Extending Heritage Streetcar Service in Edmonton

Existing ERRS Trackage, Valley Line and concepts for expansions. (Click on image for a much larger version).

Existing ERRS Trackage, Valley Line and concepts for expansions. (Click on image for a much larger version).

High Level Bridge Streetcar

Here is a crude photoshopped image showing ERRS streetcars on Stony Plain Road. It doesn't have them on a separate right-of-way as I propose they would on the Valley Line and doesn't have them with pantographs, but it gives an idea of the character that could be added to Edmonton streets.

Here is a crude photoshopped image showing ERRS streetcars on Stony Plain Road. It doesn’t have them on a separate right-of-way as I propose they would on the Valley Line and doesn’t have them with pantographs, but it gives an idea of the character that could be added to Edmonton streets.

The Valley Line LRT presents a potential opportunity to expand the Edmonton Radial Railway Society’s High Level Bridge Streetcar route significantly. If an agreement could be reached for the Edmonton Radial Railway Society to use ETS tracks, the High Level Streetcar could expand to Churchill Square or West Edmonton Mall.

The map I have created shows different options for expanding the High Level Bridge Streetcar via a connection to the Valley Line along with loops for stopping, picking up passengers and turning around without slowing LRT traffic. Even if this extension were only used for charters it would add a great deal to the experience and it would put the streetcars in Edmonton back where they belong – on the streets of the city.

Another option I considered was to have ERRS tracks branch off from the Valley Line at 102 Ave and 100 street and go down through Rossdale (as seen) and reconnect at the High Level Bridge. Unfortunately, that route would encounter some significant grades.

The most practical option is definitely connecting track from Jasper Plaza (100 Ave & 109 Street) to the Valley Line (102 Ave & 107 Street) and loops are far shorter and more practical.

Fort Edmonton Streetcar

Click on the image for a much larger and more detailed version.

Click on the image for a much larger and more detailed version.

Ever since the South Campus LRT station was renamed to include Fort Edmonton Park I have felt that a more significant connection should be made to the park than a shuttle bus. I think that the most natural connection would be a streetcar route. This would bring the history from the park out to the station.

Fort Edmonton Streetcar – Capital Line – Valley Line – High Level Bridge Streetcar

A further possibility (not pictured) would be to connect the expansion of the Fort Edmonton Streetcar to the Capital Line at South Campus station and then to connect the Capital Line to the Valley Line (which would then be connected to the High Level Streetcar). This way heritage streetcars could move throughout the city (and transfer from one ERRS route to another with ease). Imagine beginning a tour on a heritage streetcar in Fort Edmonton Park and then seeing the “real” Edmonton and its history all in one trip!

Potential Drawbacks

Increased Service Needs

The ERRS is a volunteer driven organization and it would be impractical for it to provide regular service to such a large area. I have proposed what would at least be two High Level Bridge routes. Together they would more than triple the ERRS’ coverage and with that there would be more maintenance for the streetcars as well.

It is possible that the ERRS could partner with the city to ensure that motormen are available to cover the increased service needs of a larger system. Better yet, perhaps the ERRS will see significant membership growth in the coming years. :-)

Increased Risk to Streetcars

The streetcars run by the ERRS are in many cases unique or extremely rare. This point should not be forgotten. One of the advantages of the ERRS’ current routes is that they have minimal contact with real traffic and motor vehicles. This protects them from a great deal of risk of collisions.

One of the greatest benefits of connecting the High Level Bridge Streetcar to the Valley Line LRT is that the Valley Line will enjoy a separate right-of-way from the rest of traffic. This means that any streetcars running on the Valley Line will also be protected from collision with cars. There is the risk of collision with an LRT train, but I think that would be minimal. To maximize this benefit I would suggest that the connection to the Valley Line be done on a separate right-of-way as well.

AC or DC Power

I am not sure if the Valley Line will use AC or DC power but decided to add this based on a comment on Facebook. Heritage streetcars use DC power, but newer LRT rolling stock often uses AC. The Capitol and Metro lines use DC, though the newer LRVs on them are made for AC and I believe they use some kind of converter (DC to AC).

If the Valley line uses AC, perhaps there is a converter for DC motors. I am not an expert on that.

Pantographs Required (Trolley-Poles Impractical)

Because ETS’ LRT lines use a different system for holding overhead wires in place (cantilever), any streetcars would have to have their traditional trolley poles replaced with pantographs.

I would hope that Edmonton 33 would remain with only a trolley pole, but the Osaka tram would be fine as it already has a pantograph and the Melbourne tram would not look odd with one either (considering its counterparts running in Melbourne use them now too). If the ERRS could acquire more Melbourne trams or double-ended PCCs, the pantograph could be placed on streetcars where it would not significantly detract from their charm (as seen above in the photo of a PCC on San Diego’s Silver Line).

Conclusions

All things considered, I would love to see a connection between the High Level Bridge Streetcar and the Valley Line LRT. I think it would benefit the city by adding character to its new rail line and it would benefit the ERRS by bringing its operations to the heart of Downtown and beyond. The same benefits are true for extending the Fort Edmonton Streetcar. These are just my thoughts though. Please feel free to comment with your own or to let me know if there is anything I can add to this post! :-)

Louis Armstrong in Edmonton

I recently purchased a very interesting photograph from the 1950s labelled “Louis Armstrong” and “Vinnie’s Rest in Edm”. The print looks like an original from the 1950s. This led me to research when Louis Armstrong was in Edmonton. As it turns out, he did a concert at Edmonton Gardens (on the site of the present-day Northlands Agricom) on September 10, 1957.

I was able to determine the location of my photo based on the sign for the Arthur Murray Dance Studio and from referencing a couple of photographs posted on the Historic Edmonton and Northern Alberta Facebook Group.

Here is my photo, the Jasper Ave location it was taken at and a couple of the photos of the concert available through the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Outside Perrin Block (10615 Jasper Ave) – September 1957

Perrin Block - 10615 Jasper Ave - Louis Armstrong - September 1957

Louis Armstrong on Jasper Ave. This photo may have been taken as a souvenir for the man on the left.

Location of Perrin Block – 1950s & Google Streetview

JaronWilliams - Perrin Block - 10615 Jasper Ave - Location Views

The X in each image marks the approximate location that Louis Armstrong was standing in my photograph. These images were sourced from Google Streetview and Brent Welch of the Historic Edmonton & Northern Alberta Facebook Page respectively.

Edmonton Gardens – September 10 1957

RP219.7 - Louis Armstrong and the All Stars play at Edmonton Gardens, a Curley Gurlock CJCA Presentation - Sept 10 1957

RP219.5 - Louis Armstrong and the All Stars play at Edmonton Gardens, a Curley Gurlock CJCA Presentation - Sept 10 1957