Our History

How it all began

Streetcar service in Edmonton ended in September 1951, when all but one car were scrapped or sold for other use. The preserved car #1 sat outside the Cromdale car barn for over a decade and suffered severe damage from weather and vandalism. It was not until 1964 that first efforts were made towards restoration to showcase the artifact in the 1967 Centennial Parade. Much more restoration was however required to make #1 operational again under its own power. In 1979 trips across the High Level Bridge (with the help of a diesel generator) were organised to celebrate Edmonton's 75th anniversary during the Thanksgiving Weekend. As a result of this successful operation, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society (ERRS) was formed and incorporated as an Alberta Society in early 1980.

Fort Edmonton Park

FEP streetcar barn under construction
The very early days at Fort Edmonton Park: The streetcar barn is under construction and trackwork is only partially installed.
İERRS Collection

The development of Fort Edmonton Park called for a streetcar line in the Park and an agreement between the Fort Edmonton Foundation, the ERRS and the City of Edmonton was reached. In 1981 streetcar #1 operated briefly over the railway tracks using a diesel generator to provide the power. Over the next three years the current track system and overhead lines were constructed. On June 10, 1984 members of the ERRS started regular streetcar service at Fort Edmonton Park. Since these early days a number of displaced streetcar bodies were found and brought back after having served as cottages, pig barns or even roadside diners. ERRS members set to work and made sure that more restored cars would join the fleet.

Edmonton Radial Railway Streetcar #1 which participated in the opening of the system in 1908 was closely followed by Edmonton Streetcar #42. The body of this vehicle served for many years as a cottage near Sylvan Lake before being recovered and restored by ERRS members. This car now carries the main workload at Fort Edmonton Park. The most modern streetcars ever to operate in our City were five steel bodied cars, delivered in 1930 by the Ottawa Car Manufacturing Co. The only survivor is car #80, the body of which found further use in British Columbia as a roadside diner in Dawson Creek and later as a farm building in Fort St. John. 20 years of hard volunteer work have turned the car into as new condition, making it the pride of our fleet. Two cars from Ontario (Toronto Suburban #24 and Toronto PCC#4612) presently complete the fleet at Fort Edmonton Park. Further restoration projects are well under way.

TSR #24
Toronto Suburban Railway #24 is being pushed into the barn for restoration.
İBill Keith, ERRS

High Level Bridge

During the Fringe 1995 an opportunity appeared to operate a former Japanese streetcar (which had originally been acquired for spare parts) on the old railway track between Strathcona and the tunnel underneath 109 Street. Once again a generator trailer had to be used due to the lack of overhead power. Operations were expanded the following year and the installation of an overhead line was tackled by society members. Much volunteer work was needed until the first car could actually cross the High Level Bridge under its own power. Regular service from Strathcona to Grandin began in 1997 and was extended to a new terminus between 100 Avenue and Jasper Avenue in 2005. A car barn - installed in the old Strathcona bus barns - houses three trams from as far away as Japan, Australia and Germany. Edmonton Streetcar #33 will eventually be a further addition to the High Level Bridge operation; its restoration to original 1912 condition as a double-ended two man streetcar is proceeding well.

Centennial of Public Transportation 2008

ERR #1 at city hall
100 year old Edmonton streetcar #1 is on display at Churchill Square during the Transit Centennial Week in September 2008.
İHans Ryffel, ERRS

2008 marked the anniversary of 100 years of public transportation in the City of Edmonton. The ERRS was very proud to represent the first 43 years of Edmonton Transit history with a fleet of operational former Edmonton streetcars. Numerous successful events took place from media presentations and birthday bashes at Fort Edmonton Park to the display of 100 year old streetcar #1 together with historic buses and trolleybuses at Edmonton's City Hall. The society enjoyed an excellent cooperation and partnership with both the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Transit Services.

Streetcar Parade
Parade of perfectly restored Edmonton Streetcars on Dominion Day, July 1, 2010 İHans Ryffel, ERRS

Museum

In 2008, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society was awarded the status of a 'Recognized Museum' by the Alberta Museums Association. We are proud to have achieved this goal based on our ongoing efforts. Just in time for the centennial celebrations a small but fine streetcar museum was opened in the Strathcona Carbarn. This enables visitors and school groups to relive bygone days in Edmonton and learn about a transportation system which served the city well for many years.

Streetcar Museum Display at the streetcar Museum İHans Ryffel, ERRS

Outlook

Every year members volunteer between 12,000 and 15,000 hours to keep the operation going and to proceed with the restoration of further cars. The jobs include metal work, wood work, machining, upholstery, painting, electrical wiring, fitting of air brakes, track work, administration, museum guides and streetcar operations. New and dedicated members (males and females) who look for something different are always welcome. The ERRS has a lively operating schedule, busiest naturally in the summer months. From May to October streetcars operate in Fort Edmonton Park and on the High Level Bridge with extended hours during the excitement of the Fringe Festival. Drivers and conductors who enjoy people and have a love for the history of Edmonton are needed to keep these operations running smoothly.

In contrast to private business, a lack of work will never be a problem! The society promotes major efforts to rebuild and operate historic streetcars, to obtain or manufacture missing parts thereby enabling future generations to carry on the restoration work. Many of our members - young and old - have found a very worthwhile hobby, whether they act as motorman, conductor, work in our restoration shops or act as museum guides. It is this continued volunteer effort, which keeps Edmonton's history alive!