The two photos seen in this then and now article were shot from the same spot, only some forty years apart. The location is the Calgary community of North Glenmore Park and what we’re looking at is a simple street scene. There’s an intersection in a residential area, a small shopping centre and in each photo, a passing Calgary Transit bus. Our mission, take the old photo and do our best to duplicate the same shot today. And have some fun doing it.
As you can see not much has changed from that time to today – heck even the poles look the same, tilted angles and all. The only major difference is the buses – the trolley system has been replaced by diesel equivalents. And the trees: how they’ve grown.
The original photo was sourced by this author and appears to be in the public domain. Nothing much is known about who shot it and when, although given the vehicles seen, we know it’s from the early to mid 1970s or thereabouts (but not past 1975, as trolley bus service ended that year).
Calgary, like many cities across Canada, post World War Two that had an aging streetcar network, turned to the trolley bus. There were lots of reasons to take this path: some of the old streetcar electrical infrastructure could be reused, they were cheap to run, the technology was well proven and, internal combustion powered buses were close but not yet up to the task (somewhat debatable).
In less then a decade however diesel buses would prove themselves and because of this no new trolley bus networks were built after 1951 in this country. The boom came and went quickly. And while most cities that operated trolley buses continued to use them for some time after, they were often treated as orphans and in ways neglected.
Calgary’s trolley bus system lasted from 1947-1975. At least a dozen other cities in the country also operated these style of buses at one time or another. The only transit agency in Canada today using them is Vancouver. Always the biggest network in the country, this system sort of bucked the trend and is modern, efficient, well used and maintained and seems to have a good future. It helps that the network is large (trolleys excel in high-use situations) and is powered by cheap hydro-sourced electricity.
There are a few operating trolley bus networks in the US and hundreds more in the rest of the world. They are particularly popular in the former Soviet Union.
The line the bus is on, the South Calgary run, aka route #7, follows pretty much the same path today as it did back when the trolley buses were running. The end of the line, the turn around point, is only a few blocks away from where these photos were taken. From there the bus would turn around retracing its steps back to downtown, from where it came. This particular section of the line dates from the early 1960s, with the establishment of the North Glenmore Park neighbouhood. Prior to this, the route ended in the nearby community of South Calgary.
The bus seen in the old photo, #431, was a model T44 (trolley – 44 seats) built in 1948 by Canadian Car and Foundry. It was one of just over seventy of this model on the CTS roster, across several orders (1947-1950). Joining them were a small number of slightly larger examples, otherwise similar looking, bought new in the years 1950-1953, along with some second hand buses, about twenty of them, bought from the US.
Canadian Car and Foundry, of simply CC&F made these buses at their factory in Fort William, now Thunder Bay, Ontario. This same facility made aircraft and aircraft assemblies from the 1930s-1950s. Buses were produced from 1945-1962 (trolleys 1945-54). Today the factory is owned by transportation conglomerate Bombardier and makes passenger and transit rail cars.
All CC&F buses were built under license of the JG Brill company in the US. Canadian built models differed somewhat from their American made counterparts.
The bus seen in the now photo, #7774 is a New Flyer from Winnipeg Manitoba, model D40LF (diesel, 40ft, low floor) from 2001 and is one of hundreds and hundred of this same model on the roster. This make and model is not only popular with CTS but other transit system across Canada and even in the US.
Low floor by the way means exactly that, there is no step up to enter the bus. This makes it easier for those of limited mobility to enter and exit. Old buses required a person to climb a set of stairs. Low floor buses gained popularity starting around the early 1990s.
Note the early to mid 1970s Ford pickup seen just behind the trolley bus. The second vehicle seen, the car on the left, I have yet to identify as its a bit too fuzzy, but it does have traits of an early 1970s era Chrysler product, especially in the wheel well area. Experts are invited to chime in.
If you have an old photo like what was seen here, your own or in the public domain, that you’d like us to use in a then and now report, by all means send it to us. It can show a street scene like this, or some other interesting subject such as an historic building. We’ll visit the spot seen, document it as best we can and then post the results on this website.
As is always the case, our now photo has not been cropped or manipulated to make it line up better. What you see is pretty much as it came from the camera. Our results are obtained using a propitiatory grid-reference technique we’ve developed over the years. Sometimes we line things up very well, other times a little less so. Mostly we do pretty good though.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: December, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.