By David Wyatt
There were speeches and a banquet on May 23rd, 1908 when the electric interurban streetcars started running between Winnipeg and Selkirk. There probably won’t be any speeches or ceremonies when Beaver Bus Lines’ last scheduled run pulls out of Selkirk bound for Winnipeg on June 30th 2016. One hundred and eight years of regular transit service between Winnipeg and Selkirk will come to an end.
From 1908 to 1937 the big electric interurbans operated on the route. Buses first appeared in 1931, and took over exclusively in 1937. Beaver Bus Lines bought the operation from the original owners, Winnipeg’s privately owned transit company, in 1948.
The Selkirk run was a remarkable survivor. A public transit service operated without public subsidy. No level of government, not even the four municipalities it served (Winnipeg, Selkirk, West St. Paul and St. Andrews), made any financial contribution to its operation. It was also the key link between public transit systems in Selkirk and Winnipeg, making it possible to commute from home in one city to work or school in the other.
Among the criteria for an effective public transit system is that it takes users where they want to go. For the transit users of Selkirk and Winnipeg, the other city is now out of reach. You can’t get there from here.
David Wyatt is a member of Functional Transit Winnipeg and a historian with the Manitoba Transit Heritage Association.