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Lost Washington: Trinidad Car Barn

Trinidad Car Barn

The Trinidad car barn at 15th and H Streets, NE, was once the last remaining structure in the city to have once housed a cable car power plant. According to a 1970 Washington Post article, the mechanism—which was gone long before the building was demolished in 1971—consisted of a stationary steam engine that continuously propelled a steel cable beneath the streets for the full length of the line. This pulled the cars along at about 6 miles per hour from the car barn to the Treasury.

The structure was erected in 1895 to replace a horse-car barn that was erected when the line first opened in 1871. The cable service that replaced the horse cars on May 9, 1895, lasted only four years before being replaced by faster electric cars. The Trinidad barn was used by electric streetcars until 1942, when it was converted to a bus garage.

A few years before it was demolished by the Redevelopment Land Agency for moderate-income housing, it was abandoned by D.C. Transit and sold for $500,000 to help pay off some of D.C. Transit's debts.

More pictures below.

Trinidad Car Barn

Trinidad Car Barn (rear)

Map of Trinidad Car Barn Location

Kent Boese posts items of historic interest primarily within the District. He's worked in libraries since 1994, both federal and law, and currently works on K Street. He's been an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner serving the northern Columbia Heights and Park View neighborhoods since 2011 (ANC 1A), and is the force behind the blog Park View, D.C.


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Nice bit of history! I think the building is actually on Benning Road. H St ends at the intersection with 15th.

by Will on Nov 13, 2009 6:04 pm • linkreport

This was a real shame. The building now there is ugly with a capitol ugh.

by David C on Nov 13, 2009 11:42 pm • linkreport

once the streetcars are put back in, we could be hopeful and excited that a new series of streetcar barns will be built. lots of potential to showcase contemporary architecture and technology...

by dc on Nov 14, 2009 10:58 am • linkreport

do you think wmata or ddot would build anything cool?
i don't. i hope i'm wrong.

but yeah,where will the street cars be housed/ serviced?

by a on Nov 14, 2009 11:51 am • linkreport

There are several old barns still standing (and some still in use!)although most have gone by the wayside. The most prominent is WMATA's Northern bus division at 4615 14th Street. Others are Eastern Division (converted to housing on E Capital Street), Navy Yard (the Blue Castle on M Street SW), the Georgetown Car Barn and the Georgetown Car House (the tracks are visible entering the building) on M Street NW, Eckington Division (used by DC Government), Brookland Division, Central Division (7th & V NW--in use by Howard(?)). Some other older barns in use are WMATA's Royal Street Division in Alexandria and the Western Bus Garage. What am I missing?

by kreeggo on Nov 14, 2009 12:36 pm • linkreport


I think the Eckington Barn is used by the US Postal Service now. Here is a map of the system circa 1958, with car barns and return loops noted. I find it interesting that there is no service east of the Anacostia. I assume that trolley service in wards 7 and 8 was abandoned by this time.

by merach on Nov 15, 2009 9:38 pm • linkreport

The National Capital Trolley Museum has two pieces of decorative iron work from the Trinidad carbarn. If you look closely you can them them in at the far ends of the main building in the first photo. These artifacts were displayed in the auditorium at our old visitor center and are now in storage in our new buildings.

by wesp on Sep 21, 2011 9:20 pm • linkreport

The streetcar service on routes 10 and 12 (the Benning line) to Anascostia were replaced with buses on May 1, 1949. Mostly due to increasing demand (as more public housing was built), and a fixed route that didn't go where the customers were going downtown. Increasing demand was overloading the "plow pit" where cars changed from underground conduit to overhead wire (right around the Trinidad Garage). Also, the downtown track was very old (based on the cable car track) and in need of serious repairs. Of course, they also "needed" the lanes on Benning road for automobiles.

by John Shriver on Feb 14, 2012 7:32 pm • linkreport

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