From Streetcars to Hybrids: The Story of Saskatoon Transit



The Saskatoon Transit system celebrates 100 years and does so in style.

The bus is free all day Wednesday, and as part of the celebration, a community barbecue including entertainment, games and gifts will be held on 23rd Street in front of City Hall between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Saskatoon’s transit history began over a hundred years ago. In 1911, Saskatoon’s population had grown to 12,000 and the city decided it was time to have a transit system. Initially, the pitch to provide the service was made by a British company, but after their withdrawal the city took over and the fleet was officially launched on January 1, 1913.

“They started with 12 streetcars, then later in 1913 they bought six more streetcars that were a little bit stronger,” said Bob Howe, director of transit for Saskatoon.

Traveling by tram was not always smooth. In 1922, a car lost its brakes on what is now the Saskatchewan Crescent. He jumped off the rails and dived into the river.

“It was winter, so all these people scattered along the frozen river. No one drowned and it was actually a miracle that no one died in this accident, ”said Jeff O’Brian, a local historian of the city’s archives.

Saskatoon’s last streetcar ran on November 10, 1951, ending an era in the city’s transportation history. Cars were replaced by trolleybuses, which still used electric wires but had rubber wheels instead of running on railroad tracks. In the mid-1960s, the city introduced 40 diesel buses to the fleet, and in 1974 they were officially discontinued.

“They had these big poles sticking out from the top and in the winter they would frost and sometimes they would jump and the driver had to stop the bus and put the poles back in place,” O’Brian said.

Most of the current fleet still runs on diesel, but there are also four hybrid buses. Another upcoming change is a plan to move the bus barn to a new civic operations center.

“We’ve been here for 100 years and this neighborhood has grown too big, so it’s time to move and the new Civic Operations Center will help us float better and maintain our vehicles,” Howe said.

Public transit in Saskatoon has come a long way from the original streetcar, and officials have said they look forward to the next 100 years.

To see more photos, see our In Pictures gallery: 100 Years of Transit in Saskatoon.


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