Location / Name:
Washington DC, H Street NE, east of Union Station
The DC Streetcar
GPS Coordinates: 38.900206, -77.004660 (west end)
Access by train/transit:
the Metro, Union Station stop
MARC at Union Station
Amtrak at Union Station
VRE at Union Station
Oodles of bus lines at Union Station and along the route
The DC Streetcar system is a much ballyhooed streetcar system that is years late
in opening for a large variety of reasons. The complete system was
supposed to be something like 20 miles long, but because of delays, stupid
decisions and choices in just about everything, the system is only 2.2 miles
long, and opening about a year and a half late.
For transit fans, we are glad to have a streetcar system back in DC.
For the general public, reactions are mixed. Many see the system as a huge waste of
money. Why? Pick a reason, the are many: incompetent management
and oversight, huge cost overruns, a carbarn that cost three times what a
typical facility cost, stupid layout of the tracks, problems in the physical
plant, such as rail breaking, no connections to anything but bus lines, and so on.
We have gone too far to turn back or turn the project off.
So time will tell if the government of DC has done a good thing or not.
As of 2022, there are plans to extend the line another 2 miles east, for a
projected cost of around $100 mil.
From Wikipedia: The D.C. government owns six streetcars that serve
the system, built by two manufacturers to very similar designs. The first
three streetcars, numbered 101 through 103, were ordered in 2005 and built
in the Czech Republic in 2007 by Inekon Trams, for the Anacostia line, but
because of delays in the start of construction of the line in Washington,
they were stored in the Czech Republic until December 2009. They are model 12
Trio. The second set of streetcars, initially numbered 13-001 through 13-003
(subsequently renumbered 201–203), were built in the U.S. in 2013 by United
Streetcar, of Oregon, based on a Skoda design (model Skoda 10T) that was
originally developed jointly by Inekon and Skoda, and the shared design
history explains the similarity between the two designs. They are United
Streetcar model 100. The first United car was delivered to DC Streetcar
in January 2014 and the third and last in June 2014. Visually, the United
units differ from the Inekon cars in appearance with different fiberglass
driver compartments, and cowling, but the overall dimensions are identical.
Each car is eight ft (2.438 metres) wide and 66 feet (20.12 m) long, and
each car consists of three connected sections, a design known as an
articulated streetcar. End Wiki
Electric Railroaders Assoc.
The DC Streetcars generally follow the traffic lights for vehicular
traffic on H Street and Benning Avenue, unless they need to cross the street.
When they do, they use BAR SIGNALS, which are common for Light Rail and
streetcar systems to use when they need to be controlled separately from
vehicular traffic. They can be in standard "round" traffic light
housings, as done here in DC, or they can housed in the common "walk/don't
walk" housings, AKA "hand-man" signals like Baltimore uses.
EB Interlocking Signal for Shops and Pocket Track
The first signal the streetcars pass going EB coming into the Oklahoma
station, a vertical bar means it will
go straight and into the station, a bar on the 45 will send the train into
the pocket track.
EB Interlocking Signal for
Yard Lead and Mainline
A bar only signal for EB Pocket Track moves at the division point for going into the yard.
This signal is blocked by the poles in the above shot.
EB Interlocking Signal for Shops and Pocket Track
Bar Signal where the WB streetcar's go through the
small interlocking and have a choice of going either straight, into the pocket track, or
having to wait for a train going in or out of the yard.
Outbound Yard Signal
This signal controls trains coming out of the yard.
EB Signal Coming from Union Station
A 2 aspect Bar Signal, for controlling moves onto EB H Street, I'm guessing
to avoid conflict with a train if one is sitting on the stub track.
WB Signal for Entering the Union Station Tracks
A 3 aspect Bar Signal, controlling moves from/off H St onto the "private
R-O-W" tracks leading up to Union Station. Another guess - I'm guessing
this is a three aspect signal because there is a switch here, which offers
you a choice between going straight, which as of today, dead ends, and going
left into the Union Station track.
EB Signal for Coming Out Onto H St
A 2 aspect Bar Signal, controlling moves from the Union Station private
R-O-W onto H Street.
EB Signals, or Not
Playing the guessing game - If they ever put in additional tracks to connect to these
two switches, which currently dead end, they would have to change the
signals here at 3rd Street in order to have an interlocking. Although
it is hard to imagine why they would put in FOUR tracks to cross the
bridge??? So let's suppose they do, and extend the tracks at the red
X's, they would need to add bar signals where the green circles are, and
possibly remove the existing bar signal in the yellow circle - since it is
controlling cars coming from Union Station and crossing a vehicular traffic lane.
The signal for WB trains is already a 3 aspect signal, so no changes would
have to be made to that one (signal location 6 above).
End of Line EB Pocket Track Interlocking
Although there is a switch here, of which one of the routes continues
straight, the track does not continue east, yet. So the only routing
for a streetcar is to go into the pocket track for now. The only other
indication the signal should display (for now), is stop.
End Pocket Track to Mainline Interlocking
Since there is only a two aspect signal here, I'm going to make another
guess that the only choices are stop, and to make a diverging move onto the
WB main. And, for at least now, there is no provision for going back
out to the EB main.
The following set of pictures is from November
2011, taken on the way to the Gaithersburg MD Train Show. Pictures progress from the
eastern end of the line to the west end on the right, just shy of the overpass to go over the
Amtrak tracks, just behind Union Station. The pictures illustrate some of the station areas
where they have built up the sidewalk for access to the cars. It looks
like they used the project as an excuse to beautify the immediate area along H St.
Five years later, again, on the way to the Gaithersburg Train Show, we finally
have trains running. These pictures are from November 6th, 2016.
Rides as of that day, are still free, since that way since opening in
January. They are STILL working on the shops building.
The above photo, and the one below, show some of the catenary work where we
have a diverging route into a pocket track/siding.
Two different "sized" Catenary Supports.
Catenary tensioning device, the counter-weights are inside the pole.
According to one mention on the Wikipedia page, there are three substations,
I'm guessing one is at the yard. This one is for the WB track.
Two poles away from the above feeder, we have another one for the EB track,
2 views, above and below.....
My guess, is that the high-voltage switch is normally closed, so the two
catenary sections are normally connected. The switch allows them to
isolate the two sections if there is some sort of problem. This allows
them to at least use "one side" of the system.
Obviously, with a government run project such as this, especially in Washington
DC where no-one knows what they are doing, there is bound to be pages and pages
of commentary. Here is some of what I have come across:
Finally, someone prints an article in a positive and upbeat manner!:
The two following articles illustrate why streetcars are not an effective mode of transportation when people depend
on it to get them "there" and on-time - not that the DC Streetcar system goes anywhere people need to get in the first place :-)
And when are they going to keep Megabusses off H Street?
I especially like Dave Hagan's comment! :-) It's like, HELLO, is there no-one around with any expertise in designing these things? Why do we keep getting such
inept people to be in charge of massive amounts of money and public projects? Aren't consultants supposed to know WTF they are talking about? And the carbarn,
doesn't anyone know when to "keep it in their pants?" I could go on forever......
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page. This is something I have fun with while
trying to help others.
Please Note: Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.
For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my
indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented
I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct. Once in a while,
an error may creep in :-)
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or
disoriented. Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the
railroads on them. If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job
of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads. Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
Aerial shots were taken from either Google or Bing Maps as noted. Screen captures are made
with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it!
By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous
and/or other stuff.
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit
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