Bowness Streetcar 1913-1950
By Valentine Urie (nee Wallace)
The Bowness Streetcar weaved its way through the fabric of our neighbourhood. No individual was unaffected by it, nor any family not tied to its hourly wheels. In contrast to today when our outlet to the world at large is through the medium of television, the internet, and the automobile, those pre-TV days of few radios and automobiles belonging only to the wealthy, our community was inexorably linked to the outside world by our local streetcar.
After shuttling through the centre of Calgary, it wound its way through the outskirts before rattling out over the virgin prairie beyond. For the first three miles after it left the city, there was barely a house. The tracks ran for a distance along the banks of the Bow River leaving the passengers in terror that one of the wobbles would surely tip them into the swift current below. The same tracks had been mapped out fifty years earlier to facilitate a leisurely roll to Bowness Park, eight miles west of the city centre. The engineers had never envisioned conductors making up time for the numerous stops to deliver newspapers or groceries to out of the way customers, or deal with baby buggies that had to be wiggled and cajoled onto the car by the joint efforts of the conductor and the mother.
The Railway had a shot-gun beginning. An early developer named Hextall had mapped out a sub-division on tracts of land spreading on either side of the Bow River eight miles west of Calgary. After building an estate house for himself and four other houses for the incoming residents, he donated one hundred acres of prime land along the Bow River to the city of Calgary for their use as a park. There was a condition. The Calgary Railway system must build a branch line to the gates of the proposed park. The city was enthralled. They co-operated in every way possible. The rails were laid and the park developed. It was to become a huge source of revenue for the city, especially during the depression years when few people could afford a holiday away from home.
During the summers the hourly streetcars were increased to two every fifteen minutes to accommodate the ever increasing crowds. "Seeing you home" after a date meant an hour's trip on the streetcar for one's escort, a few minutes alone while the street car went around the loop and then for the escort an hour's lonely ride back to the city. Many a budding romance died a natural death after several Saturday night sojourns.
The Society would like to acknowledge the Glenbow Foundation for the image of the streetcar.
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