National Capital Trolley Museum: Visit Details (2023)

The National Capital Trolley Museum is your place to go to learn about streetcars and trolleys all around the Washington DC metro area.

This just so also happens to a nonprofit organization that runs historic trolley rides for the public on a regular schedule.

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

This is such a hidden surprise as I didn’t realize this museum was even nearby for the longest time!

This is defintely the biggest and most exciting reason you’ll want to come here.

While it’s a small museum, not only can y ou see various street cars and trolleys, you get to actually ride them! 

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

And visitors of all ages enjoy the ride together, not just the kids!

Located in Colesville, about 20-25 minutes outside of Chevy Chase and Silver Spring, Maryland, this is a great place to spend an afternoon, especially if you have a train or transportation lover in your family.

The kids eyes immediately lite up when they saw the moving trolleys and they excitedly bounced from street car to street car to see what they looked like.

For the older ones in the group, it’s refreshing to see the old trolleys that we remember from the 50s and early 60s housed here.

What You can See & Do

  • Collection of 18 historic street cars
  • Ride on of the historic trolleys
  • History of the streetcars
  • Presentation at the Visitor Center
  • Film programs
  • Interactive Exhibits
  • Auditorium
Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

Streetcar Ride

After a half hour or so of looking through the exhibits we were ready for our trolley ride.

The first ride of the day is 30 minutes after opening and rides run approximately on the half hour until 30 minutes prior to closing.

The journey on the trolley car is one mile each way through the woods of Northwest Branch Park with a stop in the middle to get a little history of the museum as well as to get your ticket “punched” by one of the trolley car conductors capital transit company.

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Since you ride through the woods, you have a chance of seeing animals as well like:

  • Deer
  • Foxes
  • Turkey
  • Other birds

We really enjoyed the ride!

It was definitely some different and more unique to do. It gave you a glimpse of what it felt like on the Washington streetscape so many years ago.

I thought this was a good way to teach the kids about the history of Washington as they get to live it rather than just read about it. 

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

Even if the museum doesn’t excite you, the ride on the trolley is worth the price of admission alone.

My kids declared it a “perfect trolley ride” and of course asked to go again…and again. Luckily your ticket is good for as many rides as you’d like.

Note: the trolleys do not have A/C so you may want to pay attention to the weather before deciding when to go.

During your visit you can take numerous rides on the various street cars and trolleys. The ride is actually two miles long on one of their:

  • Washington Street Car
  • American Trolley
  • European Tram

The National Capital Trolley Museum works in collaboration with Montgomery County Parks and the streetcars they have are from 6 different countries.

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

Tour of the Museum

The museum has several sections dedicated to various history and topics of these historic streetcars. 

They have a Rock Creek Railway model that shows how it looked in the 1930s. What’s really need is the map of the area so you can see where your house is (if you live nearby of course) and see where the street cars used to go.

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

You may be surprised to see if the streetcar lines went right by your home!

As the museum is a non-profit, it is, as you’d expect, run by volunteers.

They volunteers are actually very knowledgeable, are full of trolley history facts and take you on a tour around the museum.

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

When we visited, there were only a few volunteers handling everything but they were doing an awesome job.

One was driving the trolley and the others were handling the gift shop, ticket sales and visitors inside the museum.

On your tour, you’ll stop by Streetcar Hall, where you’ll see street cars going to the movies.The whole family really enjoyed getting to tour Street Car Hall.

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There are also interactive displays which gives the kids something more hands-on to do.

They can interact with the displays to see how the street car design changed over time and even follow along the street car lines as they go through the District of Columbia.

What to Expect

Kids will immediately be drawn to the large model of the old trolley line down Connecticut Avenue housed in the main room of the exhibit hall.

The models are behind glass but kids can move a lever to make the trolley go and also crank another lever to show how houses nearby used to get their electricity from the overhead trolley cables.

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

For adults and older kids, information and photographs line the walls to inform visitors of the different trolley lines that existed and where it stopped in and around the District and Maryland.

Moving beyond the Main Hall you go through the doors into Conduit Hall. 

ANOTHER TROLLEY: Go on a Manheim Historical Trolley Ride in Lancaster

Here there are displays on the inner pieces of trolley cars to show how they worked.

