Of the roughly 50 electric railways still oerating, Norman Wilson recommended only one–a tiny outfit in Brantford Ontario that ran a small fleet of second-hand Toronto 4-wheelers. Somehow, Wilson managed to lobby every municipality that used streetcars and wrote reports showing why they should be scrapped and replaced with buses. Only the City of Toronto rejected Norman’s findings, in large part because they undertook their own studies.
As the Second World War loomed on the horizon, streetcar companies, knowing what strains wartime demands would bring, again sought financing. Wilson had been busily lobbying all levels of government to put infrastructure money into roads, so again the electric railways generally came up short-handed. Some even closed down rather than try to operate with worn-out equipment, and ironically the little system in Brantford as one of them.
While there is no clear evidence linking Wilson with the GM / Firestone / Esso conspiracy in the United States, it is not unreasonable to suggest that such a connection may have existed.
By 1946, BC Electric’s streetcars were carrying 156 million* passengers, while the growing bus fleet managed just over 3 million. The tipping point came when the decision was made to order 82 Brill trolley coaches.
The city streetcar lines were closed in the post-war years, ending with the Hastings line in 1955.
The interurban system, the most extensive in Canada, and the longest in North America, was shut down piece by piece. In 1950, the Chilliwack to New Westminster section was closed, followed by the Burnaby Lake Line, the Central Park Line, and finally service from downtown Vancouver to Marpole was cut. Service from Marpole to Steveston hung on until February 28, 1958.
Streetcars and intururbans started to collect in great numbers at the Kitsilano yards after 1950, and one by one, they were
burned under the Burrard Street Bridge.
While all the city streetcars were scrapped, there were a few survivors of Vancouver’s streetcar age.***
- BCER #53, built in the BC Electric New Westminster shops in 1904 can be seen at The Old Spaghetti Factory on Water St.
- BCER #153, retired from the North Vancouver system when it closed in 1947. The car body was rescued and cosmetically restored.
Currently in storage in North Vancouver.
- BCER #712, one of the large steel cars, became the Red Racer diner in Penticton BC, and was probably demolished in the 1970s.
- BCER #1207, formerly named “Steveston,” stored at Snoqualmie WA, repatriated in 1989 and restored to running condition.
Currently at Cloverdale BC (FVHRS) awaiting further restoration.
- BCER #1220, currently under cosmetic restoration at Steveston.
- BCER #1223, Cosmetically restored at Burnaby Village Museum.
- BCER #1225, Fully restored to operating condition at Cloverdale (FVHRS).
BCER #1231, Static display at Cloverdale (FVHRS), awaiting full restoration to operating condition.
- BCER #1235, stored (as is) at Museum of Science & Technology, Ottawa.
- BCER #1304, Fully restored to operating condition at Cloverdale (FVHRS).
* Greg Pettipas, “Restore the Power of Streetcars Now.” Brian Kelly, “Transit in British Columbia.”
Henry Ewart, “The Story of the BC Electric Railway Company.”
** Jonathan Vance, “The Man Who Killed the Canadian Streetcar”
*** David Reuss, “Fraser Rails that Glow”