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Riding the virtual rails with the Edmonton High Level Streetcar

The Edmonton High Level Streetcar has had a busy year but stops service the Thanksgiving long weekend. A local game developer has created an option so that you can ride the rails virtually all year long.

'I’m kind of hoping that when you play the game you will get tricked into learning something.'

Even though the High Level Bridge streetcar is finished running for the season, you can still take a trip on it in virtual reality. An Edmonton-made game is taking players back to the trolley's route from 1915. 1:09

Thanksgiving long weekend offers the final chance this year to ride the High Level streetcar.

Volunteer members of the Edmonton Radial Railway Society operate the service. They say business is up 10 per cent over last year.

"We get an awful lot of people from out of Edmonton, from out of the country, to ride on the streetcars," said Chris Ashdown, society president.

For those who miss out this weekend, there's another way to see the city from atop the High Level bridge.

One of the ways that you can ride the rails is through Gametrip's smart phone app, Edmonton Trolley Car Game. (John Robertson/CBC)

Peter Fiala is founder of Gametrip, a local company that developed Edmonton Trolley Car. The game can be downloaded for free as an app on smartphones; as of Sept. 12, it can also be downloaded from the game distribution platform Steam. That version is used with a virtual-reality headset that allows players to explore their full environment.

Set in 1915, the game allows players to talk to people from the time period and see city landmarks from a century ago.

The star of the show is Streetcar 33, known for its sign of Namayo Avenue, the former name for 97th Street.

"I wanted to get that as accurate as possible, so extra special thanks should go to the Edmonton Radial Railway Society," Fiala said. "Because they let me go there and take hundreds of photos, bring my tape measurer and get the dimensions."
Peter Fiala is the founder of Gametrip, the company behind 'Edmonton Trolley Car Game'. (John Robertson/CBC)

"There is an educational standpoint to it, too. I'm kind of hoping that when you play the game you will get tricked into learning something."

One scene captures the historically accurate moment when a locomotive travels across the bridge at the same time as the streetcar.

The game is currently available for five different platforms and has been downloaded more than 3,500 times.

"It shows the interest of the community for our streetcars," said Ashdown.

"It's a really good educational tool. The accuracy is really good. What you are seeing of the streetcar, it has got the sounds and everything. And the characters that are in it are period characters, so that really brings to life what the streetcar was like."

Regular service streetcar, which runs from Strathcona station to a terminal at Jasper Plaza, resumes on the Victoria Day weekend in May.

Streetcar 33 is a popular ride with its wooden doors and wicker seats. (John Robertson/CBC)