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Looking back at Metro Vancouver’s Transit History with Angus McIntyre!

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Angus back in the day

Angus back in the day

June 27th marked 125 years of transit in the region. To honour this special occasion we have been mining old photos, stories and even brought a 1954 trolley bus out of retirement to celebrate!

If buses could talk, we’d probably ask the old Brill trolley how things have changed since it first hit the streets in 1954.

Seeing as talking is not yet a feature of buses, I thought it best to catch up with someone who has not only seen our system evolve over the decades, but is also able to share their experiences!

1954 Brill Trolley

1957 Brill Diesel

So, last week I visited TRAMS BC and chatted with retired bus operator, Angus McIntyre. Having spent 41 years driving buses in Vancouver, Angus knows the transit system well and was nice enough to gives us an overview of transit history and his time behind the wheel.

According to Angus, he started as an operator when he was 21, back when BC Hydro was the transit authority.

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Driver’s seat of the 1954 trolley bus!

Initially covering the evening shift route along Nanaimo, Powell St. to Stanley Park, he says, that back then, being an operator was both physically and mentally challenging.

He explained  “there wasn’t any power steering or right hand mirrors and drivers also had to handle money.” “You’d be steering with your left hand and filling the [money] changer with the other!”

Staying on similar routes for years at a time, Angus  says he loved getting to know his passengers. He even tallied the number of people that boarded his bus and bought his one millionth passenger a book of faresaver tickets!

Angus next to a 1957 GMC bus

Angus next to a 1957 GMC bus

During our chat, Angus also gave me a quick rundown of the history of transit in the region.

As Angus tells it,  Metro Vancouver’s transportation network has changed hands more than a couple of times since the first streetcars rumbled through Vancouver in 1890.

Citing transit history like a pro, Angus  led me down the path of changing transit authorities over time from its start with independent companies in 1890 to BC Electric company in 1897, BC Hydro in 1962, Metro Transit Operating Company in 1973, BC Transit in 1983 and then TransLink in 1999.

Angus McIntyre

Here’s Angus holding a license plate perfect for celebrating 125 years of transit!

Looking at this timeline, Angus said during his career he had “four employers, three different unions and four major labour disputes”!

Despite these many changes he insists that although “bus schemes [liveries] changed and uniforms changed, the transit service still remained the same”.

When I asked Angus what crosses his mind when he thinks about 125 years of transit in the region, he said he thinks of “The early pictures showing the first streetcar running within the tiny city limits, and how the transit system is now so huge.”

According to Angus, the system was once so small that when he started as an operator, private commuter clubs were chartering buses to Tsawwassen and White Rock to supplement the non existent transit service in these areas.

He explains “the transit system had no money and couldn’t expand [so] people were doing a do-it-yourself transit system without the internet or anything. I don’t know how these people found each other, but you’d go down to Howe and Robson in the afternoon and there would be all these people waiting, but not at a bus stop. Then a school bus would pull up and all these people would get on and head somewhere out of the city”.

To say the least, talking to Angus about Metro Vancouver’s early transportation network was an eye-opener.

It’s hard to fathom getting around today without our current infrastructure — I’m pretty thankful I’m not chartering a bus everyday to get to work!

Author: Laura Tennant


5 Comments

  • By EMR, July 8, 2015 @ 4:40 pm

    The photos in your article labeled as 1954 Brill Trolley are wrong, with respect to both the vintage and propulsion power. The pictures of the bus and of the driver’s area are taken of a 1957 Brill DIESEL bus also owns by TRAMS. The lack of trolley poles and the Diesel engine underneath the centre of the bus would have been the first indication.

  • By Laura Tennant, July 10, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

    Hi EMR!

    I spoke with a few of the guys at TRAMS BC and they confirmed that this bus is a 1954 Canadian Car and Foundry Brill trolley coach, model T48A (#2416).

    It runs on 600 volts DC and has no diesel engine in it. The bus does have trolley poles, but unfortunately the angle of the photo did not capture them on the roof of the bus!

    I was told their 1957 CCF Brill model CD52A Diesel buses (#3404 & #3405)look similar and often get confused for the 1954 trolley. I hope that clears things up!

  • By EMR, July 14, 2015 @ 5:53 am

    What I had said is the photo in your blog is bus 3404 which is a 1957 Diesel Brill. But your photo is labelled 1954 Brill Trolley. Your information about bus 2416 in the story is correct. But your photo is not. The photos in your blog are not the same bus as the caption or the story. The bus in your photo does not have trolley poles as you state. This is simple. The photo used in your blog is NOT the same bus as the story. Your photo is 3404, a Diesel bus where the story is about 2416 a trolley.

    Thanks for your reply. I’m well aware of the buses and bus types in TRAMS being a member of the society for over 12 years.

  • By Laura Tennant, December 11, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

    Hi EMR, Angus recently sent me a photo of a 1954 Brill Trolley (#2416) and I wanted to share it with you! http://buzzer.translink.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/angus.jpg

  • By Laura Tennant, July 14, 2015 @ 8:19 am

    Hi EMR, you’re right! I double checked with the TRAMS BC folks and it seems there was some confusion as to which bus photo was in question. The caption has now been updated. Thank you for your input!

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