MATA trolley

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MATA trolley
Car 180 (ex-Porto) of the first generation in the pedestrian area of ​​Main Street
Basic information
Country United States
city Memphis
opening April 29, 1993
operator Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA)
Route length 13.3 km
Gauge 1435 mm ( standard gauge )
Power system 600 volts = overhead line
Stops 24
Depots 1
Lines 3
Clock in the peak hours 10-16 min
vehicles 18th
Passengers approx. 900,000 annually (1999)

The MATA Trolley is a tram in Memphis in the state of Tennessee in the United States. MATA is an acronym for the operating company Memphis Area Transit Authority . “Trolley” stands in English for the roller at the upper end of the pantograph and is also used in a broader sense for the pantograph itself. "Trolley car" is (like "Streetcar") an American name for a tram car. While the predecessor company had called its vehicles streetcars , the current system kept its name, although electricity has not been drawn using bars and rollers since 2003.


Car 545 (ex-Melbourne) in the depot
Car 1979 (new build) with pantograph (trolley)

The first electric streetcars (streetcars) ran in Memphis in 1897. The owner was the Memphis Street Railway Company , which also operated trolleybuses from 1931 to 1960 . On June 15, 1947, tram traffic was stopped.

In the late 1980s the construction of a new museum tram for tourist purposes was discussed, which should run along the Mississippi . In January 1990, however, the Memphis City Council decided to build a route in the city center.

The first line of the MATA trolley was tested from March 10, 1993 and opened to public transport on April 29, 1993. It crosses Downtown (city center) along Main Street from north to south for a length of about four kilometers. Mainly intended as a tourist attraction, it only fulfills an inner-city transport function to a limited extent and is inadequately linked to the MATA bus network. The vehicles of the Main Street Line were all trams bought second-hand from Porto in Portugal . They had been built there under license from the JG Brill Company and their dimensions and appearance corresponded to American vehicles of the early twentieth century. The Memphis-based company Kerns-Wilcheck Associates restored them and adapted them to current requirements.

On October 1, 1997, a second line was opened with the Riverfront Line. It has several special features:

  • Conceived as a touristic round trip line (loop), it only travels in one direction counterclockwise on an elongated, largely oval course.
  • In the north-south direction, it mainly uses the former western track of the railway line from Chicago to New Orleans , the eastern track of which is only used once per day in each direction by the legendary City of New Orleans express train .
  • In the opposite direction, it travels the full length of the eastern track of the Market Street Line and branches off to the railway line after its terminus shortly before the depot.
  • The Riverside Loop is used by all existing vehicle types.

With the so far third line along Madison Avenue, the first line with a real traffic function was opened on March 15, 2004. It begins at the Court Square stop, which is also served by the other two lines, and shortly thereafter branches off at right angles from Main Street into Madison Avenue. After about 3.2 kilometers, it reaches its endpoint Cleveland Station, opening up an important hospital area with the Regional Medical Center and the UT Health Science Center .

The commissioning of the new routes made it necessary to increase the vehicle pool. Once again it was decided to use used vehicles, this time four-axle W-class trams (type W2) from Melbourne ( Australia ). Unlike the two-axle vehicles from Porto, such vehicles were not previously in use in the United States. In terms of appearance, the tram cars built at the end of the 1930s matched the previous ones well. In addition, a car from Rio de Janeiro was converted and two more replicas were created.

At the beginning of 2003, during a three-month break in operation, the system was converted from current collection using pantographs to pantographs.

In December 2013 and April 2014, an ex-Melbourne car burned out while traveling on the Madison Avenue Line, the line was then discontinued in May 2014. Traffic on all lines has been at a standstill since June 10, 2014, as most vehicles are classified as obsolete. In 2016, Gomaco acquired the ex-Melbourne railcar 799 (type W5) for overhead line and battery operation; in 2018, operations are to be resumed with eight refurbished and three new railcars.

Routes and lines

On Main Street and Madison Avenue there were already tram lines of the predecessor Memphis Street Railway Company until 1947 .

