Dear PoP – A Search For Buried Trolley Tracks

DSCN7150, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.


There’s been construction along 11th St NW between K and P for quite some time now. On my commute home today on the 64 bus I believe I saw the old trolley tracks poking out of the hole they dug. So a few things… first, I thought you might be interested in documenting or commenting on the old 11th st trolley tracks before they’re gone forever. Second, do you or your readers know if it’s a common practice to bury trolley tracks instead of removing them? Is it cheaper? Third, was the terribly uneven and cracked concrete along 11th caused by the paving over the tracks? Fourth, what is the main goal of the construction project?”

Well, this was definitely kinda funny. So I went on a search to document the buried 11th Street Trolley tracks and I’m not so sure I was successful. Maybe this was an elaborate joke played on me. If it was, I give the reader mad kudos. So I’m walking up and down the construction area looking for trolley tracks. I must of looked insane to random pedestrians. I mean I’m staring at the sand. I mean every few steps, I think I may see (imagine) the outline of trolley tracks. But this is the closest that could possibly resemble trolley tracks.


Oh well. Anyway, can anybody answer the readers questions about this project?

7 Comment

  • PoP: your reader may want to direct their questions here. there they can contact mr. osman mohamed, whom i’ve contacted with questions about this project and others. he’s a good resource. they can also visit the project office at 1200 n st NW, #319.

    the main goal of this project, i can answer that. it’s to reconstruct one of the worst stretches of road in the entire district. it’s been long overdue.

  • That’s my block. Here’s the description from the project website (

    This construction project will provide the following elements

    Reconstruction of roadway
    New curb and gutters
    New sidewalks
    New bike lanes
    New and upgraded traffic signal and timing
    Landscape improvements
    New street lighting
    Removal of streetcar rail embedded in the roadway
    Utility/waterline upgrades
    Drainage improvements

  • So I wasn’t crazy… there really was streetcar tracks there. Thanks Chris.

    PoP, the picture above looks very different from how the scene looked when I emailed you. I guess they’ve made quick progress. Thanks for trying!

  • There was a streetcar turnaround at 11th and Monroe where the playground is today. The 60s series of buses roughly follows the 11th street streetcar lines (in fact the buses still use the old 60s streetcar routes numbers). It was quite common to simply bury streetcar tracks after service was abandoned in 1962. DC Transit was supposed to physically remove the streetcar rails after buses took over many of the lines in the late 50s and early 60s, but often they simply paved over the tracks, which was far cheaper. When the bulk of the Metrorail system was constructed downtown in the 1970s, engineers frequently stumbled upon supposedly removed streetcar rails buried under the pavement. Today, on the corner of Independence Ave and 1st St NE, by the Library of Congress and the Capitol building, you can see a streetcar rail peering up from the bottom of a massive pothole.

  • Anonymous at 12:37 — you may have the answer to a question I’ve always wondered about! Why are some buses numbered and others are in a letter series? Are the numbered ones on old streetcar routes? Or did they start with the numbers and then run out because you can only number nine series (10s, 20s, 30s, etc)? I’ve often wondered about this but never looked.

    Also, on another nerdy bus question note — I ride either the 14th or 16th street lines and love that the S2 and the 52 AND the S4 and 54 look similar on the bus fronts. Yes, I’m a dork.

    Okay one more — anyone know when they are going to decide on the stop locations for the new express 16th street bus?

  • solives: a lot of the difference in bus route numbers (letters v. numbers) comes from the different bus companies that were merged together under the umbrella of wmata back in the 60s. i forget the details, but you’re right that the bus route numbers today for the most part were carried over from old pre-wmata bus and streetcar routes.

  • Let me confirm for you the removal of the tracks. I work right in the middle of this madness and know first had that the jack hammers ripped them right out of the street and hauled them away.

Comments are closed.