Wendy Kwan

Growing up in Vancouver during the 1960’s, I eagerly anticipated shopping trips downtown with my Mom. In an era where “going downtown” was a special occasion, we headed for destinations like Reid’s Meats for Scottish meat pies and the best ever beef sausages, the Cookie Jar for their Charlotte Rousse and coconut macaroons, and the Hudson’s Bay for the 6th floor lunch buffet and a haircut. Woolworth’s was usually good for a quick poke around too.

Mom didn’t drive, so frequently delivery to our favourite shops was by Brill Trolley. I figured they most resembled “big breadboxes on wheels”, and even then, they were more like something from someone else’s time. They often lost their trolleys en route, creating instant entertainment if you had a coveted seat at the back of the bus. Funny, Mom never wanted to sit on that back bench, but for kids, it was the place to be.  Brills even smelled different than other buses – maybe something to do with that hard textured green stuff they used for seat coverings.

The oddness of the Brills also gave them character, something seriously lacking in today’s transit fleet. Wonderful curving shapes, starting with the base design of the bus, repeated in the windows, mirrors, and even the flapping little gate you pushed to open the rear doors. Since my days of downtown shopping trips, I have journeyed on many other buses, but none have the resonance of those trolleys.

Most of the Vancouver Brills were scrapped in 2001. An effort to gather what remains of this unusual fleet of characters and restore and preserve them is underway today in Sandon B.C.

More information on the trolley restoration project can be found at


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