How Vancouver buses have evolved since World War II (PHOTOS)

Feb 22 2022, 8:11 pm

A group called the Transit Museum Society (TMS) has a website that highlights several vintage Vancouver buses, and it’s pretty astounding to see how buses have evolved in the city.

Dating all the way back to 1937, the website features a variety of Vancouver buses that the Transit Museum Society now owns for preservation purposes.

Some of the vehicles are Vancouver trolleybuses, and some are cable-free vehicles, but they’re all a beautiful vintage blast from the past.

1937 Hayes PCT-32

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

The first vehicle in the  TMS collection — chronologically speaking — is a 1937 Hayes PCT-32. Aka, the teardrop.

The PCT-32 was built by Vancouver-based Hayes Manufacturing Company.

According to TMS, these buses were the “pride of the Pacific Stage Lines fleet” before the Second World War. The #63 pictured above was donated to the Vancouver Fire Department in 1951.

TMS adds that this is the only known operational Hayes bus in the world.

1947 Canadian Car-Brill T44 #2040

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

The #2040 T44 was actually the product of a collaboration between Canada and America.

This vehicle was the result of a licensing agreement between Canadian Car and Foundry and the American manufacturer ACF-Brill.

The #2040 is the only surviving member of that family of vehicles. The T44 could seat 44 people.

1947 Twin Coach 41S #M852

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

Featuring a gasoline engine, these twin coach buses shared the road with vehicles like the T44.

TMS says that these vehicles were dominant throughout the 1950s, but progressively retired in the late 1960s when GM diesel buses were acquired in large numbers.

1954 Canadian Car-Brill T48A – BC Hydro Transit #2416

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

Yup. BC Hydro Transit was a thing.

The T48A was a longer vehicle than the T44 and could seat more people. It was also one of the final buses built by CCF-Brill in Ontario. The #2416 is now preserved in the livery of the BC Hydro and Power Authority. TMS says that this vehicle often appears at TransLink events, and was in an event as recently as 2018.

That BC Hydro logo on the front of the bus is a bit mind-boggling though, isn’t it?

1957 Canadian Car-Brill CD52A – BC Hydro Transit #3404 and BC Electric Railway #3405

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

Featuring some UK flavour, TMS says these vehicles were equipped with British-made A.E.C. pancake diesel engines.

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

These two vehicles were honourably discharged from Vancouver transit in 1977.

1964 “New Look” GM TDH-4519 #4612

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

In 1964, these “new look” or “fishbowl” buses — nicknamed for the large windows — became part of the Lower Mainland fleet. The buses didn’t have great passenger capacity and ended up serving Burnaby and Surrey on lower-ridership routes. The buses were roughly 35 feet long.

1976 Flyer Industries E800 – BC Hydro Transit “Triesel” #2649

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

The Lower Mainland transit scene, having gone through tons of trolleybuses, had many decommissioned trolley vehicles on hand. So, the “triesel” was developed.

Essentially, a triesel is a trolleybus that has been converted into a diesel bus.

This triesel was used by Coast Mountain Bus Company as recently as 2008 for deicing roads, believe it or not.

1982 GM “New Look” T6H-5307N – BC Transit #4107

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

Also called the Hillclimber, this GM bus was the dawn of a new era when it came to Vancouver bus designs. The signature red, blue, and white with the yellow nameplate was the foundation of a design that would last for over two decades.

It was nicknamed Hillclimber due to the turbocharged Detroit Diesel 6V92TA engine, and also featured a low-geared transmission. The #4107 retired in 2007.

1982 Flyer Industries D901A – BC Transit #3334

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

Alongside the “New Look” trolleybuses, a diesel-powered version was also developed, and there were 35 of them in total. Some of these buses lasted into the 2000s according to TMS.

While the #3334 was originally retired, TMS mechanics have repaired and brought it back into working condition.

1983 Flyer Industries E902 – BC Transit #2805

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

The E902s featured new powertrains and had smooth acceleration, power, and modern technology that weren’t found in the E800 model.

These buses remained in service until 2008. One of them was unfortunately engulfed in flames at the Oakridge Transit Centre.

TMS says a number of these vehicles were purchased from TransLink by the province of Mendoza in Argentina after they were retired.

1990 Motor Coach Industries Classic TC40-102N Coast Mountain Bus Company #4276

vancouver buses

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

After GM left the heavy bus industry in 1987, it sold its bus designs to the Greyhound owner at the time, Motor Coach Industries.

These classics were the same as the prior GM-produced vehicles, with the addition of daytime running lights and wheelchair lifts in 1989 and 1990 respectively.

MCI left the transit industry in 1993, and the #4276 was retired in 2008. Some of these colours are still used in Vancouver transit vehicle designs today.

1991 New Flyer Industries D40 – Coast Mountain Bus Company #3106

vancouver buses

Matthew Walker/Transit Museum Society

A design that might not seem too distant to some in the Lower Mainland. The D40 was considered a breakthrough in how transit buses were built and designed in North America.

Flyer Industries was acquired by a dutchman named Jan den Oudsten, who turned it into New Flyer Industries. The technology that the Oudsten family would employ to manufacture these buses would bring major innovations to transit vehicles.

Innovations like tubular steel semi-monocoque construction, with aluminum and fibreglass body panels. While these buses were retired in 2010, some of them had a second life thanks to the 2010 Olympics.

Another thing that has evolved since World War II is obviously how much one pays to board a bus in Vancouver. According to Translink, a one-zone fare in 1984 was just 85 cents.

For more vintage Vancouver buses, and other interesting historical information about these vehicles, head over to the Transit Museum Society website.

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