Transportation

Electric Buses

Commonly known as Trolley Buses, they offered a lower cost alternative to adding new Street Car routes by eliminating the railway tracks.

In retrospect, they seem a needless interim step from Street Car to Diesel Bus, but you had to be there to understand the wisdom of the move. The standard GMC diesel-powered bus that first came out in 1972 had a top speed of about 5 mph with a full load going up Bellamy Hill. Even on level ground, they really slowed down traffic with their pathetic acceleration from a standing stop when empty, let alone fully loaded with rush hour passengers.

The torque available on a Trolley Bus, at any operating speed, from standing stop to 30 mph, made rapid accelerations possible that were dangerous for any standing passengers. Only the friction of the carbon runners against the overhead trolley wires slowed them down.

Of course, Trolley Bus drivers had to slow down whenever they approached a turn or switch for fear of losing their connection to the overhead lines or, worse yet, actually collapsing the lines.

The Rat Hole

The 109 Street tunnel under the long gone CN railway tracks North of 104 Avenue.

The 105th Street Bridge

No, not the Walterdale Bridge across the North Saskatchewan River, but the modern railway overpass downtown.

No One Way Bridges

The High Level Bridge and Walterdale Bridge both were two way until the 1980s.

The Freeway from Nowhere to Nowhere

The Capilano Freeway opened on October 25, 1973, seven years after its approval by Edmonton City Council. It provided an important new river crossing to better link the North and South sides of the city. On October 1, 1999, it was renamed Wayne Gretzky Drive.

The Freeway from Nowhere to Nowhere reference makes fun of the fact that its 70 mph (113 km/hr) speed limit coupled with its short length and the traffic lights at 101 Avenue and 118 Avenue. The rest of 75 Street had a speed limit of 30-35 mph.

Today, it is Wayne Gretzky Drive with a maximum speed limit of 80 km/hr (50 mph). But one thing remains the same: the bridge deck was built about 75 feet too low, by my father-in-law’s estimate. Thanks to be better tires, slower speed limit and constant attention by City sanding trucks, it is not the skating rink it was each winter for at least a decade after it was originally built.

Service Stations

They were more than just Gas Stations, with a one or two bay garage and Mechanic on duty, to handle car repairs and routine maintenance. Busy intersections often had four gas stations: one on each corner.

The Esso Car Clinic was the ultimate. It could check out a car for potential future problems. The key feature was a large metal drum under the back wheels of a vehicle, allowing it to be driven up to 60 mph for high speed testing without leaving the shop.

Smouldering Bales of Straw

The coldest days of winter have always been the most common time for Water Main breaks in Edmonton. Digging through frozen ground to replace a broken pipe required more than the back hoe that would be used in summer, so thawing the earth before digging usually made more sense than bringing in a jack hammer.

The City stored the bales of straw they bought from local farmers each Autumn, purely for this purpose. Bales would be laid over the area where the soil needed to be thawed, then ignited. They would smoulder for days as they heated up the ground under them.

The only problem with that approach is the Inversion Layers that Edmonton gets when the weather is at its coldest. Smoke can be trapped for days, causing allergies for nearby residents and even reducing visibility for motorists. Not to mention the esthetic issue of the smell that smouldering straw creates.

Wind Rows

Snow on major roads was ploughed into the centre of the road. As it piled up over the winter, it reduced the width of the centre lanes of traffic to less than the width of a vehicle. The result was confusing, to say the least.

For example, on 109 Street South of Whyte Avenue, where it is six lanes, a thin layer of snow replaced the yellow lines as lane dividers in the winter, creating three narrower lanes. Which got really confusing where the yellow lines were still visible.

That snow in the middle of the road was a Wind Row.