No. 1220 tram car restoration by the City of Richmond

On Track Again: Canadian Painter Helps Restore Historic Rail Car

For 45 years, tram cars carried people back and forth from the city of Vancouver to neighboring communities in British Columbia. That all came to a halt in the 1950s, as buses replaced tram cars in British Columbia, much as it happened with their streetcar counterparts in the U.S.

When the trams were decommissioned, many parts were scrapped and the wooden bodies were burned, says Rebecca Forrest, curator of collections for the City of Richmond Museum and Heritage Services.

Only seven of the original 28 1200-class trains commissioned by BC Electric Railway Company exist today. The No. 1220 tram car recently underwent a complete restoration by the City of Richmond.

Restoring to its original glory

The restoration work involved building a new, waterproof roof, refurbishing the interior seats and ceilings, and rust-proofing the undercarriage. It also meant restoring the original paint and colors.

Surface preparation was key for a vehicle that had not been in operation for so long, says David Forrester of Heritage Painting & Decorating, the company hired to do the repaint.

His crews removed window sashes and trim and took them to their shop for a new hand-painted finish for the tram car, known to locals as the “Red Rocket.”

Crucial: the right primer and topcoats

To help level out the surface imperfections, Heritage Painting used
PrimeRx® Peel Bonding Primer.

“We did not know what type of coating had last been used on the car, so we primed a couple sections and performed an adhesion test,” he says.

His crews rolled and back brushed the first coat in their shop, and fixed any problems and did touch-ups with the second coat after the trim was re-assembled on site.

Topcoat choices for the interiors were ProClassic® Waterborne Interior Acrylic Enamel and All Surface Enamel, depending on the sheen desired.

SuperPaint® Exterior Acrylic Latex was used on the exteriors.

All colors were custom matched by the color experts at their Sherwin-Williams store.

“Our regular work can be repetitive, so it’s always nice to do a different project like this once in a while,” Forrester says. “Plus, it’s a good talking piece for our company’s marketing efforts.”

This article originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of PPC magazine. Story by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. Photography courtesy City of Richmond. Read about other landmark painting projects in our PPC Projects archive.