One of the most elegant and convenient ways to travel our fair city is aboard the King Street Trolley, which transports passengers from King Street Metrorail Station to the Market Square where we begin our tours. These environmentally friendly, hybrid vehicles are a throwback to the original. Alexandria’s original trolley system ran from 1892 to 1932, transporting countless locals and tourists alike.
This trolley system was a massive success, taking people from Alexandria all the way to Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. Tickets were five cents a pop, and by the early 1900s the trolley reached over one million passengers. This trolley car was a massive spectacle- all along Fairfax street, you would hear people excitedly calling out to announce the trains arrival, and business would often stop on King Street for everyone to take a look.
With the popularity of gas powered automobiles, trolley systems were run out of business. Eventually, the electric rails required to power the trolley cars would be paved over to create the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Workers discovered a portion of the original tacks while repairing a water main break on King Street in 2020.
Having this tangible peek into the past makes us wonder how the trolley riders at the turn of the century compare to the riders of today. Did they ever get distracted and forget to pull the bell cord at their stop? Were they likely to strike up a conversation with fellow riders about the news of the day? Were they captivated by the same local legends? Haunted by the same spirits?
It was surprising to learn that Victorians enjoyed a transportation system that ran on clean energy reaching from Mount Vernon to Washington DC. Its debut caused quite a hubbub. The crowd of excited spectators prevented it from running on time. Though popular, it was not without its flaws. Early on board heating systems were shoddy and the old trolley cars would occasionally stall out along their route.
But what a lot of people don’t know is that the trolley was responsible for a gruesome accident one cool autumn night on Royal Street. On our North Route tour, you can hear about both the accident’s victim, and the tale of how on foggy nights he still walks the streets of Old Town, following the path the trolley once took…