Celebrating 70 years of trolleybuses in Vancouver (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Plus how to get a FREE ride on a this vintage 1954 Brill trolleybus

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On Monday, August 16, 1948, Vancouver’s first trolleybus went into service. Today, there are still 262 trolleybuses on 13 routes operating in Vancouver.

Vancouver is the only remaining Canadian city to operate buses powered by overhead wires. We have the third-largest operation of its kind in North America.

Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome

These “trolleybuses” are a huge part of Vancouver’s history–they were implemented starting in the late 1940s to replace the region’s vast network of streetcars as part of a “rails to rubber” system conversion.

Using overhead trolley “wires,” the buses are powered by electricity (remember, B.C. Hydro, previously known as B.C. Electric, used to run the transit system, and the hydro-electric powered streetcars and interurbans the covered Metro Vancouver).

Trolleys use around $15,000 of electricity per bus per year, while, comparatively, diesel buses use about $40,000 in diesel fuel per bus per year, according to TransLink.

The vintage trolleybus next to an operating TransLink trolleybus in front of Waterfront Station (Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome)

While your commute might involve a modern trolleybus, the Transit Museum Society has in their fleet some vintage buses, including #2416, a Canadian Car/Brill T48A built in 1954. This particular bus was one of the last built by the company, and it ran on the streets and via the trolley wires of Vancouver until 1984.

The Transit Museum Society is giving “fan” tours on the Brill this month and next, with the ticket cost supporting their valuable efforts. They are four-hour tours crossing the city, starting at the Marpole loop.

However, TransLink is marking the 70th anniversary by offering some free trips on this beautiful vintage Brill, which will take place on Saturday, August 18 and Friday, August 24 between noon and 4 pm.

The driver gets on board (Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome)

The bus will run on a downtown circuit, picking up passengers every half hour at the following stops:

  • Southbound from Victory Square – Cambie St. at Hastings St. (stop #50410)
  • Burrard Station – Burrard St. at Melville St. (#50043)
  • Burrard St. at Robson St. (#50045)
  • Davie St. at Howe St. (#50011)
  • Seymour St. at Pender St. (#61519)
  • Waterfront Station – Cordova St. at Richards St.

TransLink offered a preview ride to media and other transit officials, historians, and enthusiasts, with the Brill taking the original Fraser route from Waterfront Station. It’s a beautifully smooth ride, and nothing beats seeing the astonished and smiling faces of people in cars and on foot who catch sight of the 1954 bus passing by.

Here’s the bus turning around in South Vancouver on Poplar (off Marine Drive) and 65th to make its return drive north on Fraser.

A few other trolleybus facts, courtesy TransLink:

  • Vancouver’s fleet of 262 are made by New Flyer, and 74 of these are articulated.
  • 65% of all trips in City of Vancouver in 2017 were on a trolley bus.
  • 17% of all trips in Metro Vancouver in 2017 were on a trolley.
  • Trolley buses run on the following routes: 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,14,16,17,19,20.

Here are a few more photos of the ride:

Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome
Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome
Vintage ads (Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome)
Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome
Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome
Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome

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Lindsay is the Managing Editor of Vancouver Is Awesome, and the co-host and co-producer of the Vancouver Is Awesome Podcast. A fifth generation Vancouverite and life-long foodie, Lindsay also serves as a judge for the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. Previously the Food Editor of Daily Hive, Senior Editor of Vancity Buzz, and Editor-in-Chief of LAist.com, in her past life in L.A. she earned an MA in English, attended culinary school, and was an English professor. Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancouverisawesome.com // Twitter/Instagram: @squashblossom