• Capital Transit/DC Transit

  • This forum is for discussion of "Fallen Flag" roads not otherwise provided with a specific forum. Fallen Flags are roads that no longer operate, went bankrupt, or were acquired or merged out of existence.
This forum is for discussion of "Fallen Flag" roads not otherwise provided with a specific forum. Fallen Flags are roads that no longer operate, went bankrupt, or were acquired or merged out of existence.

Moderator: Nicolai3985

  by CBRy
Does anyone have any info or pictures of the Capital Transit/DC Transit system? This was one of the larger systems in the country and was in our nations capital (Washington DC). I'm surprised that there is not any discussion or activity on this. I've also noticed a distinct lack of films and DVDs and such at train shows. Other systems are well represented, but DC has nothing. I'm sure that there are some pics somewhere. I remember riding this system as a youngster, my father worked for them until the demise of the streetcars. Now we have "Metro" which is basically a streecar system buried underground. There is supposed to be a test route under evaluation in SE DC around the military complex. (Bolling AFB, NDW, NRL and DC Blue Plains sewer treatment facility) using recently abandoned CSX trackage.
  by BaltOhio
If you're interested in videotapes and/or DVD's, Transit Gloria Mundi in Baltimore (www.transitgloriamundi.com) has been advertising a new DVD of Washington streetcar films shot by Raleigh D'Adamo between 1956 and 1961. I haven't bought it yet, but other TGM videos have been excellent, and this one supposedly is very comprehensive in its coverage of the lines that were operating in that period.

Mark I Video also has some very good Washington sequences on one of its videotapes -- primarily shot on the Cabin John line.

Doubtless you're aware of LeRoy O. King, Jr.'s book "100 Years of Capital Traction," which covers the full history of Washington streetcars. (King's father started taking pictures and accumulating material about 1908.) It may be out of print now but is generally available through the used book dealers. Also, of course, there's Peter C. Kohler's book on the Capital Transit era, 1933-62, published in 2001 by the National Capital Trolley Museum and still in print. The full title is "Capital Transit: Washington Streetcars: The Final Era 1933-1962." Both books are very well done by people who know their stuff.

The Washington area interurbans also have been covered in three books: (1) "Every Hour on the Hour," by John E. Merriken, on the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis, (2) "Old Dominion Trolley Too," also by Merriken, on the Washington-Virginia system, which included the Washington-Alexandria-Mt. Vernon line and Arlington & Fairfax, and (3) "Rails to the Blue Ridge" by Herbert Harwood, Jr., on the Washington & Old Dominion and its predecessors. The last book is currently in print; the other two are now out of print.

In short, there's really quite a bit available on this fascinating system.

  by BaltOhio
I fogot to mention: Davesrailpix ( has buckets of D.C. streetcar pictures posted. Go to his state-by-state index. You'll also find just about any other traction company in the U.S. that you can imagine.

  by CBRy
Yes...I have the books that you mentioned.

*Every Hour on the Hour - Merriken Excellent!
*100 Years of Capital Traction - King Excellent!
*Rails to the Blue Ridge - Harwood Great photos!
*Washington & Old Dominion RR - Williams Excellent read, but could have
better pics.

Also have the book on Richmond VA traction system by McKenney and the
book on the Chesapeake Beach Railway by Williams as this was originally
planned as an electric railroad to function similar to the WB&A and actually
had some joint construction and operating ventures with the WB&A. Am at
present looking for a copy of the Capital Transit book by the museum and
the other W&OD book that you mentioned. Visited the website and found
many pics from my younger years. Was unaware of the DVDs. Thanks! I've
been to jillions of train shows and only found one tape that had about a
minute of DC Transit stuff on it! Will attempt ot get this DVD! The late DJ
Carrol James (WWDC from my younger years!) made a very nice tape a
while back about the H&F which also did interurban duties aswell as some
street running in Frederick MD.

Thank you again for these sources. Maybe there can be some discussion
and remeniscences here about the streetcars of DC?
Last edited by CBRy on Mon May 23, 2005 10:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by walt
What is really distressing about the demise of DC streetcars is the fact that it was Congressionally mandated. When Capital Transit had its franchise revoked as a result of its handling of the 1955 carmen's strike, one of the requirements Congress placed on the new franchise holder was that it provide an all- bus system. There were absolutely no bids for almost nine months, so when O.Roy Chalk finally made a bid, Congress had to relent, for a period of time, and permitted D.C. Transit to operate streetcars until sufficient buses could be obtained to convert. There are some who assert that the re-building of PCC# 1512 into the Silver Sightseer was an attempt to convince the Congress to permit the retention of some streetcars, but DC Transit always denied this. Too bad, because the DC system was the only system which had "plow pits" where the changeover was made from underground conduit opration to overhead wire. ( Manhattan's system also used the undeground conduit system, but had no overhead wires, and thus had no plow pits.)

  by BaltOhio
Well said, Walt. Having lived in Washington 1941-49 -- basically my teenage years -- Capital Transit (and especially the Cabin John line) was what mademe a traction fan. I still miss the rides to Glen Echo, Seat Pleasant, Beltsville, and such.

