The difference between an abandoned ruin and a priceless treasure is a matter of perspective. Such is the case of the Windber Trolley Graveyard.
Relatively famous among urban explorers and ruin photographers, the trolleys sit rusting away on vacant tracks in the woods of rural western Pennsylvania. It is easy to cast them in the role of a horror movie set piece, or the remains of some untold disaster. In fact, these trolleys are a love note.
Ed Metka grew up in Chicago in the 1940s, the heyday of beautiful trolley transport. As a child, Metka would watch the driver as they drove through the city streets. That love of the elegant form of urban transportation didn’t abate as Metka grew older. When Metka retired, after a career as a civil engineer in the Army Corp of Engineers, he worried that many of the great trolley models were being sold for scrap or destroyed. Deciding to do something about it, Metka bought 14 trolley cars from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and painstakingly transported them by truck to land he purchased in Windber, Pennsylvania.
Sitting out deep in the woods, the trolley cars certainly carry an air of mystery and fallen grandeur to them. Tree branches push through shattered windows filling the interiors with a dusting of leaves. Without question the Windber Trolley Graveyard is romantic. But it would be a mistake to think of the cars as abandoned. Not because the land they are on is an active scrapyard from which parts of, or entire trolley cars are sold, and not because there is a live-in security guard who makes it his business to round up those who would vandalize the cars, though all of that is true. They are not abandoned because these trolleys and trolleys like them are the lifelong passion of Ed Metka, and one he hopes to see reach their former glory.
Metka has yet to find a buyer for the vintage trolley cars, he has been in talks with a number of East Coast cities that have started to revisit the idea of streetcars as a valuable form of transportation. While the cars may be a bit worse for wear, they are in no sense, forgotten.
In early 2023 the collection was sold to a scrapper who stated that the collection will be held as-is through the end of 2023.
Know Before You Go
Ed Metka does occasionally give tours, so that is one way to see the cars. Be sure to contact and ask Metka or someone on the property before visiting. Once you have permission and are venturing out there is a ball field behind the school that you can walk from. Warning there are no markings and it is a bit of a hike.