Saturday, December 14, 2013

Streetcar and H Street NE: Made for Each Other

HISTORY WAS MADE Friday evening, December 13, 2013 when the first streetcar in 51 years rolled off the back of an enormous flatbed trailer onto a D.C. street.  Arriving on scene at 9:20 p.m., the rig was found parked on H Street NE between 3rd and 4th Streets. Preparations were getting underway to roll it off directly onto the track, so I went to work photo-documenting each move. 

The pictures in the story that follows were shot at ISO 3200, a necessity given that it was quite dark; you'll notice grain in many of the pictures. Punctuating the darkness were work lights bright as the sun, sodium-vapor street lights (orange), incandescent store lights (yellow), neon, you name it--hence, the peculiar mix of color you'll see below.

News trucks at 3rd and H. All local TV stations with news departments were there for the historic event, antennas raised for transmitting live feeds back to their stations.

And here's the scene. We're facing east along H Street from 3rd.

You may be wondering how they're going to get that streetcar down to the, uh, street.
Oh, here's the answer: a portable ramp. A contractor in a forklift begins bringing in sections and assembling the structure.

Police at 4th and H guard a plastic barrel as Mr. Ramp is assembled.
The ramp is nearing completion. Regarding this dramatic angle, the police were not amused by photographers in the middle of the track with a streetcar about to come off the trailer, and escorted us back across the yellow police tape.
Another section of ramp, special delivery.

The last section consisted of two pieces fitted together, which required dragging one out of the other to open it up. To do that, the forklift operator hooked on a cable and backed up, freeing that final section.

Ready? Let's roll!

And roll it does, unpowered, the motorman releasing the brake and easing the huge vehicle down . . . ever . . . so . . . slowly . . . by . . . inches.

At last all the streetcar's wheels reach terra firma. It's 9:55 p.m. An exuberant motorman grins at having placed the first streetcar on a Washington, D.C. street since the DC Transit system ended January 28, 1962.

A view of the streetcar (eastward) across its trailer and ramp.

Because the streetcar, as unloaded, was now smack in the middle of the H and 4th Street intersection, this hefty pickup arrived to tow the streetcar forward and clear the streets in both directions. The truck even came equipped with a coupler that fitted nicely to the streetcar's own.

"I think I can, I think I can . . ."

The move completed, vehicles are uncoupled . . .

. . . and the truck drives away.

Well, almost clear of the intersection. It's a head-scratcher why the truck deposited the streetcar here. It's still partially obstructing traffic from 4th Street. The next morning (Saturday, Dec. 14) I found a Trafficland camera facing east along H Street, and while the image was small, it appeared that during the night the streetcar had been towed back west into the middle of the H Street block between 4th and 3rd.
The Society of the Yellow Vest gets down and celebrates!
The streetcar's muscular mode of transportation to H Street from the maintenance/commissioning facility on South Capitol.
And here be a close-up of "Hercules," brawny machine of power and gears, heavy lifter, awesome to behold--the fair steed of Silk Road Transport, Arkport, New York.


  1. Hello Mr. Fuller,
    Great photos! I'm working on a storytelling project about changes in D.C. and I'm interested in a few of your pictures. Can you contact me at Or let me know the best way to contact you?

  2. Ms. Rucker,

    I just saw your message to me about the streetcar photos, dated June 10. Very sorry for the late response. If you still want to use some of my photos, please get back to me at

    John Fuller