The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

McKinney trolley continues to bring in volunteers

Richard Moore stands at the front of the trolley, with a wooden handle in one hand that keeps the streetcar on the tracks, and another hand on the black iron break.

As he chugs along Cole Avenue, he steps on a brass pedal causing bells to chime that warn pedestrians and cars the trolley is turning.

When the red trolley comes to a complete stop in front of Boarders Books, he cranks the gold brass steering wheel to set the parking break, steps off to welcome new passengers onto the most historical transit in Texas, and he does it all for free.

“People volunteer to conduct the streetcars for all different reasons. For me, I get to relive my childhood and take people on a journey through history,” said Moore, who grew up in Dallas during the 1940s.

For the past 20 years, the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority has been operating the largest volunteer-run transit system in the world.

The more than 50 volunteers that keep the transit authority running, have gone through intensive training to become certified to drive the streetcars.

There are four cars that operate daily, taking passengers throughout uptown and downtown Dallas, free of charge.

The transit authority is a volunteer-run system in large part because the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority as well as the Uptown and Downtown Public Improvement Districts pay for the annual operating expenses. The M-Line also makes profits from gift shop retail sales, advertising companies, private donations and membership fees.

“There is an American love affair with the steel wheel and the steel rail. Everyone is related in some way to someone who has worked on the railroad. This romance to the rails keeps the M-Line prevalent,” says John Landrum, the Chief Operating Officer of the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority.

The electric trolley was invented in 1902 and was very popular in San Francisco and Chicago but the city of Dallas did not have a trolley system until 1917.

In the 1920s, University Park was a “streetcar suburb,” taking people in and out of downtown Dallas for work.

Southern Methodist University was a hub for the streetcar in the 20s as well.

SMU students nicknamed their trolley the Green Dragon because of its green exterior. The car is still in use, and to this day remains known as the Green Dragon.

By the 1950s the trolley fad died, and the Dallas Railway and Terminal Company shut down the streetcars in 1956.

In 1989, the transit authority brought the trolleys back and was bombarded by eager volunteers willing to conduct the cars.

Some volunteers have an interest in certain models of trolley cars, but for most, the trolleys represent beloved element of childhood memories.

“When I was a kid, I lived on Graham Street in downtown Dallas, and my older sisters would take me on a trolley and we would go to the Forest Lane Theater. Those memories sparked my love for the cars,” Moore said.

The McKinney Trolley recently celebrated its 20th anniversary last September, and the transit’s oldest car, Rosie, turned 100, making her the oldest running trolley in North America.

Such milestones have led way into a lot of publicity and a wave of new passengers.

Morgan Predieri, an SMU junior marketing major, has been riding the trolley ever since coming to SMU three years ago.

“It is just really cool to get a whole new perspective on the city of Dallas by riding the trolley, especially when it is a nice day.”

There is no doubt that by riding the trolley one learns interesting facts about passing buildings and landmarks. Such Information could not be heard by riding a bus or car.

While passing the McKinney Tavern, Moore points out to the passengers that the tavern was owned by Jack Ruby, the man who killed JFK’s assassin.

On North Haskell Avenue, Moore points to North Dallas High School and tells the story of a boy named Fred Avery who graduated from the high school in 1929 with an idea of a cartoon character that became known in 1933 as Bugs Bunny.

This love of history keeps many passengers loyal. Parents bring their children for a day on the town, and commuters enjoy an alternative ride to work.

Last year alone, the transit authority had 309,106 passengers traveling on the trolleys.

There is a new youth volunteer group at the M-Line that offers children from ages 14-18 to act as junior conductors.

Landrum says he hopes this will help encourage young people to have an interest in streetcars, an interest that is shared with all of the transit authority’s volunteers.

“It’s not every day that you can have fun driving a 26 ton vehicle while also performing a useful job,” Moore said.

More to Discover