By Sharon Kurtz ~
As I traveled the tracks on the McKinney Avenue Trolley, I couldn’t help but sing Judy Garland’s “The Trolley Song” to myself.
Trolleying through Dallas’s vibrant Uptown neighborhood — while hopping on and off at leisure, all along the line —is a great way to spend a day.
In 1956, the streetcars in Dallas stopped running, making way for more modern modes of transportation. But, in 1985, the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority returned heritage streetcars to Dallas. MATA is the only non-profit transit authority in America, and its streetcars are authentic, vintage trolleys. They’re free to ride along the nearly five miles of track through Uptown and the Downtown Arts District.
Vintage Trolley Cars
MATA has seven vintage trolleys in its fleet. Each is unique, with its own history, personality, and name.
“Rosie,” built in 1909, was the very first trolley and is known for her elegant stained-glass panels. She’s also the oldest trolley in continuous service in North America.
“Betty” and “Petunia” are both lifelong Dallas streetcars, whereas “Emma” was built in the US, but operated in Belgium for more than 40 years before joining her sister trolleys here.
Car #186, built in 1913, served riders on the SMU/Highland Park line for 43 years; SMU students christened her “Green Dragon.” Restored in 1989, she continues to delight riders to the present day.
Keeping these vintage trolleys in working order is no small task, and thanks to the resourceful skills of the staff and volunteers in MATA’s Car Barn, the historic trolleys are always ready for the next run.
Vic Cervantes, President of MATA, has heard many stories from today’s trolley riders.
“Either their parents took the trolley, or they did when they were children,” he said. “Some even rode to school on the trolley, or they met their wives or husbands on the trolley. We are proud of the role we play conjuring wonderful memories for our riders.”
I hopped aboard at the Uptown Station turntable at the northern end of the M-line. Operator James Kropp has been a “motorman” on the trolley for 13 years — his second act after retiring from a 33-year career in Dallas. Part trolley-operator, part tour guide and ambassador for the City of Dallas, Mr. Kropp kept me entertained with interesting facts and Dallas history as we rolled along the tracks.
Riding the full route takes about an hour and offers more than 30 stops. With shopping, restaurants, and museums in the Downtown Arts District to entice you, you’re be glad to make a day of it.
It’s the mission of the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority to maintain the unique ambiance and historic character of its vintage trolley service. The experience of riding on one of the classic trolleys is a must for both visitors and Dallasites alike.
You can learn more about the M-line Trolley, along with its hours of operation, at mata.org.