Sep 112015
17th Ave SW

An article by Chris & Connie.

Join us as we connect two eras via a trademark then and now. In this ongoing series, we take an old photo, we track down where it was shot, then we do our best to duplicate the angle and composition as closely as possible. Today’s theme is Calgary Transit. The date of the old photo is 1974.

The original image is scan, sent to us by a reader, a collector of worldwide transit images, who hails from France. Thanks Stéphane! I’m not sure how you made the connection to us, but am glad you did. He mentioned purchasing it on Ebay and knows nothing about it other than the date it was shot and that of course it’s from Calgary.

Do you have an old photo like this, transit related, or showing an old street scene, that you would like us to use in a then and now? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Actual photos or scans are welcome.

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ Scroll down for photos and to comment ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

Notice the level of change that’s happened since the first photo was captured. Light rail transit (aka the “C-Train”) is a fairly recent development seen in back, the line having been put in only a few years ago. That arched thing is a station. Most houses in the old photo are still there, just that they are now blocked from view. Signal Hill in back seems to have a different profile and this can be attributed to heavy development which has altered everything there. In 1974 it was fields with a few scattered houses, today it’s a dense residential neighbourhood. Notice how much the trees have grown.

To the very right of the trolley bus are the grounds of the 17th Ave SW Drive-in Theatre which was in business from the early 1950s until the late 1970s. The screen burned down in spectacular fashion on Halloween night, a suspicious fire I might add, just as the place was winding down operations forever. When built the theatre was outside of town, but it soon became surrounded by residential housing. I wonder how the neighbours coped with all that noise, lights and traffic? Townhouses and office space now occupy that land.

The trolley bus (or trolley coach) seen is a Canadian Car and Foundry (or CC&F) model T44 (T for Trolley, 44, the number of seats). This example was built in 1950 and was one of seventy seven, from the years 1947-1950, on the roster. Similar in appearance were eight slightly larger T48 models, from 1950-1953, plus a small number of US built trolley buses bought second hand. These last ones differed in appearance and didn’t seem to be used much.

This trolley carries as very special experimental paint scheme, the only bus, it’s believed, on the entire roster done this way. There are flags on the trolley pole retriever wires, something we’ve never seen before.

By the time the “then” image was captured, the trolley bus network was near done. It would close down early in 1975.

Canadian Car and Foundry was known mainly as a builder of railway cars, and for a time aircraft, but also produced transit and highway buses from 1945-1962 (trolley buses 1946-1954). Many of their designs were built under license from the JG Brill division of American Car and Foundry in the USA. The two similar sounding firms were otherwise not related.

CC&F buses were made in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) Ontario. The factory exists to this day and makes rail transit vehicles and passenger cars. It’s owned by industry giant Bombardier.

Trolley buses can be seen as sort of a fad, at least in North America (they were and are popular in Europe and elsewhere). They were fashionable for a very short period of time just after World War Two and while they did and still do offer some very specific advantages if applied correctly, they soon lost out to diesels which are far more flexible and didn’t require any form of road infrastructure. Even so, many trolley bus networks lasted a long time, many well into the 1970s.

Vancouver BC is the only system left in Canada. It’s managed to survive when others didn’t, and is quite modern and well patronized. There was at the peak about a dozen cities that operated trolley buses in Canada. Edmonton had some until 2009.

The bus in the “now” image, CTS #7929, is a New Flyer model D40LF (Diesel, 40ft, Low Floor), built in Winnipeg Manitoba. It’s from 2005. It’s the most common model on the CTS roster, there are well over five hundred and fifty of them, built in the years 1993-2008. New Flyer, founded in the 1930s, is today one of the largest producers of transit buses in North America.

Both buses are on route #2 heading towards downtown, The journey it follows in 2015 is much the same as in trolley bus days. The western leg takes it up 17th Ave SW (the turn around loop is a block or two behind the buses), the north leg, 4th St NW. Very close to where the pictures were shot is BIGDoer HQ.

That ugly haze in the now photo is from forest fires in Washington State USA. For many weeks smoke blanketed the city and only recently cleared. It was cough-cough for a time.

As with all our “now” shots the photo was composed in-camera. No post production trickery was done to help line things up. We do it old school.

More transit then and nows…
Calgary Transit then and now – #7 South Calgary run.
Calgary Transit then and now – Elbow Drive part 1.
Edmonton Transit then and now – 95th St.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: September, 2015.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article references:
We shot from public property.

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17th Ave SW Calgary

17th Ave SW Calgary in 1974 and 2015. Haze is from forest fires.

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16 Comments on "Calgary Transit then and now – 17th Ave SW"

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Michael Svihura
Michael Svihura

I love the this before and after picture. One point about the 17th Ave Drive in… It operated until Oct 1979, and closed that year because the land had been sold for development. However, the screen didn’t burn down years after the drive-in closed, but rather it burned down the night after the last ever show was screened, on Halloween to boot.

The picture from 1974 is great. I recognize the weave fencing, and part of the marquee sign is just visible. It looks like the LRT tracks right through where it was standing.

I really like this website. I’m going to really have to dig into it some more. Cheers.

Tracey Noble
Tracey Noble

We had the old ones and a turn around behind our house. Sometimes the arms would come off the wires and the driver would have to get out and re-attach them.

Helen Stepaniuk-Johnson
Helen Stepaniuk-Johnson

I remember the electric lines. Especially on Elbow Drive.

Jeme Deviny
Jeme Deviny

Wonderful comparison.

Kevin McMath
Kevin McMath

Love it. Transit is my thing. Sure do miss the old Fishbowls, old Flyers & Orion’s. The New Flyers are ok to a point.

Howard Leinweber
Howard Leinweber

(via Facebook)
I remember those old buses (Not that well mind you) and I wish I could have another ride on one

Michael Burton
Michael Burton

Remember those buses well thanks for the memories.

Norman A. Millar
Norman A. Millar

Wow! I grew up near here. Those hills in the background were where we played! We even ran sort of a trap-line, snaring rabbits and building cubbies for ermine. Can you imagine that? We had a running (literally) war with the CTS which involved volleys of snowballs and some daring escapes. We were never caught. So many memories of those trolley buses!