The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum Offers Good Family Fun

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on May 23, 2024.

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We often lament the fact that Pittsburgh no longer has trolleys. The closest we have these days is The T, and due to its limited operating area, is only really useful for a few neighborhoods in the city (and beyond).

For those nostalgic for days when trolley transportation was the norm, you are in luck- The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington shares the history of this transportation method with informative and interactive exhibits and a massive collection of trolley cars in their showroom.

But for those looking for even more, this one comes with a fun twist- you can even ride one of the historic trolley during your visit!

A Trip Back in Time at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is broken up into three distinct areas- a modest museum dedicated to all things trolleys, a showroom featuring trolley cars from the past 100+ years, and the track where you can ride in a trolley car.

The exhibit area of the trolley museum is broken up into two broad themes.

To the right side after entering, you have conventional museum displays showing the history of trolley use in the state- from the first cars that were pulled by horses, to the popularity of track-based trolleys in the mid-1900s, the subsequent replacement with buses and automobiles towards the latter half of the century, and more. Alongside these exhibits are historic photos and memorabilia from decades long past, and it really ties the history of all things trolleys together nicely.

Substation Illustration at Trolley Museum

To the left side after entering, you have roughly a dozen interactive exhibits showcasing how trolley cars operate. These are hands-on experiences where you can learn about the need for electrical substations to provide power over many miles, how solar efficiency changes with weather, and why tracks are necessary to name a few. As these are all interactive, you get to learn these in real time through unique, hands-on experiences.

The showroom, located behind the museum in a separate building, is where we spent most of our time as it houses a few dozen trolley cars that were collected by the museum over the decades. Some of these were used in southwest Pennsylvania, but others were found in nearby states and regions, too.

Historic Trolleys

These cars run the spectrum from some in working condition to those barely held together due to their decay over time. Some were for passenger transport, and others had specific functions like hauling building materials or even plowing snow!

Most every trolley car has a sign showing where it is from, how it was used, and in some cases the state it was found in (such as a few that were being occupied as houses!). Even better, any car that has its lights on is typically a sign that the car is safe to enter, and you can get an immersive experience popping through several trolley cars from various eras. Be sure to look at the advertising in each, as you can how they evolved over the years, too.

Advertising in Trolley Car

Suffice it to say, we spent most of our visit in this building, and it was a real treat to get a full experience of all things trolley car.

The third element of the museum is the part that ties everything together, however. You can ride one of their trolley cars!

Don't Forget a Ride on a Historic Trolley

Ride a Trolley at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

Although we would argue that the showroom full of historic trolleys was our favorite part of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, there is one element of the museum that you absolutely cannot miss- a ride on a beautiful trolley.

During the day, select cars from the museum's showroom are brought out onto a working trolley track found on-site. At set times (which were 15 and 45 past the hour for us- you'll be told the schedule when you arrive), guests can board a given trolley car and go for a ride around the museum's roughly four-mile track- all included in the cost of the ticket.

Inside a 100 Year Old Trolley

Although some of the views from the ride leave a bit to be desired, there is something about the ambiance of being on an old trolley car that sends you back in time. Our particular trolley was over 100 years old, and we got to enjoy a ride with period seats, advertisements, bells and whistles, and more. Fun for us? Absolutely. But for the kids in the car? Even better.

It is because of this (and all of the other interactive elements of the museum) that we really love this spot as an attraction for families. It is one thing to read an exhibit about trolley cars to learn their history, and it is another to have interactive experiences to learn how the cars function, go inside historic cars, and, of course, ride one, that elevates the experience entirely. 

We are truly spoiled to have the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum call Washington, PA, home, and if you haven't visited this stellar museum yet, bump it much higher on your priority list- especially if you are taking kids who may also appreciate it!

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is located at 1 Electric Way in Washington, PA.

Fancy a cocktail after your visit? Liberty Pole Spirits distillery is located just a few minutes away on the opposite side of I-79!

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