- Greg Christensen, Atlas Obscura

Fixing the World’s Oldest Trolleys Is Like Solving a Century-Old Jigsaw Puzzle

As mechanics at the Car Barn in Dallas know, you can’t just order a part from 1909.

The Car Barn sits adjacent to a timeworn cemetery, tucked away from a cluster of upscale restaurants in the Uptown neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. This large warehouse is the maintenance garage for the city’s historic M-Line trolleys. Inside is a seemingly scattered collection of woodworking benches, tool racks, and an assortment of giant and very heavy axles. When the Car Barn’s two enormous garage doors are open, the space reverberates with the loud hum of industrial fans and the high-pitched whirs of air pressure drills. Here in a former mattress warehouse, now a restoration and repair shop, is where Dallas’s newly acquired historic trolley cars are painstakingly restored and the current fleet is affectionately maintained.

The mismatched trolleys are perhaps the most eclectic operable collection in the United States, currently run by the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority (MATA). The street cars were cobbled together from various countries and across decades. For example, the car known as Emma came to Dallas from Brussels and has a narrower body, better suited for European streets. Matilda is much bulkier and ran for six decades in Melbourne, Australia before being shipped to Texas. Rosie was built in Philadelphia in 1909 and then shipped to Portugal, where it ran for 79 years before being bought by a private collector in San Francisco. Today, it’s the oldest operating historic trolley car in North America.

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