Of interest to my 5 and 6 year olds was the 100 year old controller and shift key that they could maneuver to see how the trolley driver would make the car go faster or slower.

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Next stop on our tour was the Street Car Hall. A large indoor garage of sorts, this space housed 7 different trolleys. 

Although the lighting was pretty dim, my kids enjoyed looking at the different colors and designs that trolley cars from here and abroad had.

On display during our visit, there were cars from:

  • London
  • Austria
  • Canada 
  • DC

For older kids a “scavenger hunt” is available to discover information about the various trolleys.

Pick up a clue sheet and clipboard on the shelving to your left when you enter the hall. Information for the answers can be found on the trolley cars themselves and along the lighted display boards down the center of the room.

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This activity was a little advanced for my companions but they enjoyed the trolley car coloring sheet available in the same spot. Crayons and clipboards are located on the shelf for kids to complete the activity. 

FYI: kids (and adults) are not allowed to climb in or on any of the trolley cars on display here which was a little disappointing to the little people with me.


an auditorium which shows a 12 minute film of the history of trolley cars in the metro DC area and a small gift shop.

The auditorium is very dark and my kids only made it through about 4 minutes of the movie before they declared it “too boring.” 

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum

About the National Capital Trolley Museum

The National Capital Trolley Museum preserves these gorgeous street cars that are a big part of the area’s history.

These cars and trolleys are what helped to grow the surrounding towns, get residents to activities around the area and really started to connect everything.

READ NEXT: Riding the King Street Trolley is just 1 of 41 Fun Things to Do in Alexandria

The history of the Electric Street railways is ll houses here and the history dates bck to 1898. It’s fascinating to see how they evolved over the years and the impact they actually made on the area. 

The museum’s primary mission, as they report, is to:

“preserves and interprets the heritage and history of electric street and interurban railways of the National Capital region and environs for the benefit of present and future generations while supplementing its collections with significant national and international objects to enhance its interpretive programs.”

Years ago, the museum had a different location until a fire in 2003 caused them to lose nearly half of their trolleys. That was really disappointing time but we are thankful that not all was lost and they were able to preserve what you see today. 

Source: National Capital Trolley Museum


The museum hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, so definitely check their event calendar.

Some events they offer include:

  • Heritage Days
  • Streetcar Restoration
  • Storytimes and crafts
  • Pumpkin Fest
  • Holly Trolley Fest
  • Kids Train Show
  • All Aboard! Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out!

Admission & Tickets

Tickets are just $10 and only $8 for seniors and kids ages 2 and up.

You can purchase tickets in advance on their website which they do recommend. If you find yourself in the area, you can also just walk-in but you may not get a ticket if the museum is busy. 

Hours & When to Go

The National Capital Trolley Museum is only open on Saturdays from 12pm to 5pm so that’s the time to go!

Keep in mind that you don’t want to go too close to closing time if you want enough time to view what’s inside the museum as well as ride one of the street cards. 

In spring, fall and summer, some weekday hours are offered so make sure to check their schedule during those seasons if you wish to go during the week. 

The last trolley does leave at 4:30, so make sure to give yourself enough time for the museum before that. 

All in all, with a tour of the museum plus a trolley ride, expect to be there about an hour. More of course, if you plan on taking multiple rides.

Museum Shop

The gift shop though was a big hit with a great selection of kids’ books, trolley models and even conductor’s hats.

Getting There & Parking

There is free parking available at the museum. The nearest metro station is the red line but that is still 10 minutes away from the museum by car.

The museum is located at 1313 Bonifant Road, Colesville, MD 20905.

The museum is about 45 minutes outside of the Washington D.C.

Good to Know Before You Go

  • There is a party room that can be rented for birthdays
  • Two water fountains are located just across from the gift shop and restrooms are a bit further down the hallway
  • There were no baby changing facilities found in the women’s bathroom. 
  • Currently there are no picnic facilities located near the museum.
  • Food and drink are prohibited both inside and outside the museum and trolley cars

You’ll leave the National Capital Trolley Museum having seen all the sights and sounds of the Trolley Era and have experienced what it was like nearly 100 years ago.

Visit the National Capital Trolley Museum to help your kids step back in time and ride on a real trolley through Northwest Branch Park.

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