Baltimore welcomed public mass transit in 1859 as the city ballooned to 170,000 people and the need for affordable transportation swelled. As transit technology raced ahead from horse drawn carts to steam, cable and eventually electric powered cars, Baltimore's system expanded to seemingly every corner of the city. After World War II, however, streetcars in Baltimore (and across the country) went downhill fast as automobile companies bought and retired street car lines and returning soldiers and their families moved to federally subsidized homes in the suburbs and out of reach of the streetcar systems. By 1963, Baltimore had run its last streetcar. Only a few years later, members of the National Railroad Historical Society's Baltimore Chapter founded the Baltimore Streetcar Museum in 1966. They located a permanent home along Falls Road at a former Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad station and moved the collections there from Lake Roland Park in 1970. Volunteers worked hours to install track and overhead wire so that visitors can again ride along a stretch of Falls Road. With a unique track gauge (5 ft. 4 1/2 in.) and historic cars, the ride is more than a fair likeness to what a passenger would have experienced in 1885 as Baltimore launched the first electric streetcar system in the country from downtown to a bustling mill village in Baltimore County called Hampden.
Watch our Five Minute Histories video for more on Baltimore's streetcar system!