Located a few miles south of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is one of the oddest destinations in the state: the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard. Officially known as the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company, this site is home to approximately 40 vintage trolleys waiting patiently for restoration or to be used as parts in the restoration of other vintage streetcars.
Unfortunately, at the moment, these streetcars are rotting away in the woods. Hence, why they are known as the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard. It’s worth noting, however, that they aren’t abandoned and the site will hopefully not be their final resting place.
The street cars came to this corner of Pennsylvania thanks to Ed Metka. Metka worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and lived in Maryland when he acquired his first streetcar in 1986. When his unusual hobby began, he stored his collection on a track that he rented from the Maryland Midland Railroad in Union Bridge, Maryland.
Soon, however, Metka’s collection of streetcars was outgrowing his space in Maryland, and he moved them to the former Berwind Coal Company Railroad Shop in 1992. The mile of track on the site has allowed his collection to grow, and there’s even room for more streetcars should they become available.
Metka’s reason for collecting them is simple: he wants to preserve them. As they become available from cities around the country, many are being lost to those looking to scrap them. By taking them to his storage facility, the streetcars have the chance of a future life.
While many of the streetcars look beyond repair, Metka assures me that each could be refurbished or provide parts for other streetcar restorations. Most of the cars on the site were manufactured in the 1940s and come from destinations such as Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
The grounds of the site consist of an open front area where tours start, a large building which houses some of the nicer streetcars, and a set of three tracks in the woods behind the building.
In front of the large building on the property, several streetcars lie on their side, and one even lies on its roof. These cars have had their wheels removed and have been used to restore streetcars currently running as far away as Aruba and the Middle East.
Some of the cars that were once part of the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company’s collection are now running a heritage trolley route in Kenosha, Wisconsin. These cars, which once ran in Toronto, Canada, showcase Metka’s hope for the remainder of the cars in his collection.
Another example is a vintage Johnstown streetcar from the 1920s. Housed safely inside the on-site building, this car is in rough shape, but there are plans to one day run the trolley again on the streets of Johnstown. I found this streetcar especially neat, as I had ridden the exact same model streetcar at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in nearby Huntingdon County.
Unfortunately, while some of the streetcars are protected inside the building, the majority are rotting away in the woods. Some, like a series of trolleys that were once used in Philadelphia, remain in relatively good condition, minus the many broken windows. In fact, it’s by walking through these connected cars that you can access the backend of the site and see the roughly two dozen street cars at the rear of the property.
Comparing photos of these trolleys to those from a few years ago shows how much damage has been done to them in recent years. Given the history of these trolleys and the hope to restore them, it’s a shame that this damage has been done and hastened the damage done by nature.
Nevertheless, walking amongst these trolleys is a very cool experience, that I feel very privileged to have been invited to see.
Access to the site is by appointment only. Tours were once handled by an outside company, but in 2017 will be primarily handled locally. Tours will cost $30 in 2017 and will be offered a few times during the year, with the first in the spring. Tours last from 10am to 3pm and began with a brief history and safety talk before visitors are allowed to explore the site.
Because access is by appointment only, and because I don’t want to contribute in any way to the continued deterioration of the site, I won’t be saying the exact location of this site, other than noting that it is south of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. So, please don’t ask me below, “Where is the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard located?”.
If you think of trying to sneak into the site, please don’t. This is an amazing area that should be respected, and the price of tours is quite reasonable. There is an on-site guardian that looks over the property, and I’ve been told that they don’t take kindly to trespassers on the site due to the amount of damage that has occurred recently.
If you do visit on a tour, I can’t emphasize enough the caution that you need to take. This area is filled with sharp rusty metal and many of the floors might not be sturdy enough to support weight. This is not a site to take casually. I can also imagine that this would be a prime area for snakes, ticks, and poison ivy during the warmer months of the year.
I’ve been to many amazing places in Pennsylvania and had the opportunity to tour some fantastic abandoned sites around the state, and I can honestly say that the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company is one of the coolest places that I’ve come across.
If you have the opportunity to tour the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard near Johnstown, I would strongly encourage you to do so.
How to Visit the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard
Tours of the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard can be set up through Ed Metka of the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company. At this time, there is no website for scheduling tours, but he can be reached at [email protected] (Note: As of August 2017, I’ve heard multiple reports that people are not getting responses from this email address. Unfortunately, I do not have any additional contact information for the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company.)
At the time of booking, they will be able to tell you where the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard is located.
Please note: I was given permission to access the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard by the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company. Please respect the site and do not visit without permission from the owner. Any comments indicating where the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard is in Pennsylvania will be deleted from this post.
Enjoy abandoned destinations such as the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard? Check out UncoveringPA’s coverage of similar sites such as Pennsylvania’s Abandoned Turnpike, the J.W. Cooper Center, and Cambria Iron Works.
You can also ride a trolley at one of the three trolley museums in Pennsylvania. For more information check out the Rockhill Trolley Museum, the Electric City Trolley Museum, and the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.