Civic Center Plaza stop with new build vehicles 1979

Main Street Line

The route runs the full length in the mostly straight street space of Main Street. The northern end point is the North End Terminal stop on Shadyac Avenue, which is a single track in the middle of the street and was recently roofed over. The track is turning track for the Main Street Line, but a through track for the trains of the Riverfront Line and to the depot.

Immediately south of the stop, the line becomes double-track and will continue to do so for the rest of the way. The direction tracks are far apart and allow left-turn lanes in between for road traffic. At the same time, the stop caps on the side are affected in this way without the track pivoting.

Main Street is a pedestrian area between Exchange Avenue and Peabody Place, where the tracks are closer together. The “Trolley Stop” Civic Center Plaza is the most eye-catching one on the net with its glass superstructure. The through station Court Square is also the terminus of the Madison Avenue Line, which turns here on the western track at the platform. Shortly thereafter, this line will be extended to the east, with the existing triangular track being used only from north to east and vice versa.

At the southern end of the pedestrian zone, beyond the Peabody Place station, the tracks move away from each other and, apart from two slight curves, run in a straight line in the street space. The next stop is at the intersection with Beale Street , known as the "home of the blues " and one of the city's biggest tourist attractions. Near the Huling Avenue stop is the former Lorraine Motel (now: National Civil Rights Museum ), on whose balcony the black civil rights activist Martin Luther King was murdered on April 4, 1968 .

Shortly after the terminus Butler Avenue, the line becomes single-track on a marked section in the middle of the street, at the following intersection the Riverfront Loop joins East G E Patterson Avenue as a single track. Immediately behind it is the stub track for the Main Street Line, on which the turning cars wait - right in front of the Memphis Central Station building, without a designated stop system (the main station of the 650,000-inhabitant city of Memphis is only served by a daily pair of trains approached).

Riverfront Loop

As a ring line, the Riverfront Line has no clear start and end point. Between East G E Patterson Avenue and the North End Terminal station, it uses the eastern track of the Main Street Line. After its end point, it drives a few meters on the operating track to the depot, from which it branches off at right angles to the left. For almost a hundred meters it runs on its own route, then crosses in a left curve the track that used to be heading north of the former double-track railway line from Chicago and ends in the track that was once southward.

The tram and railroad run parallel over a length of around 2.6 kilometers. First, the former Pyramid Arena event center , one of the city's landmarks, is reached only a short height above the Mississippi water level . Shortly afterwards, the overhead railway to the Mud Island amusement park is crossed and, on the subsequent ascent along the steep bank, the river itself is briefly touched at a short distance. Once on the plateau, the tram leaves the railway line and drives through a residential and commercial area in the street. Following East G E Patterson Avenue, she passes under the railroad facilities and meets Main Street next to the Central Station building.

Madison Avenue Line

This route was mainly not built for tourist reasons, but rather serves to connect the city center with a hospital complex. Nevertheless, it is operated with old construction vehicles (type "Melbourne") and correspondingly appearing new and converted vehicles. Two-axle Brill-type vehicles do not operate on the Madison Avenue Line.

The line begins on the western platform of the Court Square stop, uses the track south of the Main Street Line for a few meters and turns east at the adjacent Gleisdreieck. It runs on a single track for around 120 meters on a marked area in the middle of the street. After the intersection with 2nd Street, it becomes double-track and remains that way until the end. Unlike the Main Street Line, it has central platforms, only Danny Thomas Boulevard station has side platforms. Here an expressway is crossed, the tracks that otherwise run in the middle of the street have been pulled apart and have their own bridges on both sides of the carriageway.

The 3.5 kilometer long line has a total of seven stops. East of the terminus Cleveland Station is a three-track turning and parking facility in the middle of the street.

Access to the depot

In the course of North Main Street after the junction of the Riverside Loop, the depot is reached after 210 meters. The route is single-track and lies in a marked area in the middle of the street.


