DALLAS, Texas — Over in Uptown Dallas, the history that literary lines the streets starts telling its story everyday as soon as the sun starts beam over the high-rises just a few blocks away.
That’s when the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority opens the gates and floods the streets with memories of days gone by, all with the ring of a bell.
With the morning rush at full steam ahead, some opt for a more public type of transportation, one that’s been a part of this Dallas neighborhood since the late 1800’s.
Phil Cobb is the Cofounder of the McKinney Avenue Trolley, a project that got underway when the tracks were rediscovered in the early 80’s.
“We heard rumors that there might be trolley tracks underneath the asphalt and sure enough there were,” Phil said. “We had uncovered five blocks of asphalt on the Kenny Avenue and a neighborhood beautification project.”
Ed Landrum, the McKinney Avenue trolley’s other founder researched the rails which were last used in 1956 and he found out the lines still had at least 50 years of life left in them. That’s when Phil and Ed found some old footage of what uptown used to be like, when the trolley was a distant memory in Big D’s past.
“I was hooked almost at that moment and went out to his house that night,” Phil said. “He had some eight millimeter film of 1956 wind-up of the street car service in Dallas, Texas the last time they ran. I asked him to run it fifteen times at his house. … The hook was in my mouth and I felt sort of, almost a religious calling, to see if I could pull it off. I had other people of course with me, including it.”
After 6 years of work and 2 federal grants Phil and Ed along with many others put the McKinney Avenue Trolley back into service and in 1989, 33 years since it had last run on the rails, the McKinney Avenue Trolley once again transferred Texans up and down the tracks.
You’ll find all sort of different trolleys on the line but the one everyone comes to see is Rosie.
“She is the oldest, known, operating streetcar in North America,” Phil said.
Originally built in 1909 in Philidelphia, Rosie was shipped to Portugal where she saw 70 years of history, then she saw a short stint in San Fransicos before Phil purchased the trolley from a private collector.
“I negotiated over the phone with him and bought the car for $57,000, over the phone, and shipped it the next day to Dallas, Texas,” Phil said. “She was our first car.”
Tony Powell is the shop superintendent and he describes his job with one word: fun.
Turns out the trolley caretakers aren’t just taking care of the cars, they’re also taking care of this crossroad of city and they’ve become part of the extended family of uptown.
“We get our regulars and they come in and they do this and they bring us things at different times of the years,” Tony said. “You know they make a cake, man we might get part of it, you know they will bring one down, cookies, you know donuts onto cars. Yeah, we are just a big part of the neighborhood, the uptown neighborhood, and it’s all one big family.”
And even when the regulars see Rosie, they come out to ride.
“These guys come out of these offices and these fancy suites and ladies with their nice dress office wear everything you know they come out to ride Rosy in 110 degree weather and sweat you know just to be able to ride Rosy,” Tony said.
The best part of getting to experience this historical piece of Texas transportation is the price. Whoever said you’ll never get a free ride was wrong.
With the M-Line’s partnership with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the trolley is free to riders and is even being expanded into downtown. Despite being lost of over three decades, the McKinney Avenue Trolley is back on track for generations of Texas down the line to enjoy this magical method of moving the masses.
“If you like history and want to be a part of history, you should come ride the McKinney Trolley in Dallas, Texas,” Phil said.