The purpose of this project is to look at the short lived existence of Brandon Manitoba’s only functional street cars. The cars ran routes in the City from 1912 through to its untimely end during an attempted bankruptcy proceeding the City undertook in 1932. The car was not merely a core area/downtown method of transportation as it served into the City’s historic east end as well as expansion to the South. One of the only streetcars to run in the City is now in a museum in Edmonton awaiting restoration. My hope with this project is to bring light to this type of transportation and its significance, talk on its history as it pertains to Brandon at that time and open the possibility of a return to the Wheat City following restoration as part of our collective history and community backing.
This is a single length documentary broken up into three main components. First the look at the City leading up to the decisions to start light rail transit and some of the key players at the time that made it possible. Secondly, look at the function of light rail transit in a City that size. The costs involved and the various pressures at the time to make a go out of an often thought experiment gone wrong. Thirdly look at the effect and closure of the rail, some of the resurfacing of tracks during construction, buildings with ground level access to old tracks and then travel to Edmonton to have a first-hand look at Brandon’s one and only streetcar now housed at the Edmonton Radial Railway society building awaiting restoration.
Part 1 – “Come hell or high water we will have it”
During the time of World War 1 Brandon was broiled in a myriad of controversies politically and some less than upstanding land deals took place. The CPR took a strong foothold in our Downtown with the opening of the Prince Edward Hotel at the corner of 9th and Princess. The need for larger Cities at the time to have light rail transit was brought on by sheer geographical distance between locations, Brandon (much smaller) by many accounts felt the need to match the others growth and buildings were springing up all along Rosser and Princess. Business was strong the War in Europe was swinging in our favor and the need to match the bigger Cities was first and foremost on peoples mind. The “Wonder City of the North-West” as it was dubbed was bound and determined they would be civilized and the construction of a light rail transit system would put them there. Around the City growth was happening in all corners, the fair grounds were growing, a grandstand was being added, the No. 7 Firehall was built and various vestiges to religion continued to pop up throughout the Community. Brandon was a City and by all accounts they were prepared to prove it. The first chapter will examine the climate politically at the time that brought on the construction and the belief that this would make Brandon the true gateway to the West as most predicted.
(Timeline to 1905-1920)
Part 2 – “This track bends, but it doesn’t break”
The twenties brought the time of flappers to the City and the little City that could was on the cutting edge of being the aristocratic powerhouse it believed it was. The war was over, money flowed freely (including City hall) and people in Brandon had a sense of optimism for a new beginning. The rail had brought civilized folk to Brandon and the community would see growth in leaps and bounds during this time. The Prince Edward hotel was the hub of the Downtown and it often seen some of the best entertainers on the road grace its beer hall and billiards room, there was a sense of optimism and Brandon knew it. This section will look at the route system, the arguments over where the car would go and the give and take between public and private transportation needs. A strong political upheaval as well as a global economic crisis was on the horizon and Brandon, like others were caught unaware of the changes that would happen worldwide. The rail in Brandon like many across the West in latter years, would never recover.
Part 3- “Dust, Dirt and a chance to roll again”
The great depression following the collapse of the stock market would affect Brandon similarly to many communities across the Prairies. The price to grow a crop would sky-rocket (that is if you could grow one at all), the climate on the Prairies was tumultuous as parties traded barbs while the citizens suffered and the fledgling Brandon Municipal Railway would come to an untimely end in 1932, a mere twenty years after it rolled onto the track for the first time. The official story cited a lack of public funds as the reasoning with the City scheming to file for bankruptcy. It left Brandon without a method of public transportation until a then private entity Brandon Transit would open up shop months later. The rail car that ran the tracks would remain in the City possession until it was moved to the Edmonton Radial Railway Society buildings to await restoration. The society has it housed in a warehouse. Through this production it would be an excellent culmination to access the car, round out the story and look at the train that once ran the rails in Brandon.
(Timeline 1930-1932 and present day)
This is a proud co production with Stories from Home (formerly MTS TV on Demand) and sgcameronmedia Inc.