The Golden Era: BC Electric Railway’s Interurban Trams and Street Cars

Celebrate a time in BC’s Lower Mainland before cars. A time when clean, affordable, and efficient electric street cars and interurban trams replaced the slow horse and buggy.

This was a time when street car lines influenced the sprawl of cities. A time when interurban trams defined rural communities, brought them electricity, and connected them to town centres.

For almost 70 years, BC Electric Railway Company ran street cars in Metro Vancouver and connected communities with five main interurban tram lines. The street cars kept city centres humming with workers and shoppers. Interurbans carried passengers and freight, supplying the fish canneries and farms with labour and cities with produce.

At its height, the BCER network had 72 interurban trams and even more street cars and carried over 150 million passengers in a single year. Then in the decade after the Second World War, the car became king. Rail lines were torn up. Street cars and trams were burned.

Seven BCER tram cars survived along with three street cars. This list strives to showcase the museums and historic sites that today features these surviving pieces of BC transit history. A reminder of a time when we had a vast electric rail network that shaped communities and connected people.

Where are the surviving interurban trams and street cars now?

Surviving BCER Interurban Trams:

The five 1200 Class “sister” trams:

– Tram Car 1220 – Steveston Tram, static exhibit, restored

– Tram Car 1223 – Burnaby Village Museum, static exhibit, restored

– Tram Car 1235 – Ingenium, Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation, in collection not currently open to public, not restored.

– Tram Car 1225 – Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society in Surrey, BC, now running

– Tram Car 1231 – Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society, running in summer 2023.

The Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society also has 2 more of the surviving Interurban trams:

– Tram Car 1207 “Steveston” – static exhibit, restored body; engine and trucks need restoration. Currently used as a film room to screen a short video on the Interurbans.

– Tram Car 1304 “the Connaught” – now running.

Surviving BCER Street Cars:

– Car 53 – on permanent static display inside The Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, Vancouver. (You can sit and eat inside it.)

– Car 153 – restored and on permanent static display at the Museum of North Vancouver (MONOVA)

– Car 400 – restored and capable of running but 10 foot wheelbase is wider than 8 foot standard Birney wheelbase and can’t take sharp corners. On static display at Nelson Electric Tramway Society, Nelson, BC.

 

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