Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

104 years ago today

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Chuck Davis
Vancouver Sun

When Vancouver’s first streetcars went into service in 1890, the electricity required to run the system was generated by a little steam powerhouse on what is now Union Street (a block south of Georgia, east of Main.)

As the city and the service grew, more power was needed. So the B.C. Electric Railway Co. started looking for a spot near the city where hydroelectric power could be generated. They found it at what was then called Trout Lake (or Beautiful Lake), just east of Port Moody, and built a tunnel to carry water there from Coquitlam Lake. The difference in water levels between the two lakes — Coquitlam was nearly 10 metres higher — would provide the motive force to generate the power. An annual rainfall of about 3.7 metres didn’t hurt.

The BCER’s general manager, Johannes Buntzen, a Dane, supervised the construction of the system, the first hydroelectric powerhouse on the mainland, and it went into operation Dec. 17, 1903 — 104 years ago today.

Buntzen’s work didn’t end there: he went before Vancouver city council and urged them to attract new industry that could use this new source of power. He’s been called the “grandfather” of electricity here.

Everyone was so pleased with the results, they renamed the lake for Buntzen.

For more local history:

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Written by Stephen Rees

December 17, 2007 at 1:26 pm

Posted in transit

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