Special Features

Image Libraries

200 original DC streetcars survived the 1960s. Only one still carries passengers

In the late 1950s and early '60s, as Washington's original streetcar system slowly converted its rail lines to buses, owners sold or gave away nearly 200 of DC's best railcars to any city that would take them. Those cars ran for decades all over the world. But time takes its toll, and today only one remains in anything like active service: Car #71 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The last old DC Transit streetcar still in service, in Sarajevo. Image by Fototak on Flickr, used with permission.

Sarajevo took a total of 71 PCC streetcars from DC between 1958 and 1962, running most of then until the late '70s. Fascinatingly Sarajevo's transit company combined some of the streetcars into longer articulated ones, and ran them as double units. They may have been the only PCC cars to ever become articulated. 

By the 1980s most of Sarajevo's DC railcars were retired. But one, car #71, has remained in service, sort of. It survived the brutal 1990s Siege of Sarajevo, and remains part of the tram fleet today, as a vintage model. 

It doesn't run every day, nor even most days. But it's still brought onto the streets to carry passengers during special events.

It's the only remaining vintage DC streetcar that ever carries actual transit passengers. 

For the record, San Francisco's Market Street Railway has a car painted to look like an old DC streetcar, but beneath its paint the railcar itself ran in Minneapolis and New Jersey. 

What happened to the rest?

Prior to the sell-off, DC Transit, the streetcar operator of the late '50s and early '60s, owned 450 railcars.

Barcelona, Spain took 101 of them, and ran them until 1971. None of those remain in service, but four remain in museums or private collections. 

15 of them went to America's only private subway system, the Tandy Center Subway in Fort Worth, Texas. Their new owners modernized the cars and ran them until the subway ended service in 2002. One of those 15 old streetcars went to the McKinney heritage streetcar line in Dallas where it ran until 2006, when mechanical and electrical problems forced it out of service.

Three more of the Fort Worth railcars still exist. A group working to start a Texas transportation museum owns them, and hopes to use them as exhibits.

Former DC Transit streetcars running in the Tandy Center Subway in 2002. Image by Justin Smith on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.

Thirteen other DC Transit streetcars remain in museums around the United States.

The Smithsonian owns two, including one on public display at the American History museum

Seven remain at the National Capital Trolley Museum in Montgomery County. Three others there were lost in a fire in 2003. 

Former DC streetcar at the National Capital Trolley Museum.

Four other railcars remain at museums in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maine.  

The other roughly 250 streetcars were scrapped and lost to history.

Thanks to GGWash commenter Bob Shackleton, who tipped us off about Sarajevo.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

March 9th, 2017 | Permalink
Tags: history, streetcar, transportation



About BeyondDC
Archive 2003-06


Category Tags:

  Greater Greater Washington
  Washington Post All Opinions Are Local Blog
  Denver Urbanism
  Streetsblog Network

BeyondDC v. 2013d | Email | Archive of posts from 2003-2006