Kitchener Trolleybus Gallery

Many readers of this site have been posting photos of the ION LRT construction in Kitchener-Waterloo over the past years. Normally, I stick to Toronto news, but as a gift back to readers in K-W, here is a set of photos of the Kitchener trolleybus system just before it was converted to lovely, clean (ho ho ho) diesel buses.

Much of the city, at least along King Street,  is unrecognizable today from the early 1970s.

February 3, 1973.


March 21, 1973.


March 24, 1973, a few days before the end of service on March 26.

18 thoughts on “Kitchener Trolleybus Gallery

  1. The past is prettier in the mind than lived.

    I don’t remember as much ugly advertising, and always perceive that as getting progressively worse, but that’s not always true.

    Surprised to see trolley lines on roads without curbs, or roads without curbs adjacent to downtown. An interesting reminder of how much more expensive city building is, because we now add ‘frills’ we sometimes went without before. And a reminder how much wealthier a society we are now.

    Didn’t remember Pizza Pizza being that old.

    “Have a cold area? …. add electric heat!” – ah, back when we had competent management and political oversight. Every government since has had a hand in screwing this up… tragic.

    “clean air diesel” The present has no monopoly on Orwellian doublespeak.


  2. I have a soft spot for trolleybuses, I guess because I’m from Eastern Europe originally (and they run on electricity, have no exhaust, and emit just a quiet hum compared to buses – that too, I guess 🙂 ). When I traveled around California one year, and got to SF and saw the trolleybuses, I felt strangely at home all of a sudden. I was sad to learn Toronto had abandoned trolleybuses about one year before I initially moved here as a kid.

    Very nice photos Steve, it’s interesting for me to see these old North American-style trolleybuses (as opposed to the Soviet-style ones that always pop in to my head when I think of the word “trolleybus”).


  3. “Converted to lovely, clean (ho ho ho) diesel buses.” lol

    Weren’t we using cheap coal to power the electricity generators back then? We ignored the dirty air back then, and continue to do ignore the status of our air today.


  4. Surprised to see trolley lines on roads without curbs

    In Dayton there are suburban rural cross section streets with trolleybus wire.


  5. Easy to forget how many Ontario cities had trolleybuses. I guess that Dieselisation was seen as progress. I wonder if they ever considered going the Flyer route.

    Steve: The system was abandoned well before Flyer got into the business of rebuilding TBs. Also there was the classic problem that the city was growing much larger than the extent of the one remaining line.

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  6. Great pics, Steve. I remember those buses well. Actually I also remember riding on one of their ex-Cleveland Witts and spotting one of their Birneys.


  7. Thank you for the photos. Lots of familiar sights. One question, if you don’t mind. I am 100% I recognize the house next to the KPUC yard, but can’t place it for the life of me. Where was it located?

    Steve: I looked this up for someone else on Twitter earlier today. Here is the Google Street View. There is a high rise there now.


  8. In grade 9, I attended Waterloo Collegiate Institute. This was 1974. At the time, the student fare was 15 cents.


  9. Ross Tussler says: “Didn’t remember Pizza Pizza being that old.”

    Pizza Pizza got the 967 11 11 number fro Eaton’s Catalogue when it shut down. The founder wanted an easy to remember number.

    W. K Lis says: “Weren’t we using cheap coal to power the electricity generators back then? We ignored the dirty air back then, and continue to do ignore the status of our air today.”

    Most of it was Hydro Electric back then followed by Nuclear. The old Hearn plant had been closed by then.


  10. Electricity sources changed between 1946 and 1973. I expect that at the start it would be mostly or completely hydroelectric. Coal-fired plants were phased in: Hearn in 1951, Lakeview in 1962 is what I found. Pickering A was only commissioned in the early ’70s, so nuclear would have generated only a small portion of the trolley coach system’s electricity, and that only in the last few months if at all.

    If you want to see vintage trolleycoaches in action today, go to Valparaiso, Chile.


  11. “Pizza Pizza got the 967 11 11 number fro Eaton’s Catalogue when it shut down.”

    Great old true story. A young woman on vacation in the Caribbean had her passport, id, wallet stolen the day before she had to fly home for work the next day. Arrives at Pearson and is all upset about having nothing to prove who she was. Explains this to Canada Customs man who asked her one question. “What is the phone number for Pizza Pizza?” She gave the correct answer and he then said “You belong here. Welcome home!” Fantastic story! Not likely to work nowadays.


  12. It’s interesting that even back in 1973, they felt it was necessary to argue the cleanliness of diesel buses with that advertising card mentioning “effective pollution controls” as if there was an expectation then that people would call BS on the abandonment of trolleybuses even at that time.

    I don’t know how much route overlap the Kitchener LRT line has with the former trolleybus system but in Hamilton, the LRT line will overlap much of the King trolleybus. In the ultimate irony, the city’s in the process right now of buying real estate on Wentworth Ave. N. to build a bus garage. Honestly, I shake my head because you just can’t make this stuff up.

    In any event, both cities will have light rail lines that will speed people to where they need to go including their respective Go train stations where a transfer to what I hope will one day be a properly electrified commuter service will be possible (I can’t believe Queen’s Park floated electrification by hydrogen powered trains again recently).


  13. @TTC Passenger: The new tramway follows the central King Street corridor, just like the old trolleybus route. But the northbound and southbound tracks are on separate side streets in the densest areas rather than on King Street itself, and the line runs several stations further at both ends.


  14. The trolleybus line, like the streetcar before it, went straight up King Street, from the barn at Rockaway Gardens (just north of where the expressway is now) to University Avenue. The LRT wanders all over the map; I think it may run up a bit of King street in the middle of the route.

    The streetcar had a branch to Bridgeport; the TB didn’t.


  15. Aaaa….memories of my childhood. Thanks. Shoprite, Central Meat Market when it was downtown, Kresges, Onward Motors. Even a picture of that monstrosity that killed the downtown core – the Kitchener Eaton’s Centre.

    Just to clarify – that’s an ad for Pepi’s Pizza. Locally owned and operated by, legend had it, the local biker gang. Got firebombed a few times. Pizza Pizza didn’t show up until the late 80’s.

    I remember the day when the trolley’s were no more in 73. They finally got routes out to the suburbs. Free travel that day so I as a less then 10 year old took buses by myself from 8 in the morning until I came home 12 hours later. Strange routes with numbers as against just names – like 7 Main Line and 8 Loop and 3 Ottawa and 5 Rosemount.

    Still taking new routes whenever I can over 40 years later.

    Steve: I deliberately took that photo of the “Eaton’s Centre” as a comparator to the abomination originally planned in Toronto.


  16. In other news, Metrolinx is now doing a study on whether hydrogen-fuel-cell trains would be better than conventional electric trains for its ‘electrification’ initiative. The justification appears to be that Germany is testing some hydrogen-fuel-cell trains (as a replacement for small DMUs on secondary lines) so it will surely work great for Metrolinx (who run trains consisting of gigantic honking bilevel coaches).

    The Laval, QC trolleybus study also appears to have gone nowhere, because their government wanted to make extra sure that battery-electric buses aren’t somehow better.

    Sometimes I feel like our transit systems have been taken over by an exotic breed of vampire that is allergic to overhead wires.


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