When the word went out this month to the crew that keeps the Heritage City’s Streetcar 23 running along its Lakeside line that there was going to be a photo taken, a massive crew arrived in their finest.
“All these people showed up,” said Chris Holland who organized the photo shoot in honour of an annual donation by Nelson and District Credit Union to the Nelson Electric Tramway Society. “Everyone just loves it so much.”
Holland started driving the trolly four years ago and as he looked around at the crowd of mostly seniors decked out in black hats and vests over white, he said, “I am here because I don’t want this to go away.”
Streetcar 23 is 107 years old and the society has been around for 20 years. That day, tradition brought the group together — one with the Credit Union. This is the fourth year they’ve donated $1,000, enough so that everyone can ride the streetcar for free on Canada Day.
“It’s an unsung story,” said Holland.
A theme of tradition runs deep among the group milling about the barn.
Included were councillor Robin Cherbo, who sits as the City liaison on the society. A few years ago, he decided it was time to learn to drive the trolley he remembers riding as a two-year-old child at the end of its run in 1949.
“My mom took me on the streetcar the last time it drove down Baker Street,” he said.
Claire Hayes was the first woman driver of Streetcar 23 when it was back on the tracks in 1994. Sitting aboard her motorized scooter amid the crowd, she still hangs onto her licence.
Charlie Bunce, once a freckle-faced 14-year-old who dropped out of school to work on the streetcar, now stands as chief maintenance man.
Tramway Society president Walt Laurie stood among the crew. He’s 91 and wears number 41 on his hat. The lower the number, the longer a person has been involved with the group.
Holland is among some younger folks coming on board. He’s motorman No. 106.
Alongside the people are relics and artifacts considered “living history,” said Holland. He explained last summer’s flooding of Lakeside Park impacted the streetcar barn and “shook things up.”
Along with a restored Birney car and many photos, treasures of the past could be better displayed. The society would like to establish a museum that could be open starting next winter.
“We have so many artifacts that we aren’t properly showing thus making the trolley an attraction year-round,” he said.
Ensuring history lives on and the streetcar keeps running is all about sustainability, he said.