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Capital Traction Co. electric streetcar, 1898

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Capital Traction Co. electric streetcar, 1898
Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Hugh Talman


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Capital Traction Co. electric streetcar, 1898
Capital Traction Co. electric streetcar, 1898

Interior of Streetcar, Capital Traction #303
Interior of Streetcar, Capital Traction #303

Capital Traction Company motorman and conductor

Capital Traction Company Electric Streetcar #303
Catalog #: 335091, Accession #: 252681
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

One of sixteen 4-wheel, electric motor cars built for Capital Traction Company of Washington, D. C. by American Car Company of St. Louis, Missouri. The car was designated #303 and assigned to the 7th Street line, which ran from the Wharves to Boundary (now Florida Avenue). This car was used as a motor car and regularly pulled a light trailer car, until its retirement from regular service in 1913. Single truck cars such as this one were replaced by larger, more comfortable double truck cars.

The first Washington streetcars were horse-drawn and went into service in 1862. Electric cars first appeared in 1888 and by the turn of the century, nearly 200 miles of line were in operation. As in other large American cities, street-car traffic began to fall off in the 1920s because of the automobile. Large-scale abandonment began in the late 1950's, and early in 1962 the last streetcar ceased operation in the Nation's capitol. (Railroad Hall label)

Because overhead wires were not permitted in the District of Columbia, an underground conduit system at the track's center was employed for electrical collection. Washington was one of the few cities in the world to use an underground conduit. The streetcar therefore has an extension affixed to the underside of the car that connected with an electric conduit between the trolley tracks.

Physical Description

Artifact. Single truck electric streetcar. Dimensions: 26' 10"L x 8' 1" W x 10' 11" H. Weight: 9 1/2 tons.

The car body is wooden painted yellow and white with gold and black stripping. The interior is mahogany and has two longitudinal seats. Above each interior door is a fair counter. There is a controller and brake on each platform

Date Made:
Dates Used:
1898 - 1912
Dist of Columbia
Used in District of Columbia
Gift of D.C. Transit, Inc.

Electric streetcars added a dynamic change to Americans' sense of time and space in their daily lives. Between 1880 and World War I, many American cities adopted newly devised electric streetcar systems. The electric streetcar allowed the city center to transform from a mixture of homes, businesses and industry to a distinct commercial district. Because the electric streetcar could travel faster than other forms of transportation, many city residents could move beyond the pedestrian city core of row houses and boarding houses to new suburbs of single family homes built along streetcar routes.

Related People, Places, and Events
American Car Co. of St. Louis, Missouri

Place of Use
Washington, D.C. (1898 - 1912)

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