• Katey Ladika

Abandoned Pennsylvania: Trolley Graveyard review

The Instagram trend of being “featured” or showcased on various pages devoted to art photography have become increasingly popular. As a user scrolls through their feed,certain names pop up time and time again prompting the, what I can only describe as, “Fad Centric” set of photographers to tag their images in the hopes of seeing their photographic works attached to the popular atmosphere.

With pages such as these, topics, locations, and shooting styles seem to become repetitive as each user spends a hefty amount of time editing their photographs in a way that mimics those who were featured before them. One of these repetitive topics is the Trolley Graveyard located in Windber, Pennsylvania.

Now, I have heard of this “Trolley Graveyard” before it had even hit the Instagram scene, but as it gained popularity and because I, with my weird sense of adventure, love finding places in total decay, thought I should pay it a visit and see if it was really worth the hype.

To begin, it must be noted the Trolley Graveyard isn't a place you can simply drive too. If you really want to see this mass grave of rust and glass, you must first hike your way over mud drenched forest land and through one, incredibly sketchy looking hobo camp to find the beginnings of the tracks. There is a worn footpath directing your way through the woods in a rather scenic manner and frankly, if I hadn't been so dead set on photographing the dilapidation of the trolleys, I would have documented the trails around the location as well!

For me, this is a perfectly serene environment. I often find myself at home in places that would usually be found as an oddity, but if you are easily frightful to the unknown, I suggest you really think twice before starting your journey into the treeline described above.

As you make your way through the trees, you begin seeing the orange and brown tops of the trolley bodies pop up over the horizon. At this point, I decided to create my own path and braved the steep hillside to tromp to the trolley that best caught my eye. There is an easier way to go if you aren't up for a little "off roading" though.

The trolleys themselves are a spectacular sight. Imagine a quarter mile of lost history waiting to be photographed! I found myself giddy with joy at the thought of the possible art concepts that can be made in this "graveyard". Believe me when I say, this place brings inspiration into mind that one may never think possible.

For this shoot, I brought one of my college friends along for the ride. Gage, who is currently in his freshman year studying Graphic Design/Interactive Design, is one of my incredibly photogenic classmates. I had Gage's wardrobe mimic that of an old fashioned conductor and based the entirety of the shoot playing his red neck scarf off the cool tones of the trolleys. This monotonous photo story-like concept is something I hadn't seen yet in any of the past posts tagged #TrolleyGraveyard and from what I have seen, it hadn't been done before on any scale. Gage was a huge help in making this photos come to life and I couldn't have done it without his artistic help!

On to the location of the shoot, the beginning of the trolley homestead houses the newest models. As you progress your way down the line of cars, slowly you see the timeline of weather and oxidation right before your eyes. The final cars in the long line are remnants of the general shape of the trolley, though I would argue the rusted bodies are only being held together by a loose strand. It is obvious that those vehicles have been stored there for much, much longer than the first cars you approach, though this makes a good contrast between old and new.

If you are wondering if you are able to actually get into the cars, you'd be pleasantly surprised that pretty much every trolley has an access point. Whether it be a simple open door or a crawl space big enough for a person to hoist himself aboard, I found myself sitting in the seats of each trolley as if I were a passenger back in their hay day.

The flooring of the trolleys isn't the safest playground. I would recommend you keep your feet balanced on the center support beam to make sure your leg isn't pitched between two rotting planks. It should be noted that I did receive a giant bruise on my thigh from smacking it off of a trolley handrail as I pulled myself up 4 feet to one of the larger trolley platforms, but otherwise, I feel these rusted trolleys are fairly safe.

Now, from the first few paragraphs of this review, the reader may think that, because of my love of this location, the cars are in perfect condition.... You'd be incorrect. Every one of the featured trolleys have a disappointing amount of graffiti and vandalism across the vehicle body. Smashed windows and glass plague the grounds and smoke grenade wrappers litter the tracks. I suppose if you are the type of person who enjoys this sort of destructive scene then you'd be in ecstasy, but, for me, this is a huge downside.

*****A little Public Service Announcement for those who deem themselves "adventurers", "photographers", or the like: When you visit a location, no matter if it is abandoned or not, be respectful. Do not leave your garbage, do not smash the property, and do not spray paint your life story across every tangible object in sight. No one cares that you are "UPJ Class of 2020" and no one will follow you on Instagram if you put your handle. If you are one of those people who prefers to just spray paint profanity for the "fun" of it: there is no need to destroy such a beautiful location because you have no respect..*****

So, the Trolley Graveyard... an interesting place for an adventure? Yes! I would say this particular Abandoned Pennsylvania location is one of the top places in the Western Pennsylvania area! Although there are a few negative aspects of the Graveyard, such as the overuse and the vandalism, the historical elements triumph those few things listed as "Cons". I hope that I will get the honor to shoot a more in-depth photo shoot in the near future, but until then, I will be doing my research on new places to explore.

Disclaimer: No image can be taken for commercial or personal use without prior consent from the artist.  

© 2019 Katey Ladika