Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway

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Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway
Tram car 1207
Type Heritage streetcar, seasonal
Opening July 29, 1998

End of Summer 2011

Future resumption unknown
Operator(s) Transit Museum Society
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Old gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Minimum radius (?)
Electrification (?)
Route map
Granville Island
Science World (closed until further notice)
Proposed extension to Waterfront Station and Stanley Park

The Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway was a heritage streetcar line that operated between Granville Island and the Cambie Station (north of 6th Ave just east of Ash Street) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It operated only on weekends and holidays, usually from May to mid-October, and was aimed primarily at tourists. Two restored interurban streetcars were used on the line, which used a former freight railway right-of-way.

The line was owned by the City of Vancouver. The cars were operated by volunteers from the Transit Museum Society. The car shown (1207) is privately owned.

Service was inaugurated on July 29, 1998, and was considered to be a demonstration project for a modern downtown streetcar system that the city plans to develop.[1] It continued to operate almost every summer since then, as an excursion-oriented historic streetcar line. But in summer 2012, service was suspended indefinitely due to financial constraints and there are no set plans to resume operations.[2]

When last fully operational, the line ran from Granville Island to a stop near Science World and Main Street-Science World SkyTrain station. Since then, however, Olympic related construction has razed sections of the line east of the Olympic Village Canada Line Station. The proposal for a modern line would extend the former line through Chinatown and Gastown to Waterfront Station, and eventually to Stanley Park. There would be a separate line into Yaletown with longer term potential for a number of other lines.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Line[edit]

From January 21 to March 21, 2010, a free demonstration service called the "Olympic Line" (named for the 2010 Winter Olympics) ran on the Downtown Historic Railway, using two modern Bombardier Flexity Outlook streetcars borrowed from the Brussels tramway.[3] The City of Vancouver and the administrators of Granville Island paid $8.5 million for associated upgrades to the infrastructure.

Olympic Line near the Olympic Village Station

The City considered the streetcar demonstration "a tremendous success", with over 550,000 boardings during the two months of the experiment.[4] Bombardier received an award for "Exceptional Performance and Outstanding Achievement" at the 2010 CUTA awards, recognizing its operation of over 13,000 one-way trips with zero equipment failures, zero station delays and zero injuries.[5] Mayor Robertson has indicated a desire to continue operation of the line, with a potential extension to Main Street - Science World Station via False Creek South, but mentioned that the city alone lacks the millions of dollars needed to complete the construction and equipment purchases.[6] Nonetheless, a streetcar along the alignment used by the Olympic Line was part of two of the proposals for rapid transit running east-west through the city of Vancouver in 2020.[7]

Fleet of railcars[edit]

 Make/Model   Description   Fleet size   Year built   Year retired   Notes 
built in New Westminster, British Columbia Interurban car 3 - only 1207 remains 1905 1958 ex-British Columbia Electric Railway
St. Louis Car Company Tram Originally 20; 5 survive - 1231 1912 1959 ex-British Columbia Electric Railway

The fleet also included an ex-Brussels La Brugeoise et Nivelles SA. PCC-style streetcar, painted red and cream.

The line's operator, the Transit Museum Society, also owns a large fleet of vintage buses and trolley coaches.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ward, Doug (1998-7-30). "Electric streetcar launches revival of historic service". The Vancouver Sun.
  2. ^ "Downtown Historic Railway". 
  3. ^ "Vancouver's 2010 Streetcar". Bombardier. Retrieved 2009-06-10. "Connecting Granville Island, a key entertainment centre for the 2010 Winter Games, and the Olympic and Paralympic Village Vancouver, the Olympic Line streetcar service will extend Vancouver’s regional transit network along False Creek during 60 days of celebration before and during the 2010 Winter Games." 
  4. ^ "Olympic Line ridership". City of Vancouver. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  5. ^ "Bombardier Wins Award for the Olympic Line — Vancouver's 2010 Streetcar" (Press release). Benzinga. 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 
  6. ^ "Robertson Sees Momentum for Transit Funding". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 
  7. ^ "Rapid Transit Alternatives". Translink. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 

External links[edit]