Now and a Long Time Ago: Car Barn

streetcar leaving

This week for Now and a Long Time Ago, GM stops by the car barn at M just west of Key Bridge. The old photo is care of Old Time DC and shows a Capital Traction streetcar leaving the station.

At first consideration, it would seem that this photo was taken before 1933, the year Capital Traction merged with Washington Railway and Electric Company and became Capital Transit. But the history of these two cars suggest it could be from basically anytime up to the end of streetcars in 1962.

The cars are 303 and 1512. They were both created in the early 20th century. But they were used as late as 1960 on a nostalgic fan trips. Here’s some more info on car 303 from the Shoreline Trolley Museum that explains:

Two events in the early 1900s changed the appearance of CTCo 303. An order of the District of Columbia Electric Railway Commission altered the classic lines of the car by requiring enclosed platforms. CTCo installed “portable vestibules” to fulfill the requirement by January 31, 1905. In 1906, CTCo stopped lettering the exterior of its cars for specific routes and renumbered its single truck cars and trailers. In the process, CTCo 303 traded its yellow and cream paint for a simpler green and cream scheme, and continued to serve on the 7th Street route. In 1912, The District of Columbia Public Utilities Commission issued an order requiring a conductor on each car. As a result, CTCo withdrew all single truck passenger equipment from service on January 31, 1913. CTCo sold a large number of these surplus cars in the next few years, but retained CTCo 303 in storage.

The arrival of the PCC cars in 1937 brought CTCo 303 into the spotlight as part of a parade to introduce the new cars to Washington. Coupled with trailer 1512, CTCo 303 operated briefly again on the streets of Washington on August 27, 1937. Capital Transit cars 1101, 1106 and another new car toured the city with the train leading the way as a publicity stunt.

CTCo 303 sat idle during the war years and was not used again until 1949. By then, Fay Johnson of Capital Transit had seen that a trolley pole was added to the roof of CTCo 303. For the first time in the car’s fifty-one year life motormen did not have to turn back at the plow pit. The car traveled on all overhead lines in the city limits. However the maintenance of way and car departments had a concern that a derailment on open track could damage the chilled-iron wheels of the Lord Baltimore truck, so CTCo 303 did not venture to distant Branchville and Cabin John on those suburban lines in Maryland. Capital Transit, and later DC Transit continued to offer CTCo 303 and 1512 for fan trip service until CTCo 303 pulled a plow on a trip in 1961.

Both cars are now owned by the Smithsonian. Car 303 is on display at the Smithsonian American History Museum (seen below). Car 1512 is kept in storage in Suitland, MD.


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