Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway

The Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway was a heritage electric railway line that operated from 1998 to 2011 between Granville Island and Olympic Village Station (north of 6th Ave just east of Ash Street) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It operated only on weekends and holidays, usually from May to mid-October, and was aimed primarily at tourists. Two restored interurban trams were used on the line, which used a former freight railway right-of-way.

Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway
Tram car 1207
StatusService indefinitely suspended
TypeHeritage streetcar, seasonal
Operator(s)Transit Museum Society
OpenedJuly 29, 1998
ClosedFall 2011
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Old gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification600 V DC
Route map

Yaletown (proposed)
Granville Island
Cambie Bridge
Science World
Waterfront (proposed)
Stanley Park (proposed)
Map of the Vancouver Historic Railway

The line was owned by the City of Vancouver. The cars were operated by volunteers from the Transit Museum Society. The car shown (1207) was privately owned. In January 2016, 1207 was donated and moved to the Fraser Valley Historical Railway in Cloverdale.

Heritage serviceEdit

Service was inaugurated on July 29, 1998, and was considered to be a demonstration project for a modern downtown streetcar system that the city plans to develop.[1] It continued to operate almost every summer through 2011, as an excursion-oriented historic electric railway line. In 2010, the heritage service did not operate, because the line was used for a modern-streetcar demonstration service known as the "Olympic Line" (see section below), and temporary modifications made to the line's overhead wire for that operation took longer than expected to undo, also delaying the start of 2011 service. The 2011 season began on July 1 and was scheduled to run until mid-October.[2] The line did not operate in 2012,[3] with service suspended indefinitely due to financial constraints, and there are no set plans to resume operation.[4] Furthermore, a Vancouver City Council report published in March 2014 recommended against ever reviving service on the heritage line.[5]

When last fully operational, the line ran from Granville Island to a stop near Science World and SkyTrain's Main Street-Science World Station. Since then, however, Olympics-related construction has razed sections of the line east of SkyTrain's Olympic Village Station on the Canada Line.

Fleet of heritage railcarsEdit

Make/Model Description Fleet size Year built Year retired Notes
Built in New Westminster, British Columbia Interurban car 3 - only 1207 remains 1905 1958 ex-British Columbia Electric Railway
St. Louis Car Company Tram Originally 20; 5 survive - 1231 1912 1959 ex-British Columbia Electric Railway

The fleet also includes an ex-Brussels La Brugeoise et Nivelles PCC-style streetcar, painted red and cream.

The line's operator, the Transit Museum Society, also owns a large fleet of vintage buses and trolley coaches.

2010 Olympic LineEdit

Olympic Line near the Olympic Village station

From January 21 to March 21, 2010,[6] a 1.8-kilometre (1.1 mi) free demonstration service called the "Olympic Line" (named for the 2010 Winter Olympics) ran every six minutes, 18 hours a day on the Downtown Historic Railway between Cambie Bridge and Granville Island,[6] using two modern Bombardier Flexity Outlook streetcars, numbers 3050 and 3051, borrowed from the Brussels tram system.[7] The City of Vancouver and the administrators of Granville Island paid $8.5 million for associated upgrades to the infrastructure.

The City considered the streetcar demonstration "a tremendous success", with over 550,000 boardings during the two months of the experiment.[8] Bombardier received an award for "Exceptional Performance and Outstanding Achievement" at the 2010 CUTA awards, recognizing its operation of over 13,000 one-way trips with zero equipment failures, zero station delays and zero injuries.[9] Mayor Gregor Robertson has indicated a desire to continue operation of the line, with a potential extension to Main Street-Science World station via False Creek South, but mentioned that the city alone lacks the millions of dollars needed to complete the construction and equipment purchases.[10] Nonetheless, a streetcar along the alignment used by the Olympic Line was part of two of the proposals for rapid transit running east–west through the city of Vancouver in 2020.[11] After the Olympic demonstration line ended, most of the overhead copper wires fell victim to theft and the line has remained unused.[citation needed]

Proposed future serviceEdit

The proposal for a full-service modern streetcar line would extend the former heritage line through Chinatown and Gastown to Waterfront Station, and eventually to Stanley Park. There would be a separate line into Yaletown with longer-term potential for a number of other lines.

On October 13, 2014, Emily Jackson, writing in Metro Vancouver Newspaper, reported that Friends of the Olympic Line called on Vancouver City Council to commit $5 million to incorporate a refurbished line into Vancouver's transit authority.[note 1] The organization has called for the line to be extended to Main Street–Science World Station. The City has allocated $400,000 to decommission the line's former route.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Beginning in the fall of 2014, Friends of the Olympic Line / Vancouver Civic Railway established a Facebook page, and later a web site ( to outline a proposal, based on discussions with stake holders, and particularly in response to the Granville Island 2040 presentation. Productive talks with private investors during 2017 have gone very well, and City of Vancouver Engineering Department and TransLink have become part of the conversation. The proposal calls for modern fully accessible replica streetcars, possibly different models representing different eras of streetcars that operated in Vancouver. Resumption of service on Phase 0 (Granville Island to Cambie St.) is expected by spring of 2020.[12]


  1. ^ Ward, Doug (July 7, 1998). "Electric streetcar launches revival of historic service". The Vancouver Sun.
  2. ^ Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: LRTA Publishing. September 2011. p. 369. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: LRTA Publishing. September 2012. p. 356. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Downtown Historic Railway".
  5. ^ Robinson, Matthew (March 23, 2014). "Vancouver's streetcar service a costly 'novelty' marred by problems: report". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Vancouver's free streetcar makes first run to Granville Island". CBC News. January 21, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  7. ^ "Vancouver's 2010 Streetcar". Bombardier. Retrieved June 10, 2009. Connecting Granville Island, a key entertainment centre for the 2010 Winter Games, and the Olympic and Paralympic Village Vancouver, the Olympic Line streetcar service will extend Vancouver’s regional transit network along False Creek during 60 days of celebration before and during the 2010 Winter Games.
  8. ^ "Olympic Line ridership". City of Vancouver. August 13, 2010. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  9. ^ "Bombardier Wins Award for the Olympic Line — Vancouver's 2010 Streetcar" (Press release). Benzinga. May 18, 2010. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  10. ^ Bailey, Ian (February 25, 2010). "Robertson Sees Momentum for Transit Funding". The Globe & Mail. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  11. ^ "Rapid Transit Alternatives". Translink. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  12. ^ Jackson, Emily (October 13, 2014). "Streetcar enthusiasts lobby Vancouver politicians for Olympic Line". Metro Vancouver Newspaper. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved October 17, 2014. The group called Friends of the Olympic Line is calling on politicians from all parties to commit $5 million to re-animate the line known as both the Downtown Historic Railway and the Olympic Line.

External linksEdit