News / Ottawa

Ottawa streetcar ready to come out of retirement

Streetcar retired in 1958 and was left rotting under a museum’s outdoor tarp for three decades.

Rheaume Laplante, a retired OC Transpo worker is one of many volunteers trying to restore the streetcar.

Dylan C. Robertson / Metro Order this photo

Rheaume Laplante, a retired OC Transpo worker is one of many volunteers trying to restore the streetcar.

Built in 1917 with wood and steel, Ottawa’s Streetcar 696 is getting a new lease on life as a passionate group of volunteers push to have it back on track for Canada Day.

The effort is now an all-hands-on-board project bringing together teenagers, retirees and local companies.

“We do this because we love it,” says Rhéaume Laplante, a retired OC Transpo repair shop supervisor.

Streetcar 696 circled between Rockcliffe Park and Britannia until it was retired in 1958 and left rotting under a museum’s outdoor tarp for three decades. The agency obtained the streetcar in 1989, and started an occasional volunteer effort to restore it back in 2000.

After retiring, Laplante threw himself into the project, hoping that co-ordinating the project would make the streetcar ready for its 100th anniversary, and Canada 150 celebrations.

For the past few years, roughly 20 volunteers meet Wednesday evenings and Friday during business hours to replicate the rotting wooden parts, and salvage any useable steel parts. “We’re like a family — we tease each other, we go to Timmies after,” Laplante says.

The project is now 80 per cent completed, Laplante says, with windows and vents being put in place. They’ve worked without blueprints, nor the tools used a century ago. Constructing the rear double-doors is the last major task, before the whole body gets a coat of poppy-red paint.

He’s now in talks to have the final project mounted on temporary tracks at Lansdowne Park.

Laplante said the project costs about $500,000, most of which has been covered through corporate donations. For example, the floorboard is made of wood reclaimed from the bottom of the Ottawa River, donated by Logs End.

The rest of the project funding comes from selling vintage merchandise. Rideau High School shop students have helped out, as have people assigned community service hours by provincial court.

Laplante is seeking donations and volunteers, especially with experience in wood, steel, upholstery or electric wiring. But “some might not have those skills, and we’re willing to show them welding, painting; lots of different tasks.”

By the numbers

1917 - Streetcar 696 is completed

1958 - Streetcar 696 is retired

1959 - Ottawa ends streetcar service

Carries - 48 passengers

Length - 15 metres long

Weight - 42,000lbs (19,050 Kg)

Top speed - 60 Km/h top speed, depending on weather

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