For some, the streetcar meant more than a mode of transportation. It symbolized an era of city life.
From the late 1800s to the 1960s, streetcars guided Baltimore's growth, carrying people from home to their jobs, the movies, malls and amusement parks. This weekend, they will carry people once again, if only a short ways.
The Baltimore Streetcar Museum hosts its annual Tinsel Trolley this weekend and Dec. 18-19, offering 20-minute streetcar rides with Santa Claus along with its usual exhibitions. Rather than head downtown, the streetcars run around a 1 1/2 -mile track near the museum - but riders will still get an authentic experience, said Andy Blumberg, the museum's director of public affairs.
"They can get an idea of what it was like to ride the old streetcars," Blumberg said. "They can get a sense, through the photos and exhibits, of what Baltimore was like and how it grew."
One of the six streetcars in service is No. 7407, the last streetcar ever to run in Baltimore. Built in 1944, it was put out of commission in 1963. In its nearly 20 years of service, it saw the Beltway's construction, people leave the city for the suburbs and the growing traffic congestion as suburb-dwellers came for the morning commute.
Now, the only streetcar that runs in the city is the light rail train. With its overhead power source and tracks, the light rail is a direct descendant of the original streetcars.
The museum also has a 16-foot Christmas tree on display, complete with a model train set, of course. Some museum employees will read Christmas stories to guests, and others will play seasonal tunes on the organ. Patrons who recognize the songs are more than welcome to chime in for a verse or two, Blumberg said.
Since the museum started the event 10 years ago, it's gotten a little more popular every season, Blumberg said.
"I think one of the big things that makes us so special is it's not static."
The usual streetcar exhibitions and photographs are on display, but it's the streetcar rides with Santa that attract the most people, Blumberg said.
"For kids, it's a magic time," he said. "A lot of the adults and the grandparents who remember the streetcars get a kick out of them too."
Baltimore Streetcar Museum's annual Tinsel Trolley is 1:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 18-19. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children under 12. The museum is at 1901 Falls Road. Call 410-547-0264 or visit www.geocities.com/tinsel trolley.
For more family events, see Page 41.