The Steveston Tram museum features Tram Car 1220, one of the original trams that ran on Richmond’s Interurban rail system. Today, the immaculately restored tram car and the building that houses it, allow visitors to experience authentic Interurban rail travel and learn about early 20th century transportation.
Designed to house Tram Car 1220, the museum was built around the original tracks of the BC Electric Railway Interurban Network across the street from where the Steveston Station once stood. You can still spot the original railroad path and power poles around the tram today.
Rail connection in Steveston started in 1902 when the Lulu Island railway – owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) – ran freight and passenger steam trains to the area. In 1905, the CPR leased the rail line to the BC Electric Railway Company (BCER), who electrified it for tram use. This was part of the BCER’s establishment of an Interurban railway network that would connect different communities throughout the Lower Mainland, otherwise difficult to reach.
In 1913, BCER added 28 tram cars bought from the St. Louis Car Company in Missouri (USA). Among them was Tram Car 1220, which served the local residents of Steveston to Marpole, located in south Vancouver. Painted bright red and made of sturdy steel and wood, the tram car could carry up to 64 seated passengers at a time.
The Interurban line contributed to the development of Richmond’s city centre and for 55 years, provided an important economic and social connection between Richmond and the rest of the Lower Mainland. It provided transportation for workers into Steveston during the fishing and canning seasons, which is how it became known affectionately as the Sockeye Special. It also provided the municipality’s farms with a reliable method of marketing and transporting their products.
As an early form of public transport, it played a significant role in the social development of Richmond. With many residents riding on a daily or weekly basis, the Interurbans and the people who worked on them became an important and cherished part of the community. It helped people to live affordably in Richmond while maintaining a job in Vancouver. The line also provided transport to and from important social events in Richmond and Vancouver.
The Interurbans did not survive the post-war prosperity that led to an increase in the number of automobiles on the roads and an expansion of new suburbs not serviced by rail. As a part of this Rails to Rubber campaign, the Tram Car 1220 made its final voyage between Marpole and Steveston on February 28, 1958, marking the end of an era for the Richmond community and for transportation history in BC.
After decades of being off the tracks, the City of Richmond acquired Tram Car 1220 and opened the Steveston Tram museum on May 3, 2013. Five years later, the tram made an exciting return to its former glory after three long years of restoration.
Tram Car 1220 is one of only seven remaining BC Electric Railway cars, with several “sister” trams in Metro Vancouver, as well as one in Ottawa. You can visit the other surviving BCER cars at the Burnaby Village Museum (Tram 1223) or the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society in Surrey where they offer hour-long rides around Cloverdale aboard Car 1225. Car 1235 can be found Ottawa at the Canada Science and Technology museum collections.
To learn more about Tram Car 1220 an interurban travel in Richmond, please refer to The Sockeye Special: The Story of the Steveston Tram and Early Lulu Island by Ron Hyde. This book details the story of the Steveston Tram and Lulu Island from 1905 onwards.
4011 Moncton Street
Richmond BC V7E 3A8