Headline news, Sept 20 1955, Winnipeg Tribune. “Street Cars Silent after 73 Years of Noisy History”
If you have wondered, like I have, why a Streetcar was never preserved, I found a few answers. There was a ‘suggestion’ to put one of the last Streetcars at Assiniboine Park as a display, and it came from the Winnipeg Tribune. There are several references to a display Streetcar in other parks as well, and it was mentioned it would be something you visit with ‘your grandchildren”.
It seems the decision was with the city ‘Parks and Recreation” dept at the time, so I’m wondering if there are minutes etc at City Hall somewhere of these meetings in 1955. There was a also a comment about the Streetcar being of wood and perhaps not lasting long as a display, and I have a feeling that’s what may have happened. Stay tuned!
Originally uploaded by buflyer200
I thought it would be appropriate to mention with this ongoing cold spell, the first test of the Winnipeg Street Railway (WSR) with electric cars was January 27th, 1891 (118 yrs ago!) at 7.30pm. This test occurred on River Ave, or the “bush of Fort Rouge” as city council was fearful of electric wires overhanging the streets. This was the first electric commercial streetcar operation in Canada. Until then, the Streetcars where pulled by horses on the rails. I have yet to find pictures of this event, however we do have a despriction, from John Bakers book “Winnipeg’s Electric Transit” p. 15. I wonder how cold it was in that first Streetcar…..
“Punctually at 7:30pm, Acting Mayor Taylor raised the trolley pole to the wire and the car was brilliantly illuminated by the five incandescent lights mounted in the ceiling. Some of the awestruck crowd surged forward to give closer inspection to the interior. Austin explained the operation of the signal bells and the electric heater to his guests and then gave the order to proceed”.
This picture is for the new entrant, authorized by city council, and their opening Sept 5, 1892, for the “Winnipeg Electric Street Railway” in front of City Hall. The 2 firms did merge eventually in 1894 after some ‘fierce’ competition for fares and customers. Older pictures from this time actually show 4 separate sets of railway lines, 2 for each company, per City Council orders.
My apologies for no news for awhile, however during the fall/winter, the Streetcar committee is focusing on grant and proposal writing. WEC T-shirt sales are progressing very well, and many thanks to the Manitoba Heritage Transit Association for ordering shirts, and Winnipeg Transit employees for their support.
We are also working on research for the Streetcar in obtaining parts and resources for materials. A valuable contact has been made with the Minneapolis Heritage streetcar group at www.trolleyride.org (Minnesota Streetcar Museum) and we hope to see some volunteers come up in the spring to offer advice and recommendations to 356. Winnipeg did actually order 20 Streetcars from Minneapolis after a carbarn fire in 1920, and they were used in service until the early 1950’s.
There is a great local website of history information at www.manitobia.ca with many scans of press clippings from the late 1880’s to the 1950’s. I’ve gone through the scans and found a few interesting articles on Streetcars. Of course most of the clippings and pictures are of accidents, but there are a few which indicate the social aspect of life in Winnipeg. I’ll post them from time to time, here’s the first one from the Winnipeg Evening Tribune. However, note the date is April 1st, 1942, true or not?
A 5 minute radio report from CBC on the last day of Streetcar service, circa Sept 25, 1955, worth a listen:
An anniversary for today: Sept 19, 1955, was the last Streetcar run in the city. An ad in the Winnipeg Free Press proclaimed “Winnipeg Runs on Rubber” by Goodyear of course. With an aging Streetcar fleet, the decision was made to go with a modern bus fleet. Trolley and Diesel buses were the choice, and Trolley Buses used the overhead electrical lines, lasting another 15 years to 1970.
I was informed of an obituary in the Free Press over the weekend, for Grace Cameron Chamberlain (nee McMurdy) and I quote from the FP “During the Second World War she drove a streetcar and was the first woman driver to achieve a one year safety record. She was proud of that accomplishment”.
Another reason to restore 356 I’m sure in those 2 sentences, there is a lifetime of stories, and more. The picture below is from the Winnipeg Tribune Archives, U of M Collection. Looking West on Portage Ave, Trolley Buses on the right.
CBC is covering the Streetcar “makeover” or “restoration”, and possible new home for it at a Winnipeg transit museum. Exciting news. More info on Transit Museum to come.
Update: The radio segment on CBC was played on Friday Sept 12th, and Sunday Sept 14th morning. Further info is here for now, I will see if I can post the interview on the website/blog.
This 1953 NFB documentary about Paul Tomkowicz, a Railway Switchman for the Winnipeg Electric Company, is fascinating. A long forgotten and thankless job which disappeared with the Streetcars, keeping the rails clean of mud/snow and dirt. It appears he was at peace with his work, (compared to his previous life in Poland) and looking forward to retirement in a few years. He mentions he knows his job maybe coming to an end, as the bus trolleys are being used now for transit service.
I’m trying to figure out some of the background locales, too, and they must be long gone too. The names sound familiar, Ritz, Grand Theater, probably all along Portage Ave.
Before Winnipeg Transit, there was the “Winnipeg Electric Company” which provided Streetcar and Trolly Bus Transportation until 1955. The last remaining Streetcar is “356” and it is currently stored in the Winnipeg Railway Museum. The generation that rode the streetcars is now passing away, and we must act now to preserve and showcase the history of “Streetcar 356”, the first “LRT”
There is now a plan being put in place to restore the Streetcar to its place in Winnipeg transportation history by 2009. We need to raise 100k to complete the project. You can help by donating to Heritage Winnipeg, (yes, you can get a tax receipt) or purchasing a T-Shirt at www.cafepress.com/streetcar356. The 100th anniversary of Streetcar 356 is coming up for 2009!