Sunday, September 5, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Winnipeg, Manitoba

In 1891, Winnipeg became the third Canadian city to introduce electric streetcars. All was well for a number of decades, but dissatisfaction brewed after the end of World War II. In the early 1950s, the city hired an engineering consultant to look at the various options for streetcars and to explore whether the service could be expected to pay for itself and what entity should control it. As in many North American cities, the Winnipeg streetcars had been operated by the power company, in this case the Winnipeg Electric Company.

The consultant recommended that the government take over operation of the system, which it did.  Unfortunately, people complained more about the service under government operation than they did before. At the same time, people were extolling the virtues of buses over streetcars. So many other cities were changing over to buses. Not surprisingly, Winnipeg's streetcar system was replaced by buses in 1955.

The change to buses seems very odd to many of us today, but at the time it was considered the more modern and appealing alternative. People thought the streetcars were old and clunky and the buses were newer and more comfortable, which is approximately the reverse of public perception today. Buses had greater flexibility and could pull up to the curb, which also provided greater customer safety when boarding or disembarking.  Although measures have been taken to make streetcar boarding much safer today, the appeal is still largely personal and aesthetic. Appeal is not inconsequential either; if transit is expected to draw people out of their automobiles, it has to be appealing.

More recently, the City of Winnipeg has looked at introducing an aerial tram system that would operate above the streets.

Speaking of appeal - the front of the card is fairly simple and straightforward, the back is very ornate.


  1. Another fine card. I think I prefer the ornate back to the front actually.

  2. The back is indeed very pretty, lovely art nouveau detailing, but the front is great too- lots of detail, color, and a sense of being in the street 'action'.

  3. That seems to be a low-angle photo, Anon., a nice change-up from eye-level shots. Or, it's nicely framed or cropped.

    Christine, I favor public transit, but it's a horrifically tough sell. A buddy of mine who's blind recently promoted a county-wide bus levy. It finally succeeded after several prior failed attempts. The debate underscored plenty of ugly political fault lines: city vs. suburb, black vs. white, higher-income folks vs. lower-income, taxpayers vs. purported or real tax "consumers". Jack/Youngstown

  4. Great postcard and great story. How did you get interested in streetcar postcards?

  5. Sorry for the delay in my response, Amy. I became interested in streetcars for a number of reasons. The first was that I started noticing from old postcards that even very small towns in the United States seemed to have had streetcars at some point in their history. That made me start wondering what happened to them and what changes have occurred to make us start perceiving streetcars as a 'luxury' rather than a 'necessity'.

  6. Oh, another post card back that makes me green with envy:)
    Well, at least I'm honest!



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