What happened to Vancouver’s CCF Brill Trolleys
Brill trolleybuses at Sandon BC
Photo by Keith Freeman used with permission
Unbelievably there are now six of them in Sandon BC (that is in addition to those that TRAMS has here.)
The story of these buses as told on the page I have linked to misses a curious and human element. Something odd happens to men when they reach a certain age. They start lusting after small open British sports cars, or steam engines, and in one case I know of, a complete full size theatre organ that got rebuilt in the spare bedroom of a small semi-detached house. A couple of senior people at Transit actually used public funds to gratify their obsessions. One shelled out $1m for the refurbishment of an interurban car and another (David Stumpo first CEO of Coast Mountain Bus Company) decided that Vancouver should have a fleet of restored Brill trolleys running around downtown. The bankrupt scrap dealer who had stored them since they were withdrawn in 1984 in a yard in Surrey, was finally dispossessed of his property. The fleet of trolleys (which had featured in that strange The X-Files tv series, so surreal was the image of all those old trolleys forlornly waving their poles at the sky) was destined finally to be broken up, but Stumpo stepped in. Many were completely beyond repair, but he thought that it would be possible to make a working fleet out of the better ones with parts scavenged from the rest. Very few people agreed with him – and he departed from CMBC soon afterwards, mainly due to his mis-handling of the bus strike.
His actions, however, had saved the fleet from the torch and some enthusiasts have managed to hang on to some of them, though too many to all be restored. But the longer they last the more desirable they become, I suppose. I doubt they will now ever see public service again but perhaps some more will get put into museums.
By the way, the idea of selling on old trolleybuses abroad is not that far fetched. Some of the later examples of London’s double decker fleet ended up in Bilbao after they were withdrawn (they were then only about ten years old). Until the advent of electronic control systems, very little changed in trolleybus technology and some things could be reused. Electric motors for example can be rewound and put back into service. Toronto’s old fleet of trolleys was rebuilt and kept going long after diesel buses would have been scrapped. Edmonton’s current fleet is of advanced age. They just don’t build them now like they used to. And in a city like Vancouver where there is not much salt on the roads in winter, vehicles do last longer.