetcar Museum was formed to focus on Baltimore transit.

The site was provided by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and DC Transit leased trolleys for a nominal cost. The organization raised $20,000 to build a car barn. Groundbreaking of the Colesville site began on November 20, 1965.

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 (Street Car Hall), 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.

Education efforts

The Museum offers a variety of education programs and activities throughout the year. On Thursdays and Fridays each spring and fall, the Museum hosts school field trips by advance reservation. Special summer programs are offered on Thursday and Friday from June 15 to August 15 with age-appropriate activities.

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.

Collection

At one point or another, 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 street cars
  • Washington Railway and Electric Company 650, a 1912 center door car
  • Capital Transit 766, a 1918 deck-roof standard car (under restoration as Capital Traction Company 27)
  • Capital Transit 1053*, the only complete preserved pre-PCC streamliner
  • DC Transit 1101, Washington's first PCC street car
  • Capital Transit 07*, 09, and 026*, wooden snow sweepers
  • Capital Transit 1430, a PCC car built during World War II
  • Capital Transit 1470, a PCC car built in 1945 (acquired in July 2020 from the Virginia Museum of Transportation)
  • Capital Transit 1540, a PCC car built in 1945

The asterisk (*) indicates cars lost in the 2003 carbarn fire.

NCTM holds the largest collection of surviving Washington, D.C. street cars in the world, in addition to an archives library of Washington street car and Maryland interurban railroad records, journals, and miscellaneous artifacts.

 The NCTM collection has also included streetcars from Berlin, Düsseldorf, Graz, The Hague, Toronto, Vienna, New York City, Philadelphia, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Brussels and Trams in Blackpool. 

Exhibits

Demonstration Railway

National Capital Trolley Museum
Technical
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification 600 Volts DC

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 (1.6 km) line goes past Street Car Hall and the Maintenance Barn and down into the woods past Dodge siding, along Northwest 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 the 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 traveling 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.

Conduit Hall

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. Conduit Hall also includes overhead "trolleys" (the electricity collecting device that makes contact with the overhead wire) 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 built in 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.

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