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Fort Worth, Texas: Tandy Subway

History

During its lifetime, Fort Worth's Tandy Subway was the only privately-owned subway line in the United States. It was originally built by the Leonard brothers, Marvin and Obadiah (Obie), to connect their department store with a remote parking lot. It opened on 15 February 1963 as the Leonards M&O Subway, using modified PCC cars from Washington, DC's recently abandoned streetcar system.

In 1967, Tandy Corporation (owner of the Radio Shack electronics stores) bought the Leonard Brothers department store. The store and subway continued to operate under the Leonards name until 1974, when Tandy sold the store business to the Dillard's chain. Tandy demolished the department store buildings and built on the site the Charles D. Tandy Center, with two office towers (one of which housed Tandy headquarters) and a shopping mall (anchored by a Dillard's store). The entire complex was completed in 1978.

Tandy built a new underground subway terminal and put boxy new bodies on the cars. They no longer looked like PCCs although they still had the original chassis and electrical and running equipment.

The shopping mall was never very successful, and by 1995 Dillard's had closed its store. In 1996 the mall was reborn as the Fort Worth Outlet Square, with a collection of discount-price stores.

In December 2001, Radio Shack Corporation (to which Tandy had changed its name the previous year) sold the Tandy Center to the PNL Companies. Early in 2002 Radio Shack announced that it would build a new headquarters building on the site of a public-housing complex next to the Tandy Center parking lot. It would no longer need the subway, and in fact would have to use some of the parking lot (including some of the subway facilities) as a staging area for construction. The subway ran for the last time on 30 August 2002.

One of the Tandy Subway cars now runs (after some modification) on the M-Line (McKinnney Avenue Transit Authority) heritage streetcar route in Dallas, where it has been dubbed Winnie (as in Winnebago).

Description

The Tandy Subway ran northward along Taylor Street from an underground station between Weatherford and 2nd Streets (next to the entrance to the Tandy Center shopping mall) to a portal in the Trinity River bluff, then westward through a large parking lot along the river. The total length was about 0.7 mile (1.1 km), of which about 0.2 mile (0.35 km) was underground.

The terminal was originally located just north of 2nd Street, and exited into the basement of the Leonards store. When the Tandy Center was built, the terminal was relocated to just north of where 1st Street would intersect Taylor if it ran through there. The tunnel was also excavated further south to 3rd Street, but this was never used; instead, a restaurant kitchen was placed in it at about 2nd Street. [Thanks to Jamie Terrell for this information.]

The line was mostly double track (left-hand operation) with a short stretch of single track at the outer end, and a single-track spur to the carbarn. At the Tandy Center end, the two tracks merged into a single track just before entering the station, then split into three stub tracks inside the station. In the parking lot there were four stations, simple metal shelters named (imaginatively enough) Stop 1 through Stop 4. Cars stopped at each station only once on a trip out and back through the parking lot. In physical sequence proceeding outward from the tunnel portal:

Stop 4 inbound only
Stop 1 outbound only
Stop 2 outbound only
Stop 3 turnaround point

On the outside, the rebodied cars were white with colored panels along the sides, a different color for each car. Doors were on one side only, on the right side heading outbound and on the left side heading inbound. All stations had high-platform boarding, so the original PCC doors had to be modified accordingly. Inside, the cars had longitudinal seats, and were upholstered and painted in a color more or less matching the exterior side panels. There were controls at both ends, for double-ended operations.

The cars had two trolley poles, mounted back to back near one end of the car. At the turnaround points (the Tandy Center and Stop 3), the operator raised and lowered the poles remotely via controls on the console. Inverted V-shaped shrouds above the overhead wire at those two locations guided the rising pole onto the wire. The overhead wire was lower than normal, only a foot or two above the roof of the car, and the trolley poles were correspondingly shorter than normal, which helped make the automatic pole-raising mechanism reliable.

Pictures

These pictures were taken on 24 June 2002, about two months before the end of service.

[picture] From the handicap ramp at the southeast corner of the Tandy Center terminal, we get a good overall view showing the three tracks.

[picture] From the southwest corner of the terminal, we watch a car pulling into the left-hand track as passengers wait to board. When the operator switches ends, she will press a button on the console which lowers the rear trolley pole and raises the front one; the inverted V-shaped trough will guide the rising pole onto the wire.

[picture] A view from near the north end of the terminal, looking north towards the exit. From the exit, one could turn left to the Tandy Center and the Fort Worth Outlet Square on the east side of Taylor Street; or right to the sunken outdoor plaza of the Tandy Technology Center on the west side of Taylor.

[picture] When the right-hand track at the terminal is vacant, we can get a good view of a car emerging from the tunnel and turning onto the left-hand track.

[picture] Interior of a car, showing the upholstered longitudinal seats.

[picture] An outbound car emerges from the tunnel portal at the edge of the parking lot.

[picture] A view from above the tunnel portal, looking down the tracks toward Stop 4.

[picture] Two cars pass at Stop 4 amid a sea of automobiles, in a telephoto view with the Main Street bridge in the background.

[picture] Passengers disembark at Stop 1, in a telephoto view from the Henderson Street bridge.

[picture] Inside Stop 1, a family watches an outbound car arrive.

[picture] An overall view of the east half of the parking lot from the Henderson Street bridge. Stop 1 is in the foreground and Stop 4 is in the distance. The tunnel portal is just out of sight behind the trees to the right of Stop 4.

[picture] An overall view of the west half of the parking lot from the Henderson Street bridge. Stop 2 is in the foreground, with an inbound car passing behind it; at the right is Stop 3 and the end of track; and at the left rear is the carbarn.

[picture] At the Henderson Street entrance to the parking lot, a sign invites shoppers to the Fort Worth Outlet Square with "FREE SUBWAY / FREE PARKING" as a subway car passes in the background.

[picture] The end of the line at Stop 3.

[picture] Just before Stop 3, the spur to the carbarn turns off.

[picture] In front of the carbarn is the only grade crossing of the tracks. Note the "Low Clearance" sign for the trolley wire.

[picture] Looking inside the carbarn doors, we get a glimpse of the interior.

[picture] Outside the carbarn sits a ex-Chicago PCC-type rapid transit car which was presumably used for spare parts.

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This page was last updated on 15 May 2005, and links checked on 27 April 2009.


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