Streetcar Cabin
Atton's Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada

Highway 40 Courier
Gibson, Lorie


Highway 40 Courier, October 20, 1999

A Streetcar That' s "Out 4 E' s "
by Colleen Chase
For sixty-five years, Atton's Lake has been home to a cabin with a little different style. No architect was needed to build this summer residence. Rather a mechanic may have been more suitable. Constructed from an American streetcar, Frank and Isabella Beggs from the Swathmore District added a lean-to onto the fifty passenger machine. This provided a summer cottage for the couple, and has entertained three generations of family members. Not only has it been a source of enjoyment, but also a picture of history and an interesting conversational piece. An overheard conversation is what provoked the Edmonton Radial Railway Society to take an interest in the streetcar. Eventually, the society acquired the machine from the family and added
it to their growing collection of streetcars which are displayed in the Car Barns at Ford Edmonton Park.

This streetcar was built in 1895 or 1896 (the Edmonton Radial Railway Society is currently working on finding out the exact year of its construction). Only a limited number of these streetcars were constructed at this time explains Carol Pederson, daughter of Frank and Isabella Beggs, who, along with her husband Bill, inherited the streetcar cabin at Atton's Lake.

This particular streetcar was originally a segregated car with seating for white people in one section and separate seating for black people. Ten benches lined the interior of this open car which could be entered from either side. Its length was thirty-one feet and its width totaled eight feet. The car had a bulk-head at each end, solid bronze trimming and curtains extending to the floor.

In 1920, this streetcar was one of five streetcars that were bought by the Saskatoon Municipal Railway (in operation from Jan. 1, 1913 to Aug. 15, 1949) from Charlotte, North Carolina. Saskatoon sent a purchaser to Charlotte to look at the streetcars, but upon discovering their open-bench style, the purchaser wrote to Saskatoon, telling them not to buy the streetcars because it would take too much work to convert them to be useful in Saskatchewan's colder climate. By the time Saskatoon received his message, they had already sent a cheque to Charlotte and the streetcars had been bought. As of yet, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society has been unable to locate any of the other four streetcars.

Upon arrival in Saskatoon, windows, steel sides and a heater stove were added to the streetcar which operated in the city until 1934. It was at this time that Frank and Isabella Beggs bought the streetcar from Saskatoon and moved it to Atton's Lake. Its title, "Out 4 E's" captured the relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere that the cabin provided for its residents. "This was an incredibly happy place with many wonderful memories," says Carol Pederson, who, along with her seven other siblings, spent summers at Atton's Lake, learning how to swim, enjoying campfires, and playing in the streetcar. "We have lots of pictures where we'd be looking through the window of the streetcar into the lean-to," she explains.

Years later, a motorman from the Edmonton Radial Railway Society overheard Carol's niece talking to her two sons about the family's streetcar while visiting Fort Edmonton. "He said he would be interested in seeing it," Carol says as she relays the story. And, though the Pederson's began talking with those from the Edmonton Radial Railway Society in 1992, it was not until the beginning of October of this year that the streetcar was transferred from Atton's Lake to Fort Edmonton to be restored.

On October 2nd, six members of the Edmonton Radial Railway Society came out to help prepare and load the streetcar. It was a weekend-long process which involved building a frame on the inside of the streetcar to secure a weak wall, sliding the car onto greased rails, and loading it with an eighteen ton crane attached to the back of a truck. "Removal went very well", says Carol. "I know that my Dad would be incredibly happy that we've donated the streetcar to the Edmonton Radial Railway Society."

It will be a real show piece," says Bill Keith, a member of the Edmonton Radial Railway Society. "We'll just use it occasionally."

The Edmonton Radial Railway Society, taking their name from the Edmonton Transit's original name, began in 1979. The group is a volunteer organization that restores, maintains and operates streetcars at the Barns located in Fort Edmonton Park. The society ran their first streetcar, a 1908 model called "Old Faithful", across the High Level bridge as a commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the city of Edmonton. Fort Edmonton Park had a long-term plan for streetcars. Thus, the Car Barns became a permanent addition to the park along with the help of a government grant.
Presently there are approximately one hundred members of the Edmonton Radial Railway Society. "They come from all walks of life," says Keith. The group owns just over twenty streetcars. "Most of the cars we obtain are car bodies and we have to restore them," he explains. On average, restoration takes approximately five years. However, the time span can range anywhere from two to eight years, depending on how much work needs to be done.

The streetcars come from all over the world. "We have equipment from Australia, Germany, Toronto, and a couple of pieces from Saskatchewan," says Keith. The streetcar from the Cut Knife area is being stored at Old Strathcona Barn along with "Old Faithful" which originally came from Osaka, Japan.

Keith approximates that the Pederson's streetcar will be restored and ready to operate in two years. However, this time span may change depending on the work needed to be done. The family history will be posted inside of the car when it is ready to be displayed and operated, and it will, no doubt, be a sight worth seeing.

For those wanting to take a closer look at these streetcars, the Car Barns are open to the public on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays. Rides are provided in the summer months.