Hop Aboard Steveston's Winter Tram
An original 2022 story sponsored by the City of Richmond
There are countless holiday attractions and activities competing for your family’s attention right now. And it’s easy to go over budget as you race around trying to see everything before Christmas finishes faster than a plate of shortbread at a crowded party.
But one of our favourite under-the-radar local attractions––one that we visit several times throughout the year––has the solution. Located in the heart of Richmond’s riverfront heritage village, the charming Steveston Tram has transformed itself into Winter Tram this month.
Alongside the chance to board the beautifully restored interurban tramcar 1220––which used to run between Vancouver and Richmond until the 1950s––the tram’s pavilion home is also hosting special holiday activities and exhibits this month. And best of all, everything is entirely free.
Trimmed with sparkling lights, Winter Tram’s pavilion at the corner of Moncton Street and No. 1 Road is adorned with a giant festive wreath right now. And before you even step inside, you’ll also find an inviting holiday selfie station in the garden––a large illuminated picture frame perfect for festive photos.
Inside, of course, the pavilion is dominated by the stunning 110-year-old tramcar, with its authentic Santa-red colour scheme. Before you climb aboard, though, give yourself plenty of time to explore the space around the tram––especially if you have children with you.
They’ll love the dress-up corner where they can slip into junior conductor uniforms. They’ll also enjoy the reading nook with its storybooks in several languages––The Polar Express included. And since its easy to ‘believe’ that Winter Tram is Richmond’s very own Polar Express, they can even hit the craft table and make a sleigh bell tree decoration, just like the one in the story.
You don't have to be a kid to marvel at the colourful Lego models of Steveston heritage landmarks also on display here this month. Built by Richmond-dwelling Lego fan Peter Grant, an info panel alongside the structures explains his method: “I don't use drawings or plans…so the process is more art than engineering.”
These camera-ready models include meticulous recreations of area buildings such as London Farm, Steveston Museum and Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site. But our favourite is the model of an old-school interurban tramcar waiting for its passengers at the station, just like they used to do here back in the day.
Which brings us to the tram itself. Built in St. Louis in 1912, car 1220 rattled along the rails between Vancouver and Steveston until 1958, when the line was decommissioned and replaced by bus services. The wood-framed tramcars were mostly destroyed but somehow 1220 survived and was rediscovered in a local warehouse in 1992.
A multi-year restoration ensued and the gorgeous car––now housed in a pavilion built over the tracks it once trundled on––has been a local gem attraction ever since. The tram doesn't run anymore, but climbing its metal steps and sliding onto one of its bouncy seats feels like travelling back in time.
The glowing, polished-wood interior is loved by kids and adults alike. We particularly admire the chunky controls at each end of the tram; the civilized brass rails for hanging newspapers on; and the entertaining yesteryear adverts lining the interior––our favourite proclaims the wonder of “Corn-dodger shoes [with] room for five toes.”
But before you leave Winter Tram, check out the new permanent exhibit recently installed on one side of the pavilion. With period artifacts, a fascinating timeline and lots of evocative old photos, it brings to life the history of this once-vital Metro Vancouver transit service.
Press the buttons on the exhibit’s large wall-mounted route map and you’ll discover that this regional tramcar network included five main lines that ran all the way out to Chilliwack. And although it probably wasn’t as fast as Santa’s sleigh, it must have been just as much fun to ride.
Winter Tram is open from Tuesday to Sunday until December 24 (between noon and 4pm). It is closed on December 14 and 21. The attraction and all its exhibits and activities are free. The pavilion is located at 4011 Moncton Street in the heart of Steveston Village.