Molly the Trolley - Bus Conversion

Jan. 13, 2011
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority recently took two buses out of its fleet and converted them into trolley "look-alikes" to increase its circulator fleet with a cost-efficient alternative.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) runs a circulator route called “Molly the Trolley” through the downtown area seven days a week and to the Fort Worth Stockyards on Saturdays.  For this service, we use year 2000 Chance trolleys. Since implementation of this service, it has become more and more popular with the locals as well as visitors to the city. This vehicle is no longer produced, so it became apparent that we needed to augment this fleet in order to maintain the service our customers have become accustomed to. We took two transit vehicles out of the bus fleet and converted them to a trolley “look-alike.” We decided on two 30’ buses that were soon to be removed from service because of age. Since the “Molly” duty cycle is significantly less strenuous than a transit cycle, we decided that it was economically feasible to supplement our trolley fleet without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for new vehicles. Augmenting the trolley fleet also will be helpful to cover the extended service, longer hours and the addition of a Cultural District route that the trolleys will operate during Fort Worth Super Week, Jan. 28 – Feb. 6, when North Texas hosts the big game. The bus-to-trolley conversion process began by stripping and painting the vehicles green to match the existing fleet. This was fairly inexpensive since we already had most of the materials on hand. We decided to use Japanese mahogany rather than Philippine mahogany, because it was cheaper and we could purchase it from a vendor just down the street. An added bonus was the awesome appearance of the grain in the wood after applying the stain and sealer. The interior was given a facelift by adding wood slats to the existing seat frames to appear like traditional trolley seats. Some additional slats were added to other areas to enhance the interior appearance. Of course no trolley would be the same without a bell which was left over from a trolley that we had previously done away with. Our body shop also designed and fabricated a replica cow catcher for the front to provide the traditional trolley look. Since all of our vehicles run on compressed natural gas, the tanks are mounted on top. This provided us the opportunity to design windows to simulate a cupola, which is also necessary to present the trolley look. This was a fun project as well as one that met the needs of our customers. The personnel in our body shop were able to expand their creative talents to come up with ways of making this transformation take place whenever they weren’t required to work on day-to-day requirements. To see some of the steps to this process, click here. Ron Anderson is the maintenance director for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T).