In General
Getting Here
Map
Station by Station
Signals
Pictures
Signs
Support / Physical Plant
Floobydust
Articles


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In General

Location / Name:
Washington DC, H Street NE, east of Union Station

What's Here:
The DC Streetcar

Data:
GPS Coordinates: 38.900206, -77.004660 (west end)
ZIP: 20002

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 Scoop:

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.

The Cars:

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 201203), 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

Acknowledgements:
Denver Todd
Electric Railroaders Assoc.
Google Maps
Wikipedia

Websites and other additional information:
https://dcstreetcar.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DC_Streetcar
https://www.axios.com/local/washington-dc/2021/12/15/dc-2026-streetcar-extension
https://twitter.com/dcstreetcar?lang=en
https://friendsofdcstreetcar.wixsite.com/website
https://www.hdrinc.com/portfolio/dc-streetcar-program-management
https://www.facebook.com/dcstreetcar/
https://ggwash.org/view/80521/support-for-streetcar-plans-in-ward-7-gain-momemtum-from-some-residents-but-will-it-be-enough
https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_full_dc_streetcar_routes_explained/2236
https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/inno/stories/news/2015/04/03/dc-streetcar-cost-and-total-miles.html Note: Costs $$$ to read the full article


Getting Here



295 to the Benning Road exit, west to H Street NE.

If you are going thru the city, find your way to Union Station and head around the "backside" of the station to H Street NE.


Map










The Georgetown Extension that so far, has not happened.


From the bizjournal article from 2015, comes this map of projected DC transit projects
that includes the proposed DC Streetcar Benning Rd and Georgetown extensions.


Station by Station


Union Station

GPS Coordinates: 38.90024, -77.00470
















Beautiful shot at dusk of a test train leaving Union Station - Katherine Frey/The Washington Post


H St and 3rd Street

GPS Coordinates: 38.90023, -77.00470




H St and 5th Street

GPS Coordinates: 38.90023, -76.99930




H St and 8th Street

GPS Coordinates: 38.90023, -76.99504




H St and 13th Street

GPS Coordinates: 38.90023, -76.98808




Benning and 15th Street

GPS Coordinates: 38.90004, -76.98297




Benning and 19th Street

GPS Coordinates: 38.89886, -76.97602










The Shops

GPS Coordinates: 38.89837, -76.97085 (center of building)

~2014

~2015

2022
The inset above comes from one of the proposals in the map section....





Here is a sequence of Google Streetview shots that show the yard and shop area from "nothing" to having the facility built.

























If you have never done it before, here is how you toggle between the various years Google Streetview has pictures of for that location....




Benning Ave and Oklahoma

GPS Coordinates: 38.89776, -76.96988






Planning ahead for a future yard lead track that will come in from 26th St NE.


Current End of Operations / 2022

GPS Coordinates: 38.89740, -76.96611










Signals



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.




Future
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).








Eastern 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.




Eastern 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.






Pictures


  

  

  





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.














Signs


















Support / Physical Plant




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.






Floobydust


the PCC Cars That Came Before



A map of the Capitol Transit Co. system from 1948:





  February 27, 2016


Articles


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?








Personal Comments

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......

  

  

  




Disclaimers:

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 is always given!  Please be NICE!!!  Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly inaccurate, wrong, or not true.

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