Converted buses popular with Ft. Worth trolley customers

Customers of the Fort Worth Transit Authority are enjoying the experience riding on decorative trolleys that have been converted out of older New Flyer buses.

Increased trolley service downtown was needed due to the popularity of its Molly the Trolley vehicles, but the city didn’t have the equipment to do it. The T owned year 2000 Chance trolleys, but officials decided they needed more. One problem: the trolleys were no longer being produced.

The T came up with a plan to convert two older 30-foot transit buses and make them look like trolleys.

“We had converted a vehicle maybe 15 years ago to make a bus look like a trolley,” said Ron Anderson, the director of maintenance at The T. “We thought hey, we’ve done this before and let’s try again. It was a decision to try to supplement the trolley fleet.”

First, body shop workers cleaned the buses, applied a coat of green trolley paint, and then cut lengths of Japanese mahogany and used rivets to attach them on the side of the vehicles. A simple coat of stain and sealer brought out the wood’s grain, giving it an antique look.

The machine shop fabricated some items like the cow catcher – made out of chain-link fence – that was attached on the front. Inside, the seats were recovered with a combination of polished wood and leather. Stainless steel railings were powder-coated to look like brass. The only thing they used off an old trolley was the bell.

Since the “new” trolleys ran on CNG, the tanks were mounted on top, which gave designers the idea to add a windowed cupola.

“Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a trolley, we spent about $5,000 per vehicle and got a lookalike trolley,” Anderson said.

To keep the trolleys out of the blistering Texas summer sun, canopies have been built to park the trolleys in the shade.

“The problem is the trolleys are big, but the air condition system is an automotive-type air system,” Anderson said. “It’s not that robust, so you need all the help you can get.”

— Glenn Swain