Windber 'trolley graveyard' nears end of the line with sale to scrap company
During their heyday, commuters packed into trolleys like this one.
WINDBER, Pa. – It’s the end of the line for Ed Metka’s “trolley graveyard.”
Metka, who spent years collecting and selling the vintage electric streetcars, confirmed he has sold his multi-acre Windber property to a Somerset County scrap company.
Decaying streetcars that are rusting outdoors will be parted out for scrap, while a small collection kept inside a former Berwind Coal Co. repair shop will likely be on the move by early next year – if Metka doesn’t find other buyers first.
“I’m 85 years old now. My children live in southern Indiana and they convinced me it was time to come back there,” Metka said.
Metka stored and sold trolley cars and other transportation relics of yesteryear for decades on the property. At one point, more than 60 were housed in the former Berwind Coal repair barn or the woodlands that surround it.
While the property was private and gated, it became a YouTube hit over the years. The property caught the attention of photographers and websites such as Abandoned America, earning the “graveyard” nickname.
Most of the streetcars that were left exposed to the elements – and sometimes to vandalism – were acquired as part of the sale to Kantner Steel and will be parted out for scrap, Metka said.
Approximately nine more are under a roof – and Metka said if he doesn’t find homes for them in the next year, they will join him in Indiana.
One exception is a well-worn Johnstown Traction Co. streetcar – a faded orange reminder of an era when Johnstown’s trolleys carried crowds of the city’s then-65,000 residents to work and shop. The local car is owned by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, which plans to relocate the car in the coming year.
Plans for the trolley property in Windber were less clear.
Kantner Steel’s John Toth wasn’t reached for comment this week. A message to his office was not returned.
Windber Borough officials, who have sometimes targeted the property over blight concerns, said they weren’t notified about the sale.
Borough Manager Ron Allison said that borough staff haven’t spoken with the property’s new owner about future plans for the site, which is in an industrial zone.
Metka said one of his pieces, a railroad dining car, was recently sold to a Pennsylvania nonprofit.
He said his goal has always been to find people willing to put the cars back into use.
While a number of the streetcars haven’t been moved in years, he’s also found people who share his passion.
“The biggest success I’ve had was about 10 years ago. I had six cars in operating condition that were stored in the barn from Toronto and was able to sell them to a group who was building a line in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They’ve been running there ever since – and it’s great,” Metka said.
One is painted in the traditional Johnstown Traction Co. colors, he said.
Over the years, Metka previously talked about finding a way to run one or more cars along a line in Greater Johnstown – but it never came to pass.
“I’d love to see one stay in Johnstown,” he said.
David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.
For years, Johnstown Traction Co. Car No. 362 criss-crossed the city underneath overhead wires, carrying passengers to and from busy business districts. Soon, it will be on the move again – but only because its storage site has been sold to a new owner.
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