When the Nelson Electric Tramway Society was recognized for Hospitality Tourism Excellence last week, the crowd gathered at the Chamber of Commerce AGM stood to honour the volunteers there to accept their award.
It touched 91-year-old Walt Laurie, tramway society president, who spoke proudly about the organization keeping history alive in Nelson thanks to the 65 volunteers.
“All these years we’ve run the streetcar, you hear people say how much they appreciate it.” He said of the crowd giving a standing ovation, “that really did it for me. I was very pleased over the evening.”
About 16,000 people step foot on Streetcar 23 in a season. Greeted by a crew of drivers that puts in 1,800 volunteer hours between May to October, visitors travel lakeside from the park to the front of the Prestige Lakeside Resort.
Until 1949, that 107-year-old trolley car made its way around the community of Nelson and Charlie Bunce, who still works maintaining the car, was a young teen skipping school to play real life train. Bunce was there to accept the Chamber award along side Laurie and Bill Randall.
Wanting to keep this history alive, Streetcar 23 was put back on its tracks in 1994. And maintenance crews put in 3,600 volunteer hours gathering at the lakeside barn every Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Laurie has been involved with the effort for 16 years.
“I like to honour those people who had the foresight to get the streetcar going again,” he said.
Chris Holland is one of the younger folks coming out to the barn and getting hooked on the trolley experience. In his fifth year, he sees the crew’s confidence in the Streetcar potential growing. Wanting to be an attraction year round, they’re building a museum so a restored Birney car and many treasures of the past can be displayed.
“This is a big boost for the beautiful volunteer team effort that Nelson provides,” he said of the honour. “It’s just a great big wonderful pat on the back by the Chamber and people of Nelson for the hard work we’ve done.