  • The Main Street Line now has a function that goes beyond pure tourist traffic. As a cross-city link from north to south, it runs every 10 minutes between 6:25 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and around 1 1/2 hours longer on Fridays. On Saturdays (approx. 9:00 am to 1:00 am) and Sundays (approx. 10:15 am to 6:10 pm) the traffic times have been shortened with the same frequency.
  • A similar timetable applies to the Riverfront Line, but every 13 minutes and operations begin between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
  • The Madison Avenue Line runs every 16 minutes, on weekdays from approximately 6:00 a.m. to 11:05 p.m., on Saturdays two hours longer and on Sundays between 10:15 a.m. and 6:08 p.m.


All vehicles are bidirectional vehicles that turn at Stumpf end points, on the main track or across track changes. A turning track only exists on the premises of the depot, but the vehicles can also be turned at the Main Street / Madison Avenue triangle. All vehicles travel individually, there is no trailer operation or train formation. The existing vehicle types are:

  • Six replicas of American trams made in Portugal under license by Brill. Corresponding vehicles (e.g. former Car 51) were also used on the earlier Memphis tram operated by the Memphis Street Railway Company .
The two-axle bidirectional vehicles date from the 1920s and 1930s. They have the original road numbers 156, 164, 180, 187, 194 and 204; the last three were the cars that were already available when the company opened. The year of manufacture correlates with the number, car 156 is the oldest, car 204 (around 1940) the youngest. They are 9.30 meters long and 2.39 meters wide, the four entrances are on both sides at the ends of the car. They are preferably used on the Main Street Line, but they also drive the Riverfront Loop.
  • Nine four-axle bogie cars built in Australia and used in Melbourne. The bidirectional vehicles with center entrances of type W2 are longer than the Brill licensed buildings. They have been restored and rebuilt by the Gomaco Trolley Company . The entrances at the ends of the car are not intended for passenger traffic, they are intended for the drivers.
  • With car no. 1979, a vehicle similar to the Brill car was rebuilt by the Gomaco Trolley Company.
  • The 1794 car, which was formerly open on the sides, comes from Rio de Janeiro and has been extensively rebuilt and given an exterior paneling.
  • In 2004, a replica of a Birney Safety Car was put into service, also a new build by the Gomaco Trolley Company.

Operating facilities

Stop cap on Huling Avenue
Depot on North Main Street - in the background a turning car of the Main Street Line


The stops are equipped with handicapped accessible ramps and / or lifts and are covered. Their length corresponds to that of a tram vehicle.

Track systems and energy supply

The tram runs on standard gauge tracks with a track width of 1435 mm. Power is supplied with 600 volts direct current via an overhead line and is obtained from the contact wire via single-arm pantographs .

There are a total of seven transfer points (track changes) in the network, where vehicles can turn around early if necessary.

There is a triangular track on Main Street facing Madison Avenue. One track each branches off from the north and one from the south in an easterly direction and crosses the eastern track of the Main Street Line. Subsequent transfer points in Main Street allow switching to this platform as well; in Madison Avenue the branches merge for the first 120 meters to form a single platform in the middle of the street.


The depot and workshop is located on North Main Street. The multi-track hall has two entrances and a turning loop.


  • On June 1, 2001, there was an accident with six slightly injured people. A "Melbourne" vehicle had run into car 194 (type "Porto") in Main Street.
  • Located at 545 South Main Street is the Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum, with exhibits and documentation on the city's railroad and tram history.


An eastward extension of the Madison Avenue Line is being discussed, but no concrete plans are known.

Web links

Commons : Trams in Memphis  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. MATA website ( Memento of the original from July 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Bring back the streetcars! . APTA. July 2002. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  3. Blickpunkt Tram 3/2016, p. 148
  4. Blickpunkt Tram 3/2017, p. 140
  5. a b Archived copy ( memento of the original from September 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Memphis Street Railway Street Cars; Retrieved July 22, 2012 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Official Memphis Maps; Retrieved July 22, 2012