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curiousKC | Tracking Down KC’s Old Streetcars

Not An Urban Myth

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Above image credit: The Kansas City streetcar, then and now. (Image,leftt, from KSHB | Image, right, Ieshia Downton | Flatland)

As snazzy as the new Kansas City streetcars are, there’s something charming to the trolleys from way back when

That’s why Robert Gann, who’s lived in Kansas City for 25 years now, wrote to curiousKC. He asked: “Before our new streetcars, we had another streetcar transit system. Urban myth is these old streetcars are still in KC. Is this true, and can we visit them?” 

The answers are: Yes and yes. 

“You can see a vintage PCC 551 cable car at 426 Delaware St.,” said Donna Mandelbaum, marketing director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority. 

Nestled at the corner of 5th and Delaware streets in the River Market, the cable car from 1947 has been renovated as a Made in KC Trolley Cafe.  

Community reporter smiles behind her mask at Made in KC Trolley Cafe. (Ieshia Downton | Flatland)

Inside, it’s adorned with teal vinyl seats tucked in on one side of the car while the other side serves as a Made in KC display. The backdrop is the sound of espresso dripping, milk frothing and the clinking of porcelain mugs. 

“It is the lone remaining historic trolley in the Kansas City region to my knowledge,” Tom Gerend, executive director of Kansas City Streetcar Authority, wrote in an email response to Flatland’s inquiry.

This trolley was one of 184 cars and once part of the nation’s largest streetcar system, according to Feast Magazine. Although the trolley isn’t rolling through the Kansas City streets today, the nearly 80-year-old cable car remains a staple attraction.  

But, as it turns out, Gann heard another rumor about a streetcar in the 8th Street tunnel, which used to have a trolley line from the West Bottoms to downtown. 

Flatland followed up with the KC Streetcar Authority but have not received confirmation whether or not this is true. 

Our question-asker, however, pointed me to this 2017 article by KSHB that shows images of an old trolley in an underground tunnel. This short piece left Gann with a lingering question: 

“Is this anywhere we can go?” he asked. “I want to go on an urban adventure.” 

So, Kansas City detectives, this one’s up to us to piece together. Do you have tips that could lead us to this underground streetcar? Email community reporter at vdiaz-camacho@kansascitypbs.org.    


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