Plan Your Day Around a Tramway Ride
Nelson’s Streetcar #23 has been actively working in the Kootenays since 1924. Today, you can ride the streetcar along our lovely waterfront during the summer until Thanksgiving weekend. The streetcar runs from the Prestige Hotel on the waterfront along Kootenay Lake to Rotary Lakeside Park, ending at the Rose Garden Cafe.
The Prestige Lakeside Resort is located at the end of Hall Street, two short blocks from Nelson’s downtown core. The downtown is well-known for being not only walkable, but also one of the more heritage-rich downtowns in British Columbia, full of local shops and merchants, with a distinct lack of large franchises that crowd so many small towns.
The walk downhill to the tramway stop is short, and recent improvements to the waterfront and pier area make it a natural starting point for the trolley. Catch the tram at the covered waiting area in front of the Prestige. The trolley ride goes through Rotary Lakeside Park, past the soccer fields and arboretum, ending at the Rose Garden Cafe, well-known for using local and organic foods to create gorgeous bistro-style lunches.
The Cafe is just up from the beach, in a tree covered grass area and gardens - a lovely place to take in the gorgeous natural surroundings Nelson is famous for.
The Nelson Tramway Society
The history of the Tramway Society is another rich Nelson story of community members working hard to help create a deeply caring and diverse community. From 1988 to 1992, volunteers worked diligently to get streetcar #23 back to her original glory. Finally, on July 1, 1992, after they built a 1.2 kilometre track, the streetcar was ready to carry passengers along the waterfront, 43 years after its last run. Learn more about Nelson's rich history with streetcars in the Tramway Society Museum in Rotary Lakeside Park.
Tram Schedule & Fares
The first run starts at 11:10 a.m. at the Wray Suffredine station on Hall Street, and proceeds east past Chahko Mika Mall and along the waterfront to Lakeside Park Station, adjacent to the Big Orange Bridge (BOB). Westbound service departs Lakeside Park station at 11:30 a.m. and every half hour until 4:30 p.m. Routine stops include Hall Street, Chahko Mika Mall and Lakeside, with flag stops available at the Lyle Ward Memorial Car Barn, the soccer fields and the power shed. Adult fare is $3.00, seniors and youth (ages 6 to 12 years) is $2.00 and under 6 years with an adult is free. Maximum family fare is $8.00.
History of Streetcars in Nelson BC
The city of Nelson was founded on the mining of rich mineral deposits, hidden in the mountains around the late 19th century. One of the most notable substances mined was silver which gave way to the Silver King Mine. This attracted many English investors who saw Nelson and the surrounding area as a prime opportunity to grow a strong city in the otherwise wild mountain terrain. An Englishman, who was known as Captain Duncan, had made himself a fortune off the Nelson mining industry. It was Captain Duncan who first proposed the idea of installing an electric tram to connect the community. In 1898 the first streetcar was installed at the top of Stanley St., a street that is known to be more than a little steep. As one can imagine, the late 1800’s version of Stanley St. was freshly cleared land and consisted of loosely packed dirt, making the streetcar ride a little adventurous. By the time the streetcar system was completely installed Nelson was the second community west of Winnipeg that had a streetcar system. The first community to do so was Vancouver who beat Nelson by only one year.
The streetcar fleet had two cars that were commissioned from a British tramway company, and adopted a third from Columbus, Ohio in the 1920’s. Although the fleet only consisted of three cars they were numbered car #21, car #22, and #23, “it just sounds a little better,” Laurie says with a chuckle.
The streetcars were beloved by the community and there are many pictures to indicate that that was true. Below is a photograph of young Nelsonites travelling to the community dance hall that was the top floor of the old boathouse. You’ll notice that back then the streetcars were open-air, with no siding or walls. Streetcar 23, which is in operation today at Lakeside Park, was modified to be enclosed to meet today’s safety standards.
The push for diesel fueled buses surfaced post-war in 1949. With the expansion of paved roads, tire on pavement began to make more sense than local rails. However, the community was not fast to let go of the streetcars as they were a facet for life in Nelson during the early half of the 20th century.
Once the bus system was fully in place, the original British commissioned streetcars were cancelled and Streetcar #23 was sold to a local veterinarian to be used as a makeshift dog kennel. The streetcar association was revived with help of Pierre Berton, who was tasked by the Canadian government to travel the length of Canada and revive communities historical features.
Streetcar #23 was refurbished and now serves it’s route that travels along the perimeter of Rotary Lakeside Park and ends at the Prestige Lakeside Resort. Take in the vibrant history of the Nelson Streetcar at the Nelson Electric Streetcar Society’s charming museum that is located to the left of the car barn that houses #23 when not in use.