Restoring Ottawa’s streetcar number 696

Ottawa’s history with streetcars may soon come to life.  

A group of volunteers is restoring streetcar number ‘696’, and you may one day be able to take a ride on it.

The streetcar that carried passengers to work and fun at Britannia Park is a part of the city’s history.

“It was made in Ottawa,” says Rhéaume Laplante, who has been working since 2003 to help restore it.

Part by part, its closer to hitting the rails again and it is being restored in Ottawa,

“Eighty-five to 90 per cent of the parts has been fabricated; everything is new on it, because everything was rotten,” he says.

From body panelling, to each piece of wood fashioned and shaped to match the original.

Streetcar 696 sits locked away in an OC Transpo garage on Colonade Road. A group of volunteers is restoring the streetcar. (Peter Szperling/CTV News Ottawa)

As Ottawa looks to a future with the light rail transit.

“No, it’s not new; and, in 1905 or 1907, they were talking about the tunnel to go underneath the City of Ottawa,” says Laplante.

The city has an electric rail vehicle past, including streetcar 696 which ran from 1917 to 1959.

“It was the last Ottawa streetcar that was in service,” says Laplante.

A group of volunteers began restoration in 2000. Laplante says it is about 80 to 85 per cent complete, with about 125,000 work hours put in. He estimates it will take another three to five years to complete.

Streetcar 696 in an OC Transpo garage. (Peter Szperling/CTV news Ottawa)

He is hopeful of a plan to one day have the streetcar run at Lansdowne Park to shuttle visitors.

“Absolutely, the plan would be to have it to run here at Lansdowne Park,” Coun. Jean Cloutier told CTV News Ottawa. “One of the elements of Lansdowne Park is connecting the canal to the centre of the park, and the streetcar might be something that could be used for that.”

Restoration took a pause at the start of COVID-19, but Laplante is hopeful to soon be able to return to an OC Transpo garage, where the streetcar is stored.

For more information, visit the OC Transpo website.

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