Streetcar enjoys record year

Streetcar 23 — seen here in one of Greg Osadchuk
Streetcar 23 — seen here in one of Greg Osadchuk's high-dynamic range photos — enjoyed a banner year, with ridership above 15,000.
— image credit: Greg Osadchuk photo

Ridership on Nelson’s Streetcar 23 this year was the highest since the vintage tram was placed back on track in 1992.

Rudy Boates, president of the Nelson Electric Tramway Society, says well over 15,000 people boarded the car in 2011, compared to 13,715 in 2010.

“We’re getting a lot of national publicity and more tours all the time,” he says.

In fact, a TV crew from Montreal was in town last Thursday shooting around Nelson, and spent three or four hours chartering the streetcar. They also got footage of the Kootenay Lake ferry, Kokanee Glacier, and other parts of BC for a segment expected to air in Quebec.

Increased fare revenue will definitely help the society’s bottom line, Boates adds.

“We have to have money in the bank in case of emergencies. We have liability insurance, the electric bill, and do a lot of repairs to the track. We’re doing okay financially, but we’ve got to be careful.”

The society is continuing the huge job of replacing ties on the streetcar’s line between Lakeside Park and the Prestige Inn. Last year they also replaced the car’s wheels.

Although their season has ended, the society will provide free rides from 12 to 4 p.m. on Remembrance Day, weather permitting. Boates says 70 or 80 people took advantage of the service last year, despite the fact it was not well advertised.

“It was very successful,” he says. “We’ll accommodate anybody who shows up.”

The society remains on the lookout for volunteer drivers. Although they have 57, Boates says they lose some every year, as their average age is over 60. Four are needed per day to keep the streetcar going from Easter to Thanksgiving. Prospective drivers must pass a course first.

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