The Green Dragon

I have ridden and written about three of the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority trolley cars – Petunia, Matilda, and Rosie. There was one more that I had never ridden (or at least didn’t remember riding) – The Green Dragon (MATA does have one more car – but it’s used for maintenance. They have several more being restored).

The Green Dragon is an unusual looking car. The driver’s station at each end looks like it was tacked onto a regular car. Its roof is flat and sort of sticks out and even looks like it dangles down a little bit.

It was built in 1913 (it will be a hundred years old next year) and ran in Dallas for 46 years. It ran on McKinney avenue and the SMU students gave it the nickname “Green Dragon” back in the day. She was retired in 1956 and used as a hay barn in North Dallas for a few decades. For a while it was used to display Roger Staubach’s Jersey in a sports museum in Grand Prairie.

I was happy to see the Green Dragon pull up to the Central Expressway Trolley stop. She is a large car and has a very smooth ride. From the inside, you can see the wooden bulkhead that marks the transition from the curved roof of the car to the flat roof of the cab. It doesn’t look as odd inside as it does when the car is clanking down the track.

The Green Dragon is a sweet ride and a great way to get around Uptown.

Riding the Uptown Trolley

Vintage ‘Green Dragon’ Trolley Damaged

Green Dragon Facebook Photoset

Petunia

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.

The old streetcar next to the Art Museum and the glass towers of downtown.

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.

MATA Photo - Petunia before restoration.

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.

Petunia in Uptown, at the other end of the line.

The Streetcar Renaissance in Dallas

Tour Dallas By Trolley

The On-Line Birney Safety Car Museum

The Birney Safety Car

McKinney Avenue Trolley’s fleet

Texas Streetcar Systems – Dallas

Rosie

I was sitting around with a head full of memories of one of my favorite things – the St. Charles Streetcar in New Orleans. I came to a sudden realization – Dallas has a streetcar too. It isn’t as famous or as beautiful – but it is there

It’s called the McKinney Avenue Trolley, or the M-Line. It’s an important part of Dallas’ hard work at becoming a real city, with a vibrant downtown. The line has been here for quite some time, and runs along McKinney Avenue from the Downtown Arts District out through the West Village and on to connect up with the DART train line at the underground Cityplace Station. Although it is operated by DART, the trolley is free.

Originally, the trolley was viewed as a small, quaint tourist attraction – and it is. However, now that a large population is beginning to move into tony uptown condominiums it is becoming an important transportation artery for the young professionals to get to their offices in downtown. Now, the trolley line is about to expand – first through the new park being constructed atop the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, then on through downtown and across the river into Oak Cliff.

Again, I remembered the trolley as I was on the DART train headed downtown and decided to take a ride. As I walked along the sidewalk a couple of tourists from Henderson, Nevada asked what train to take to catch the trolley.

“Well, actually, the trolley is only a few blocks away, and I’m walking there now, I’ll be glad to show you,” I said.

“Does it go around downtown?”

“No, it doesn’t go around through the skyscrapers. It goes out through Uptown, which is more interesting anyway – there’s a lot of restaurants, shops, and stuff.”

So we chatted as we walked. I always wonder about tourists in Dallas. It’s a pretty nice place to live, but a terrible place to visit. It’s not a tourist type of place.

So I dropped them off at the trolley stop by the Dallas Museum of Art and went on – I wanted to visit a couple other places before I rode the trolley. A couple hours later I was back and sat down to wait for a car. While I waited, trying to read a little, I was bothered by an aggressive, obnoxious panhandler who became abusive when I didn’t give him any money.

Experiences like that make it difficult to maintain feelings of charity and goodwill to all even during the holiday seasons. Downtown is getting a growing population of hard-core homeless panhandlers that are becoming problematic as the city is trying to increase the livability of the place.

While he was yelling at me, my streetcar arrived so I turned and got on board. The car was packed with about half tourists and half office workers on the way home. The residents helped the tourists with information on the trolley route and points of interest along the way.

Dallas doesn’t have a neutral ground like New Orleans does, so the streetcar has to fight its way through traffic like everybody else. It makes for a slow, rattling ride.

Another difference between Dallas and New Orleans is that here, all the streetcars are unique. This day, I was lucky enough to draw Rosie, the oldest operating streetcar in the country.

Rosie, turning around at Cityplace

She looks good for 102 years old

Rosie was built in Philadelphia by the J.G. Brill company in 1909. It spend many years running along the rails in Porto, Portugal. It was the first car that the M-Line restored and ran on the opening day in 1989. Since it ran past and was sponsored by the Crescent development they gave it the name “The Crescent Rose.” This was shortened to “Rosie.” Since it is now over a hundred years old, it is usually used for special events and charters, it was a rare treat to have it out on a regular run. It’s a popular car – a common subject (another).

Down at Cityplace Station they are building a turntable so that they can begin operating some trolleys they have that are only able to run one way.

The turntable under construction

I wasn’t in the best of moods and the trolley still can’t hold a candle to the St. Charles line – but I am excited about the plans for expansion. I can see sitting for a while watching that turntable go round. I think I need to come down some more and ride some of the other trolley cars – the “Green Dragon” looks like fun