National Capital Trolley Museum

If you have a train or transportation lover in your family, this small museum located in northern Silver Spring is a great place to spend an afternoon. Recently reopened after their forced move due to the building of the ICC this brand new space has enough kid friendly entertainment to warrant a visit. At $7 per adult and $5 per child including a ride on the trolley car it is an affordable family outing.

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. 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. 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.

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. There were cars from London, Austria, Canada and DC on display during our visit. 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. 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.

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.

Rounding out the facilities here are a party room that can be rented for birthdays, 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.” The gift shop though was a big hit with a great selection of kids’ books, trolley models and even conductor’s hats.

Two water fountains are located just across from the gift shop and restrooms are a bit further down the hallway. Please note that 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.

The National Capital Trolley Museum is open year round on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 5pm. In spring, fall and summer, Thursday and Friday hours are offered from 10am to 2pm with additional programming such as storytimes and crafts during these hours in summer (June 16 to August 12). Special events like a Grandparents Day, Pumpkin Fest and Holly Trolley Fest are held throughout the year. For those of you staying in town for spring break this year, check out the museum’s special programming April 21 and 22. Three sessions of stories, crafts and fun will be offered at 10:30am, 11:30am and 12:30pm.

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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OK Editorial Team

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