The End of the Line
Usage of the Lethbridge public transit systems spiked during the 1940s. As gasoline prices soared due to wartime restrictions, more people made use of their public transit systems across Canada, severely straining the limited resources of many cities. The city’s population of 14,612 bought over 1.7 million fares in 1943, up 44% from 1942.
By 1945, the streetcar system had reached a critical moment. The remaining carriages were falling apart and parts to repair them were scarce, especially during wartime. The light rail tracks were in poor condition. As they aged, the weather began to snap both the tracks and the overhead electrical lines.
Between 1939 and 1947, the city purchased 17 busses. In August 1947, they replaced the last streetcar line on the Northside with bus service. The streetcars, generators, rails, ties and wire were sold for scrap or auctioned off. The city removed all the rails and the ties used for the streetcar railway by the end of July 1949.
Over the 35 years they were in service, the streetcars of Lethbridge carried an estimated 47.24 million passengers. The last debt for the Lethbridge Municipal Railway was paid off in 1951.
The last original streetcar left in Lethbridge today is Number 8. Local farmer Alf Hubbard purchased it from the city for $25. Hubbard stripped the streetcar of its fittings to use as a chicken coop. In the 1980s, Hubbard donated the streetcar to the Lethbridge Kinsmen Club who arranged to have it refurbished and set on display in front of the Galt Museum & Archives.
When the Galt underwent renovations in 2005, the streetcar was relocated to the Lethbridge Transit barns for storage. In 2008, The Lethbridge Municipal Railway Association renovated the streetcar into a trailer-pulled attraction and donated it to Exhibition Park who now displays it at parades, on special occasions and for Whoop-Up Days.
You can visit the Galt Museum & Archives to find out more about the history of streetcars and the Lethbridge Municipal Railway.