weekend of special activities, centered on a ceremonial dinner,
marked the Baltimore Streetcar Museum’s commemoration of the 50th
anniversary of the end of streetcar service in Baltimore, Saturday
and Sunday, November 2 and 3, 2013.
Hard as it may be to believe, a half century has indeed passed since
the last car clanged off the streets of Baltimore after 104 years of
street railway service.
The last two rail lines to operate, the #8 (Towson-Catonsville) and
#15 (Overlea-Walbrook Junction) both ceased operations in the early
morning hours of Sunday, November 3, 1963.
Throughout the anniversary weekend, the oft-asked question of
“where were you November 2 and 3, 1963?” could be heard exchanged
between the museum’s older members, many of whom took their final
streetcar rides that fateful weekend, including on the very last car
out on the streets, B.S.M.’s own car #7407, in the wee hours of that
long-ago Sunday morning.
(A happy coincidence found the days of the week for 2013 and 1963
In the spring of 2013, a special 50th anniversary committee was
formed to plan and execute a series of events to mark the milestone.
Since the last full day of
streetcar service had occurred on November 2, 1963 (with the night
owl trips and chartered cars extending into the early hours of
November 3, 1963), it was decided that nothing less than a full
weekend of activities was appropriate.
On Saturday, November 2, 2013, with intermittent sun, falling
temperatures, and a hint of winter in the offing (not dissimilar to
the weather 50 years before to the day), the museum had all of its
operational cars available for rides.
The stars, of course, were the two in the collection active
on that final weekend in 1963: PCC #7407 and single-truck,
Brill-built #4533. The
latter, restored by the B.S.M. 12 years ago to its one-man
configuration of 1923, had survived, after being removed from
passenger service in the early 1930s, as rail-bond-test car #3550.
An anachronism on Baltimore’s streets by the early 1960s, it
was showcased much of November 2, 1963 sitting in the Govanstown
loop off of York Road.
To lend additional atmosphere and history, two B.S.M. members
brought their vintage GM passenger buses (#1426, built 1947; and
#1909, built 1957, owned by B.S.M. members Rev. Kevin Mueller and Charlie
Neal respectively) to B.S.M. for the day.
Originally operating on the streets of Baltimore in 1963,
both buses’ presence at the event helped illustrate the dominant
mode of public transit firmly in place at the end of streetcar
At the regular 5 P.M. closing time, the museum transformed itself
into its best imitation of a five-star restaurant, complete with
when it hosted a special 50th anniversary dinner.
The sold-out affair was attended by nearly 90 members and
friends of the museum, featured Maryland’s Secretary of the
Department of Transportation, Jim Smith, as guest speaker, who
brought his audience up to date on public transit projects across
the state, including the Red and Purple light rail lines for
Baltimore and suburban Washington, D.C.
His address was followed by a DVD presentation, compiled by
Mark Hurley, of still videos and archival footage of the last years
of Baltimore’s streetcars.
The evening concluded with a cutting of the ceremonial cake,
depicting both #7407 and #3550, which was in turn admired and
devoured by the assemblage.
Long-time B.S.M. member John Engleman, who organized #7407’s charter
trip that final night in 1963, prepared a most interesting report on
the car’s history, as well as details on the final night of
operation, which was distributed to all in attendance at the dinner.
While most of B.S.M. members slept that evening, in preparation for
a busy Sunday to round out the weekend’s activities, a small band of
hardy souls was determined to observe the anniversary’s pivotal
moment by re-enacting it as closely as possible.
Car #7407 entered the history books when it pulled into
Irvington Carhouse off of Frederick Road at 6:34 a.m., Sunday,
November 3, 1963, making it the last streetcar to operate in
Baltimore (at least until the advent of the B.S.M.).
Starting at 5:30 a.m. on November 3, 2013, #7407 once again
traversed the rails in the still of an early Sunday morning, making
several round trips on museum trackage.
At precisely 6:34 a.m., with John Engleman at the controls,
#7407 slipped into the museum’s carhouse, the car’s pole was pulled
and the power was shut off, echoing the events that had occurred
exactly half a century before.
Either through sleep deprivation or out of a sense of respect
for the moment (perhaps a bit of both), a quiet descended upon the
car’s passengers as the car’s final trip came to a close.
By that time, dawn was breaking on what proved to be a beautiful day
of sun and big crowds at the museum.
The Chesapeake Chapter, Antique Automobile Association of
America, had planned its fall visit to the B.S.M. to coincide with
the anniversary weekend, and the group didn’t disappoint, as its
members, plus the Old Cars Unlimited Club from Washington DC,
brought nearly 100 vintage automobiles for display.
Many of the classics that participated complemented the last
years of Baltimore’s streetcars, being in the mid-1950's to early
1960's range. Others
dated to the 1920s, while the newest flirted with a 1980 pedigree, a
sobering reminder of just how “young” vehicles officially classified
as “historic” seem to be getting!
Sunday also saw the Baltimore
Sun send a reporter and photographer to record the events, while
local television station WBFF had dispatched a camera crew on
Saturday (the coverage from which undoubtedly helped attendance
figures on Sunday).
As mementos of the weekend, the museum store sold special tie clips
embossed with transit tokens, mouse pads and computer screen cloth
wipes with #7407’s image, and special polo shirts with a design
commemorating the weekend.
In addition, Father Mueller's extensively updated and
enlarged his authoritative work,
The Best Way to Go: The History of the Baltimore Transit Company, to
be unveiled and sold for the event.
(All of these items are available for purchase at the
What’s next? Well, while the
museum waits for the 75th anniversary to roll around, 2016 marks the
50th anniversary of the B.S.M. itself.
Already, plans are underway to make that occasion as
successful and memorable as the one this past November. Enjoy
the pictures of this event below!