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Retired trolleys set sail for Argentina

A trolley being hoisted into the cargo hold of a ship bound for South America. [1]

A trolley being hoisted into the cargo hold of a ship bound for South America.

We bid a fond farewell to 80 retired trolleys down at the Fraser Surrey Docks [2] this morning.

The city of Mendoza, Argentina bought the trolleys from TransLink this year, and the buses were being lifted into the cargo hold of a ship bound for South America.

We invited the media and some transit enthusiasts out to watch the trolleys get sent off. It was actually quite sad to see such familiar buses go. “It’s like an angel going up to heaven,” one transit fan even said after we watched them lift this bus away.

I took some video and photos of the buses’ departure, and here’s more details on the sale of the buses and the logistics of shipping them to Argentina.

First things first — here’s a clip of a trolley being lifted onto the ship.

The trolleys are actually being shipped to Valparaiso, Chile, where they will be put on flatbed trucks and driven through the Andes to Mendoza. (Does anyone know how long it takes for a ship to go from Vancouver to Valparaiso? I was told that it would take about 16 hours to get the trolleys from Valparaiso to Mendoza.)

Packing the trolleys into the cargo hold is actually harder than it might look. A standard shipping container is eight feet wide, but the trolleys are eight feet six inches wide, meaning they wouldn’t fit neatly in cargo like shipping containers would. It was also a challenge to lift the bus without crushing its sides! The shipping company, CTL Westrans Shipbrokers [3], was working on how best to get everything in without damaging any trolleys en route. A forklift was inside the cargo hold to help position everything in place.

A trolley, hitched to a tow-truck, in front of the ship. The tow-truck was necessary to pull the trolleys around, since without wires, the trolleys couldn't move on their own! [4]

A trolley, hitched to a tow-truck, in front of the ship. The tow-truck was necessary to pull the trolleys around, since without wires, the trolleys could not move on their own!

Mendoza bought 80 of our Flyer E901 and E902 trolleys, which were originally brought into service circa 1983. They were sold at $2300 per bus, for a total of $184,000, plus shipping, which is a bit more than scrap value ($1600 less $600 cost for decommissioning).

These Flyer trolleys had each seen about 1.2 million kilometres on the road, and are still fit for road travel. We retired them since they were not accessible to those with mobility issues: the buses all had high floors and poles in the middle of the doorways. As well, after 25 years, the trolleys had endured extensive wear and tear that cost too much to fix and maintain.

The 80 trolleys were all parked together in a back corner of the docks.   [5]

The 80 trolleys were all parked together in a back corner of the docks.

Only 80 of our 244 trolleys were sold. Two are now being restored by TRAMS [6], the Transit Museum Society, and the rest were scrapped.

The high-floor trolleys made their last run on April 20, 2008. That was on the #3 Main, driven by veteran bus operator Angus McIntyre, who is also treasurer for TRAMS.

50 years of trolleys! A decal on the side of a trolley bus. [7]

50 years of trolleys! A decal on the side of a trolley bus.

Mendoza has about 900,000 people and 75 km of trolley wires along its roads. The city’s transit agency, Empresa Provincial de Transportes de Mendoza, is now in charge of maintenance for the buses, and we sold them to Mendoza on an “as-is-where-is” basis.

So, safe journey little trolleys! Hope you arrive safely in Mendoza — I’ll keep everyone here updated when you get there.

And here’s a few more photos I took at the docks, plus a bonus video!

A tow-truck gets ready to haul a trolley away. [8]

A tow-truck gets ready to haul a trolley away.

A trolley being towed to the ship. [9]

A trolley being towed to the ship.

A row of trolleys with poles down. [10]

The back side of several trolleys, with poles down.

The Buzzer containers are still in the trolleys. Wonder if they will get taken down? [11]

The Buzzer containers are still in the trolleys. Wonder if they will get taken down?

A trolley awaits its turn on the ship. [12]

A trolley awaits its turn on the ship.

Definitely not in service right now. [13]

Definitely not in service right now.

More trolleys waiting to be taken to the ship. [14]

More trolleys waiting to be taken to the ship.

Another view of the trolleys waiting to be put on the ship. [15]

Another view of the trolleys waiting to be put on the ship.

And here’s a bonus video of a trolley being towed! Hopefully it gives you more of an idea of where the buses were all sitting in relation to the dock.

If you’d like to see more, our friends over at the Trans-Vancouver bus photo site will also have photos up of this event shortly.