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Tracking down the Trams of BCER

Young boy watching two historic tram cars pass by

“Why did they burn the trams?” — This is one of the most commonly asked questions by young visitors after seeing mention of this historic event in the exhibits and videos at the Steveston Tram.

By the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the BC Electric Railway Company (BCER) had 72 massive tram cars they no longer used and no place to store them; buses and roads were replacing trams and rail lines. As the tram cars were decommissioned, they were stripped of anything that could be re-used, and then were burned at the BCER Kitsilano Yard in Vancouver.

This leads to one of the most common questions Steveston Tram asked by adult visitors: “What happened to the trams that survived?”

Eight Interurban tram cars were saved from the flames: Tram Cars 1207, 1220, 1223, 1225, 1231, 1235, 1304, and 1311. Tram Car 1311 was vandalized before its move to eastern Canada and had to be scrapped. The other seven surviving Interurban tram cars went through various adventures. For example, our own Tram Car 1220 initially joined Car 1235 at Trolleyland Electric Railway attraction in Washington State for some years. 

Today the 1207, 1225, 1231, and 1304 can be found at the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society in Surrey, BC. The 1225 and 1304 are restored and running and the 1231 will be running in July 2023. The 1207 is currently on static display. The 1235 is at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. It is currently not restored and not on public display. The 1223 was restored and opened at the Burnaby Village Museum as a static exhibit in 2007 much like its sister Tram Car 1220 at the Steveston Tram.

These seven tram cars are tangible reminders of the vast electric rail network that once connected and shaped communities throughout the Lower Mainland.