Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fort William and Port Arthur Streetcars.....

Public transit in our city was first established in 1892. The silver boom had recently ended destroying Port Arthur's primary economic purpose. Compounding the matter was the Canadian Pacific Railway's decision to build its grain elevators and rail yards in neighbouring Fort William 4 miles away. With businesses and population vanishing, Port Arthur decided after much debate to build a street car line to connect the town with the rail yards in Fort William, much to that town's chagrin. So in 1891 Port Arthur was authorized to construct and operate the first municipally owned street railway in Canada. The Port Arthur Street Railway (PASRy) commenced operations of a private street railway in neighbouring Fort William, which connected the PASRy's southern terminus at Fort William's northern town limits into the downtown core of Fort William. Although Fort William wanted nothing to do with Port Arthur's municipal railway, PASRy gained control of the McDonald and Company line on June 1, 1893 and extended its operations into Fort William.
In 1907 Port Arthur and Fort William became cities, and the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board forced Port Arthur to sell its section of the railway in Fort William to that city on March 11, 1908 and to submit to operation by a joint commission until Dec 1 1913. Thereafter, each city ran its own street railway - Port Arthur's was the Port Arthur Civic Railway in 1914 and Fort William's was the Fort William Street Railway.
The Street Railways continued operation until late 1948, when the gas and electric Brill Buses took over, and the tracks all around both cities were either paved over or pulled up. Some South Syndicate Ave. track was pulled up just last year during that street's makeover.

Here is what it would look like from an operators view, and next is a ticket for each of the cities electric railways.

This is a familiar photo of a street car in about 1941 coming up Arthur Street(now Red River Road) in Port Arthur. You can vividly see the Prince Arthur Hotel in the background as well as the Pagota stating "Tourist Information" on its roof. The little Ford Model "A" is sitting at the lights at Cumberland and Arthur Streets, and a nice baby blue Lincoln is parked along the Streetcar. The next is a very familiar Fort William stop in front of Chapples Limited, the area which is now fully enclosed by the unpopular Victoriaville Centre area today.

These two photos as well as the next one were taken at the Port Arthur Car Barns which was on Front Street in Port Arthur, one street down from Cumberland Street. This is the present day site of the re-cycle area on Front Street.
Again, this first photo was taken at the Port Arthur Car barns. People would call this streetcar the Toonerville trolley(well this is what my 91 year old dad told me), as it had only one pair of trucks front and rear and was much shorter than other cars were. The next shot here was taken along north Cumberland Street.
Another familiar spot, also presently enclosed withing the Victoriaville Centre is the Streetcar in front of Mahon Electric and McCartney Jewelers. The two story building further down is the F.W. Woolworth store and next to it is the Metropolitan store. The next photo here shows car #564 at an unknown location with the word "Neebing" on the car's destination card.
Here are two black and white photos of different streetcars in front of the Fort William car barns on Walsh Street between Selkirk and Franklin Streets. There is a block of houses there today.

Car #64 is on its way down City Road to Chippewa Park and the B&W photo shows car #33 at the Chippewa Park terminal.
This final picture is a scan of an old post card showing a Fort William streetcar heading towards the camera on Victoria Ave. The picture is taken facing east and shows the old Commerce Bank building as well as the St. Louis hotel on the left side. The huge structure at the end of Victoria Avenue was one of the many huge grain elevators from the time(Elevator "B").
Click on photos to enlarge!


3160catherine said...

Great job, Dave. I can always count on you to have dates, places and photos!

Dave Cano said...

Thank you 3160catherine....all comments are much appreciated. D.

Duff said...

What is that steel scoopy thing on the front of those old street cars? Do you know??

Dave Cano said...

Duff, the Steel Scoopy things as you call them are just the same as cow catchers on old steam engines. So the street cars wouldn't derail they would scoop or push aside any debris that may be on the road....Good Question...