In July of 1989 the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority achieved its goal of returning streetcar service to the city of Dallas, Texas when the streetcars began rolling down the tracks in the Uptown district. All the cars are authentic streetcars and run 365 days a year with no fee to riders. They can be chartered for private events too.
Petunia was part of an order of 25 cars from the J.G. Brill Company and was introducted into service in 1920 by the Dallas Railway Company. While she featured many safety improvements her ride was bumpy and uncomfortable to riders. She remained in service until 1947 and then was stripped of wheels, motor, and electrical wiring and converted into a residence. Today, thankfully, she has been re-fitted with shock absorbers.
I rode Petunia in 2015 and was delighted with her details as well as the Uptown neighborhood. At the end of the line the driver takes a break while the trolley is turned around via a large rotating wheel. Petunia has doors and operating contrals at either end of the car. At that time the M-Line (as it is nicknamed) was pet friendly although I had a struggle getting the dog on and off as the steps were steep!
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Betty was built in 1926 by American Car Company for the Dallas Railway and Terminal Company and was still in service in 1956 when Dallas ended their trolley routes. She was then converted into a children’s playhouse. Upon her return to Dallas she was renovated and equipped with air-conditioning.
I rode her in July 2017 and was delighted with her interior and once again enjoyed the ride. The afternoon was cool as rain showers were approaching and the windows on the trolley were open. As I stepped on I asked if dogs were permitted as there was no mention on their web site about still being dog friendly. The operator said no, but told me to come on board that it was okay since he had a mini dachshund at home! I hopped on and Bree enjoyed her ride, even sniffing the air through an open window.
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What is a trolley and how does it operate? The McKinney Avenue Transit Authority web site offers this explanation:
A trolley car (or streetcar) is similar to a railroad passenger car. Like a train, a streetcar runs on a set of rails. Streetcar tracks are usually in or alongside city streets. An electric streetcar is sometimes referred to as a “trolley”, because it has a special pole that extends from the roof of the car to an electrified overhead wire, similar to a telephone or utility cable. The trolley pole collects power from this overhead cable and sends it to the motors located underneath the streetcar. The operator “drives” the streetcar with a controller.
The first street cars were introduced in 1828 and were pulled by horses or mules. The first electric powered streetcars began operating in 1888 in Richmond, Virginia and quickly caught on in other cities. Just to note that San Francisco’s famous streetcars are actually cable cars that are pulled along by a special cable located under the street in a slot between the rails; they have been operating continuously for over 100 years.
Dallas discontinued their streetcar service in 1956 after pressure from various groups. The 4 remaining streetcar lines were closed and Dallas opted for modern bus service.
Funding for the M-Line operational costs is provided through an agreement with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit as well as donations from other sources including public donations. To see a schedule click on the link above.