Mar 242016
Calgary Transit

Something close to seventy years separate the two images used in this then and now. The theme, one of our favourites for this type of report, and by traffic numbers something similar with our readers, is Calgary Transit or public transit in general. The location is the historic century plus old MacDonald Bridge in the community of Ramsay just east of the downtown core. We’ve come with an old photo showing this area with the idea of shooting something similar.

The then image we’ll be using comes from this author’s collection (zero idea where I got it) and has no accompanying information. Of course, we recognize the place where it was shot, leaving us only needing to know the “when” component. No biggie and simply using our detective skills we can determine the date, roughly. It was captured sometime after 1946 – the car is post war – but before 1948, when the streetcar seen was pulled from service.

Calgary Transit then and now – MacDonald Bridge, two similarly composed photos taken some seventy years apart. Written & photographed by Chris Doering and Connie Biggart (BIGDoer)

Calgary’s streetcar system dated from 1909 and was for much of its existence known as the Calgary Municipal Railway. Today the agency is called Calgary Transit. The car seen is on the #8 “Burns Ave” run, which bounced between downtown and the community of Ramsay. In the old photo is was about halfway into its outbound run and is seen crossing over the Elbow River in an easterly direction.

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When the old photo was captured, the streetcar system was on its last legs. Recall, it closed in ’50. Some lines were replaced with trolley buses and others motor buses (the latter is what happened to this route). Many streetcar systems across the country shut down in the post war period. Most were run old and down, rebuilding being too costly to undertake, likely the case in Calgary. They were also seen as antiquated, buses being a more modern way to move people about.

Number #8 (second car to carry that number, formerly #78) was built in 1913 and was one of the earlier streetcars built for the fledgling system. It came from the maker Ottawa Car Company of (guess what), Ottawa Ontario which was in business from 1890s-1940s. This firm supplied a fair number of streetcars used in Calgary. It was retired in 1948.

The bus seen in the now photo #7739, is a 2001 product of New Flyer Industries of Winnipeg Manitoba. It’s a DLF40, currently the most common model on the roster. There’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them, dating from the period 1993-2008. New Flyer, founded in 1930s, is a very prolific producer and their buses are used by a huge number of transit systems all over North America.

The bus is on the #24 or Ogden run, a long route which runs south from downtown passing through its namesake community along the way. Part of the run was formerly served by streetcar, but back then it took a different path than that of the present day.

The bridge seen is old and quite interesting. It was built in 1911 by the Algoma Steel Bridge Company of Winnipeg Manitoba (so the bridge and the bus were born of the same town). An arm of the giant steel firm Algoma, the bridge department was not in business for long. The structure is the only common element tying the two eras together and appears little changed over time. MacDonald Avenue is the road here, and where the bridge gets its name.

Very close by are two similar looking bridges of near the same age and coming from the same firm, including one just downstream of the one seen in the photos. Presently one is being removed and replaced and the other is under threat. The road here is not all that busy, which no doubt has helped this one in that regard.

The car seen behind the streetcar appears to be a 1946-1948 era Plymouth.

This one was not, but many of the then images used in this ongoing series come in from our readers. Have a vintage photo or postcard (paper or in electronic form) showing a street scene of old, like this, that you think would make a good candidate for one of these reports, send it our way. We’ll revisit the location seen to shoot an image that is close in composition and then write about what’s seen for display on this website. Photos must be your copyright or be in the public domain. Credit will be given.

No specialized rephotography camera features or software (so either Computational Rephotography or Collaborative Rephotography) were used to capture and line up our now image. That would be too easy and hardly satisfying. It’s all done in our heads and on site, correlating what’s seen in the viewfinder with a hard copy of the original photo kept on hand. That’s it. Look at the old photo, look through the camera, adjust, do it again, adjust, and so on until happy. Grid lines added to the image and those in camera help further.

Still, it’s skill and not technology that we rely on and while our results are never spot on, we’re still pretty good at it. I can’t help but think many of the “ghosting” and those “hold up an old image and line it up so it matches up with the scene today and take a shot” photos seen all over the internet have been manipulated in post. I think sometimes heavily – the result are often “too” good. We do minimal post, just minor scaling and sometimes keystone adjustments. That’s all.

A different then and now using the same bridge…
Calgary then and now – MacDonald Bridge.

More transit article like this one…
Calgary Transit then and now – 17th Ave SW.
Calgary Transit then and now – 33rd Ave SW.
Edmonton then and now – 115th Ave.

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

Date: March, 2016.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article references: City of Calgary Transit, Book: Stampede City Streetcars.

Calgary Transit then and now

Something close to seventy years separate the two images seen here.


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6 Comments on "Calgary Transit then and now – MacDonald Bridge"

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Barry Ross
Barry Ross

Good one Chris…

Dawn West
Dawn West

The streetcar looks much more inviting than that ugly LF.

Shane Wright
Shane Wright

(via Facebook)
I work for CT and I find it amazing when I see things like this.