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(PICTURES) The Vancouver trolleybus network turns 70 today!

Stanley Park (Chilco) Loop circa 1972

August 16, 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of Vancouver’s trolleybus network.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Vancouver’s trolleybus network!

The electric trolleybuses first burst onto the scene as part of the ambitious “rails-to-rubber” conversion to decommission the streetcar network. The first trolleybus, a Canadian Car Brill T-44, hit the roads on August 16, 1948, forever changing the way we move around in the city.

Have you checked out the new items in the TransLink Store? We’ve released a commemorative shirt, recognizing the 70th anniversary of Vancouver’s trolleybus network! Available in men and ladies sizes.

For more than 60 years, the streetcar was the backbone of the region’s transit system. The end of the Great Depression and World War II challenged us to rethink public transit: stay with streetcars and their tracks, or look towards rubber-tired buses. 

It was an easy decision at the time. Gasoline and diesel buses were considered not “ready for prime time” and the overhead network was already in place to power the trolleybuses. Streetcars had a single overhead wire for the power and used the steel rails for the ground, so all that was needed was a parallel overhead wire to be installed for the ground.

The first trolley bus route was the Fraser-Cambie, going along Fraser from Marine Drive to Kingsway, then down Main to Pender in Chinatown, left on Pender to Seymour, then to Robson and Cambie and over the Cambie Bridge to 29th Avenue.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The trolleybus replaced many of the streetcar routes and the last streetcar route departed Vancouver’s streets in 1955. Diesel buses joined the fleet, and later came compressed natural gas, diesel-electric hybrid and even biodiesel briefly.  Next year, we’ll begin trialling for four fast-charge battery-electric buses on the 100 Marpole Loop/22nd Street Station route.

Our trolleybus fleet today consists of 262 forty- and sixty-foot buses built by New Flyer, operating on 13 routes. We’re the only transit system in Canada that operates trolleybuses and our fleet is one of the largest in North America! Other cities with trolleybuses include Philadelphia and Seattle.

To celebrate the trolleybus network’s 70th birthday, a 1954 Canadian Car Brill T-48A trolleybus — in the BC Hydro and Power Authority livery — returns Vancouver’s streets for rides on August 16, 18 and 24!

Also, check out the pictures of Vancouver’s trolleybus network through the years! All photos courtesy of retired bus operator Angus McIntyre.


2 Comments

  • By Stefan, August 17, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

    Happy birthday to our (3rd-generation) trolleybuses! What a great write-up and collection of photos! A lot of memories of the old buses in the BC Hydro colours, and ’70s orange-and-yellow paint schemes.

    There are a lot of little details in these photos. For example, in the black & white pic of the buses lined up on Hastings for the Grey Cup, they’re using a fifth pair of wires that used to run parallel to the other pairs, in the curb lane of Hastings from Cassiar to Renfrew.

    Or the #8 Davie bus on Granville Mall in 1984…that block was an original part of the Mall, but was converted back to auto traffic in 1988! Not to mention the pics of the old Stanley Park Loop on Chilco Street, etc.

  • By Tanushree Pillai, August 20, 2018 @ 10:34 am

    Hi Stefan!
    The trolleybus says thank you for your wishes and wonderful comments! Glad you liked the article and the photos. ^tp

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