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Transit History byTom Schwarzkopf

Tires and Wires

Tires & Wires


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49th Shelf Logo

Tires and Wires, Tom Schwarzkopf, Winter 2019, Transportation, 270 pages, 22 maps,
200+ photographs, 50 colour, 8 x 10.5

ISBN: 978-1-927599-48-8 (paper) . . . $59.95




Tires & Wires

The Story of Electric Trolley Coaches Serving 16 Canadian Cities

At the end of the 19th century, fast, electric streetcars replaced horse-drawn transit vehicles, revolutionizing how people moved through rapidly-growing cities. Except for a few early dabblings in the embryonic technology of a rubber-tired electric bus, the streetcar dominated through the early 1900s, and during both world wars, provided the majority of public transit.
However, following WWII, the rise of the personal automobile, a boom in the economy and the associated affluence of the population, coupled with ageing, worn-out tram systems, demanded a modern, transit vehicle to replace the streetcar and retain transit riders.
Enter the trolley coach – fast, clean, quiet, and maneuverable through streets that were crowded with automobile traffic. By the late 1940s, every major city in Canada had added fleets of the new electric coaches, which, thanks to their quiet, powerful, electric motors, could climb hills and accelerate much faster than the less powerful gasoline and diesel motor buses of the day. Tires and Wires tells you all about how that happened.
These efficient trolley coach lines ran in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Cornwall, Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener, Windsor, Port Arthur-Fort William, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, and are still operating in Vancouver. Several other cities contemplated or trialed them, and all are featured in this omnibus volume. However, a variety of factors doomed the electric coach, just ahead of the green revolution. The reasons are varied, and covered in each city’s story. 

Fascinating photos of each city’s system show the coaches, passengers, and in-street running, with the surroundings providing historical reference points for those interested in transportation, Canadiana, and nostalgic home-town views. For equipment and transit enthusiasts, the author has compiled complete system equipment rosters, with vehicle specifications and illustrations, along with a listing of preserved equipment.

There’s a chapter for each city’s system, plus a history of the trolley coach in Canada, and of all nine coach manufacturers. Wire maps (to show the streets on which they ran) are included for every city. Hundreds of excellent photographs and illustrations, along with high-quality colour photos are included in the book. In addition, a unique compilation of late 1940s and early 1950s colour postcards featuring trolley coaches appears in Tires and Wires.

About the Author

Tom Schwarzkopf’s introduction to urban transit was at age five with a move to Toronto where, when riding on the Peter Witt streetcars, he competed with the conductor in calling out car-stop names.

Whether getting up at 6 am to see the Barnum & Bailey Circus train unload or riding the new PCC streetcars, railways and transit have always been an integral part of Tom’s life. In his Cornwall, Ontario years, Tom enjoyed riding the new (for him) electric trolley buses, thus starting a lifelong interest in this urban “trackless trolley” transportation mode. A photo in Tires and Wires demonstrates this as an eleven-year-old Tom collects his brother’s fare on his backyard version of a Cornwall trolley coach. A lack of rope or ambition limited the trolley bus/wagon to a single pole and overhead wire – streetcars were long gone from Cornwall by then.

Many moves and years of train-chasing and riding followed, but relocation to Edmonton in 1973 renewed his contact with trolley coaches. A mutual interest in electric transit led to a friendship with Colin Hatcher, culminating in their co-authorship of Edmonton’s Electric Transit. The collaboration continued with Calgary’s Electric Transit (both books were published by Railfare), despite Tom having returned to Ottawa, where he continued also working on Tires and Wires – a project started in his Edmonton days.

In addition to Tom’s historical writings, he is the author of the popular children’s series “The Angela and Emmie Adventures” and dabbles in short story and youth fiction writing. In between travel, gardening and introducing his grandchildren to trains and all things transit, Tom is also working on several other transit writing projects.

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