One minor correction, though: Manhattan had at least two, and maybe three plow pits. These were for lines that entered from the Bronx and terminated a slight distance into Manhattan. One such line, I think, actually had trolley all the way, although its Manhattan portion was quite short.

  by CBRy
I used to ride the Branchville line out to the end of track at Branchville MD.
This was the old Washington, Berwyn and Laurel Railroad that WB&A had until it was sold to Captial Traction and then folded into the Capital Transit system.
Was a neat ride. Also remember riding down to Ivy City shops and Brookland
to see the yards and stuff. My father had a system-wide pass (he was Engineer in Charge of Maintenance & Way and Structures). I have several of
his track drawings from the 40s and 50s. DC didn't know what it had lost un-
til the streetcars were gone. Quiet, pollution-free and relatively direct routes
afforded one access to almost the entire District without an auto!

  by walt
BaltOhio wrote:
One minor correction, though: Manhattan had at least two, and maybe three plow pits. These were for lines that entered from the Bronx and terminated a slight distance into Manhattan. One such line, I think, actually had trolley all the way, although its Manhattan portion was quite short.
I stand corrected--- I've seen the description of the DC plow pits ( in the King Book) but I've never seen a description of the Manhattan pits. Though I didn't move to DC ( from Philly) until 1967, I remember riding a DC streetcar in 1959 on a visit ( a Route 70 Car on 7th Street- Georgia Ave.) and sitting at the 7th & Florida Ave. Plow Pit as the changeover from overhead to conduit occurred. What I didn't realize at that time was that there was an employee stationed in the pit who manually attached the plow to the car. As a teenager who was used to the Philadelphia streetcars and who knew that cars couldn't operate if the poles didn't make contact with the overhead, it was always a little strange to see DC cars running with the poles hooked down.

  by BaltOhio
Here's a bit more specific info on D.C. streetcar videos:

Mark I Video has two videotapes that include traction operations in and around, among other cities. These are: "Nostalgic Trolley Tour - The Southern States," Vols. 1 and 2. Vol.1 includes a tour of the Cabin John line and a few other DC views, plus some H&F and a very rare sequence of electric operations on the Washington & Old Dominion. Vol. 2 is heavy on H&F and Baltimore & Annapolis. Both are 30 minutes. All are professionally produced and, cosidering the time they were made, quite high quality.

I don't know if Mark I has a web site, but the address & phone are: P.O.Box 404, New Milford, NJ 07646; 1-800-66MARK1.

As I mentioned earlier, Transit Gloria Mundi has announced a comprehensive DVD titled "Raleigh D'Adamo's Washington Street which, according to the flyer, totals about two hours of high-quality footage shot on all lines that were operating between 1956 and 1961. Past TGM productions have been very professionally produced, following each line in sequence, with narration and "you are here" maps. I haven't seen it yet, but definitely plan to get it.

TGM has a web site (www.transitgloriamundi.com) but it's out of date. The e-mail address is: [email protected]; phone 1-800-428-7003.

Last and least, there's a videotape titled "Streetcars in the Capital," produced by Rail Tapes, 2570 Colvin Hill, VT 05739-9591, tape #VE-90. This is much more amateurish than the two outfits above. Quality ranges from pretty good to godawful, with most of the sequences somewhere in between. There's some rare footage of the Benning line, which died in 1949 before most photographers recorded it. It's somewhat frustrating to watch, because the sequences are in higgledy-piggledy order, with no identicication as to locations. If you know Wasjhington, they're mostly easy to spot, however.

Assuming you're in the DC-Baltimore area, you might try the Baltimore Streetcar Museum shop. They try to keep up to date on any videos covering this area and the East Coast in general.

  by CBRy
An update...I recently purchased an EXCELLENT DVD from
TGM that is an improved Raliegh D'Adamo footage that is
also INTERACTIVE! You cna select a particular line by RTE
# and run it either coming or going! He shot all of his footage
during the same time of year each year so as to offer a bit
of continuity. Wonderful DVD! Brings back old times! Great
"first-person" footage! Especially the Glen Echo and the
Hyattsville/Branchville lines!

  by JimBoylan
Here's one more Washington, D.C. trolley movie, courtesy of you Federal Tax Dollars at Work:
Got to
then search for
"Street Car Mail, U.S.P.O."
Be sure to use the quotation marks when you search, or you'll get results for every individual word!
If this doesn't work, go to
choose American Memory, then search for the motion picture
"Street Car Mail, U.S.P.O."