Edmonton

High Level Bridge streetcar making tracks towards Whyte Avenue

An 800-metre track extension will take the scenic High Level Bridge streetcar to a more visible terminus, just north of Whyte Avenue.

'We'll have that visible presence'

The Edmonton Radial Railway Society is extending its High Level Bridge Streetcar line to Whyte Avenue. (Dallas Curow)

It's one of Edmonton's best kept summer secrets, unfortunately.

But an 800-metre track extension might change that.

The Edmonton Radial Railway Society is extending its High Level Bridge Streetcar line from its current terminus north of the ATB Financial Arts Barns, to just north of Whyte Avenue at Gateway Boulevard.

"It's really exciting," said Chris Ashdown, president of the society, in an interview on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active. "We'll have that visible presence and being right there in the centre of all the action in Old Strathcona."

The High Level Streetcar line is a scenic way to traverse the North Saskatchewan river during the summer months. But while it travels between downtown and Strathcona, neither terminus is all that visible.

"That's a problem that we identified a long time ago," said Ashdown. "A lot of people can't find us. We're hidden away behind the Arts Barns so we wanted to be more visible."

Increasing ridership

The streetcar has seen increasing ridership over the years regardless, said Ashdown, with 90,000 passengers in its last season, double the 45,000 passengers it had nine years ago.

It runs daily between the May long weekend and Labour Day, then on weekends until Thanksgiving.

The streetcar, which will go through the old Canadian Pacific Railway right of way, was forced to end at its current terminus while CP was still running trains north of 83rd Avenue.

The society formally applied for the recently-approved development permit two years ago after CP stopped using the line.

The streetcar track construction is scheduled to run three-to-four weeks starting in late June or early July, followed by installation of its overhead electrical system and a platform.

The extension construction will not affect the streetcar's normal operations this year.

Streetcars ran on Whyte Avenue from 1908 to 1951.

The society's Edmonton 33 streetcar is a piece of living history. It was put into service in Edmonton in 1912, the same year it was built by the St.Louis Car. Co. in Missouri.

The group of volunteers, which specialize in restoring and operating the streetcars in Edmonton, operate two streetcar lines, one over the High Level Bridge and the second at Fort Edmonton Park.

About the Author

Thandiwe Konguavi is an award-winning journalist, born in Zimbabwe. She is an associate producer and reporter at CBC Edmonton. Reach her at thandiwe.konguavi@cbc.ca or on Twitter @TandiwayK (https://twitter.com/TandiwayK).

With files from Julia Lipscombe

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