1948: The Launch of a Trolley Bus System in the Canadian Province of British Columbia

August 13, 1948

The first trolley buses to run in the city of Vancouver in the Canadian province of British Columbia were formally introduced to the public. These pioneering trolley buses were operated by the British Columbia Electric Railway (BCER), which had been in charge of various electric transit systems in that region of the province since 1897.

“Other than the quietness of operation, trolley coaches differ only slightly from regular buses,” noted the Vancouver-based Province newspaper in its article about the debut of trolley buses in British Columbia’s largest city. “Unlike street-cars, they require a double trolley wire. One wire is positive, the other negative. Special converters change to alternating current of power lines to direct current required for the operation.”

As part of the inaugural festivities for Vancouver’s trolley bus system on that second Friday in August, two special guests of honor rode with public officials and BCER representatives on one of those vehicles. One of the special guests was Vancouver resident James Edward Smith, who had traveled on the city’s first streetcar during the summer of 1890. At the time he rode aboard that streetcar with a family friend, Smith was only 17 months old. The other special guest on the trolley bus was R.H Sperling; he had been superintendent of BCER from 1897 to 1914.

The new trolley bus routes went into regular service on that following Monday. The original vehicles to be used on those routes were CCF-Brill trolley buses. (One of these trolley buses still in existence is featured in the above photo taken in 2008.) The Province newspaper reported in its account of that trolley bus system’s opening-day activities, “And for the sake of statistically-minded riders, this is what that big, cream vehicle amounts to: It is 35 feet 7 inches [10.7 meters 17.8 centimeters] long by 8 feet 6 inches [2.4 meters 15.2 centimeters] and weighs 18,500 pounds [8,391.5 kilograms].”

Vancouver’s trolley bus system acquired a total of 327 vehicles by 1954, making this fleet the largest of its kind in all of Canada. BCEC continued to operate this system until 1962, when the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (BC Hydro) took over that role. The operators of Vancouver’s trolley buses have changed hands a few more times since then. This system has been managed by the Coast Mountain Bus Company, a subsidiary of the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (better known as TransLink) since 1999. Vancouver’s fleet of trolley buses, which now consists of 262 vehicles altogether, serves today as part of TransLink’s public transportation network in that metropolitan area.

Photo Credit: Jason V (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

For more information on Vancouver’s trolley buses, please check out  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_buses_in_Vancouver

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