Since You Asked: How Did the Bethesda Trolley Trail Get Its Name?

Questions and answers about the Bethesda area

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The Bethesda Trolley Trail in Bethesda's Battery Lane Park

Aaron Kraut

How Did the Bethesda Trolley Trail Get Its Name?

A reader in Bethesda

The six-mile trail now used for walking and cycling (also known as the North Bethesda Trail) runs from Bethesda to Rockville, following the route of the Tenallytown and Rockville Railroad, a former trolley line.

A trolley started running from Bethesda to Glen Echo in 1891, according to 100 Years of Capital Traction: The Story of Streetcars in the Nation’s Capital by LeRoy O. King Jr.  

 Soon after the trolley line was extended to Bethesda Park, an amusement park in Alta Vista that was destroyed by a hurricane in 1896. The trolley line merged with the Georgetown and Tenallytown Railway Company in 1897. It was extended to Rockville in 1900 and continued to carry passengers from Washington to Rockville until 1935, when buses replaced the trolleys.

The major features of the trail are the two overpasses over I-270 and the Capital Beltway. Those were completed in 2003, allowing walkers and bicyclists an easy way to avoid the highways that had been major impediments.

Much of the route is still along sidewalks and roads, including north of Edson Lane in North Bethesda and a section in Bethesda south of Charles Street to just south of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Montgomery County is steadily improving the trail. In 2014, the county installed a protected cycle track along Woodglen Drive in North Bethesda—just north of where the off-road portion of the trail ends at Edson Lane.

The federal government-funded intersection improvement project at Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Lane in Bethesda includes building wider sidewalks for trail users from Charles Street to Alta Vista Road and from Center Drive to Lincoln Drive.

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