Since at least September 2019, two retired Washington Metro railcars have been collecting dust – and a bit of graffiti – in an abandoned gas station lot near the West Hyattsville Metro station on Ager Road. But someday, somewhere, they might be transformed into a bar or restaurant, presumably gracing the grounds of a hip new development.
By chance, Route 1 Reporter happened upon the cars Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, as workers appeared to be preparing them for transport. The cars bear the serial numbers 5059 and 5058, and the work underway appeared to be cutting each car in half to fit on wide-load trailers.
Details on the eventual fate of the two railcars are scarce at the moment. One of the owners of the cars, Jesse Rauch was on site as the work was underway, but he offered few additional details beyond plans to convert the cars into some sort of bar, restaurant or “cultural space.” Rauch said he co-owns the metrorail cars with two other investors. Rauch said they do not yet have a site for the railcars, and he was keen to note they did not want publicity yet, as they’re still working out plans.
The idea of converting rail rolling stock to other uses isn’t new. Old railcar diners, for instance, have been a part of the American landscape for more than a century. In Riverdale Park, developers plan to add a PCC streetcar to a plaza as a retail or restaurant site it dubs the “trolley café”, harkening back to the days of the 82 streetcar. One person converted a Boston Blue Line car into a house. But there have been relatively-few conversions of rolling stock from the era of the Great Society subways – a generation of American transit systems that include WMATA, BART in San Francisco and MARTA in Atlanta. In 2019, BART officials said they were considering turning their older cars into housing. And it doesn’t look like anyone’s converted any retired WMATA or MARTA stock into anything.