Green Means Go #14200

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The Story

Here lies a trolley graveyard shaded in the leafy green woods of early summer. It’s a peek at the past, streetcars were once part of everyday life in many places. The forest canopy above hides this interesting segment of transportation history, about thirty or so old trolleys from the thirties through fifties. In this panorama picture, old school PCC trolleys from PAT Transit of Pittsburgh are on the right track; New York City cars are on the left. This yard also has an assortment of streetcars from Boston and a few other places too.

Taking a trolley in urban areas was once the very common way to get around and do things. Everyone used them. Many people didn’t have cars and didn’t need them with cheap and plentiful public transportation around decades ago. Even in less than true urban areas of cities, rural trolleys and light rail connected many towns and villages across the landscape or they connected the countryside back to the city itself. Not much freight was hauled by streetcar, these machines were people haulers with high ridership at one time.

There are four long rail storage lines laid out through the woods here to accommodate roughly thirty or so old trolleys. Interestingly, they were laid in four different gauges to suit the old streetcars and none are the railroad standard of 4-foot-8 1/2 inches between the rails. To prevent a railroad from taking them over, trolley companies purposely and shrewdly chose a different gauge to use! Additionally, streetcar rails themselves were often slightly different than the typical railroad T rail and much lighter too. Seen here is repurposed railroad rail.

Visting The Trolley Graveyard

It’s a true trolley graveyard because none of them run. The owner’s original idea behind collecting them was to make a museum and operate a few, but nowadays he offers parts to the few places that do. Over time, they’ve been ransacked by copper scavengers and punished by graffiti artists with spray cans. Now all access to them is very limited, usually only by select photographer’s groups.

The place is just plain eerie and feels very rather apocalyptic to walk through. With a little imagination, it can seem like the end of the world has passed over the place. Most of the trolleys here are in very rough condition with lots of holes, grit poking through faded paint, and tattered rust along the edges. Some have wooden floors which have collapsed and fallen through over their wheeled trucks. They squat low and lean precariously like drunks frozen in a photograph. Further, what glass remains is clouded and dried leaves have collected in pockets inside. Young trees are growing up between the lines of dead machines sitting nature-deep in the woods.

Just for the why-not heck of it, I shot this panorama of eleven verticals at 24mm using a panoramic bracket just to see what would happen in such a narrow tight space. Standing there was like looking down a long corridor, but I like this panorama that opened and spread the space into an entirely different take on the view. Yep, it’s certainly unusual and still eerie.

And what about that title Green Means Go? It comes from the open track heading off into the greenery of the woods as if these trolleys could line up and drive away from here with humming motors and bells clanging. Of course, that’s only a dream combined with a vision of the past.

For more, another look at a PCC PAT Transit trolley is Old Yeller #14161, right out of the Pittsburgh suburbs and now here in this boneyard in the woods.

Location: near Windber, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Panorama picture and text © Andrew Dierks

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