There are four operating passenger streetcars in the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority‘s fleet of trolley cars. I had ridden (and written about) two of them – Matilda and Rosie. I decided to take a shot at getting on another of them and sat down at the trolley stop next to the Dallas Museum of Art and pulled out my Kindle to read a bit and wait for the car.
I was rewarded when a little streetcar named Petunia pulled up. I had not ridden this one yet.
Petunia was built in 1920 and is a “Birney Safety Car” named after her designer, Charles O Birney. Birneys were known for their bouncy ride. Petunia ran in Dallas until 1947. For the next 30 years, she was stripped of her running gear, then equipped with a stove, sink, bed, refrigerator, easy chair, and blue curtains, and used for a residence. She was acquired by MATA and rebuilt – with shock absorbers added to even out the ride.
She was packed with shoppers, commuters, and tourists (and me) and off we went across Woodall Rodgers and up McKinney Avenue. I chatted with some folks about child-raising and looked at all the folks eating in the restaurants and walking from bar to bar. Some young tourists kept going up to the streetcar engineer with a map on an iPad and tried to show him where they were trying to get to, but nobody could figure anything out.
The added shocks must work because Petunia has a much sweeter ride than the similarly sized Rosie. It was a fun and comfortable trip uptown.
There is something really cool about a trolley – whether it’s clanking through the crowded streets of Dallas or the misty neutral ground of New Orleans. There are plans for a real expansion of the trolley in Dallas… through the new park nearing construction on across the river into Oak Cliff. I wish they would hurry up – nobody lives forever.
The Streetcar Renaissance in Dallas
The On-Line Birney Safety Car Museum
McKinney Avenue Trolley’s fleet