Back in June, the plot of land near the Cityplace DART station at Haskell and N. Central Expressway was a vacant lot with a big hole and a big plan. It would be the future site of a trolley turntable, a novelty attraction to be sure, but with the purpose of redirecting an expanding fleet in one direction, instead of backward and forward like the current inventory of vintage streetcars.
Last night, the new turntable had its first go-round, rotating a car packed with those who had helped move the project from concept to reality. The station lit up in neon as the Green Dragon trolley, decorated with garland, slowly rotated. To someone unfamiliar with Dallas's recent propensity for viva Las Vegasing, the turntable may have looked more like a landing pad for UFOs with the darting laser lights around its circumference. But the hyper-modern display was only meant to highlight the subject of the fuss, the trolleys from the early 1900s.
Neal Sleeper of Cityplace, which owns the land and donated space for the turntable site, gave a brief history of the project to the crowd gathered at Cork wine bar to celebrate the opening. The idea took shape more than a dozen years ago, he said. But planning, financing, design and building lasted until last night.
Council member Angela Hunt called it a "great public-private partnership," a cherry on top of Uptown revitalization. "This turntable, I think, is just fantastic," she told the crowd.
State Rep. Dan Branch likewise gave the turntable his nod of approval. "Everybody thought trolleys were going away in the '50s," he said. Not in Uptown, the "coolest," "funnest" neighborhood, in his opinion.
"The trolley is Uptown, and Uptown is the trolley," said Joseph Pitchford of the Uptown Public Improvement District. "Thank you very much, taxpayers, thank you," he added.
In other trolley news, the track extension, that partially federally funded loop through downtown, is expected to be completed by July 2013. While the antique vehicles may not be the most fast-paced or practical mode of transportation, there's little debate that they're damn cute.
Settling in for a ride on the plush benches of the perfectly maintained Matilda trolley, Sleeper said that the turntable's location a few steps away from the Cityplace DART station makes the trolley a significant transportation connection, more than just a charming novelty. Approaching the turntable as it was about to spin the Green Dragon trolley, Slepper said, "I've been waiting for this moment we're about to see for a lifetime."
Then, with the push of a button, the trolley spun slowly within the circle of flashing lights like a prized game-show showcase.