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Tillsonburg Transit

Another one bites the dust...

In railroad terms, they call them "fallen flags". In Ontario, we just call them victims of the provincial government's cutbacks. At the end of December 2001, Ontario lost another of its small transit systems, this time with Tillsonburg Transit ceasing operations. Previously, small systems in places like Fort Frances, Kirkland Lake and Dryden have also shut their doors, so to speak, eliminating public transit from their communities.

Tillsonburg, a small town in the London area, had operated a one-bus system since the mid 1990s, originally using an ELF that featured a mural of sorts on its driver side only. The little-known service came to the attention of bus fans when they purchased Cambridge Transit new look number 307, a 1976 GMDD T6H-4523N, in 1998. This bus originally operated as their back-up vehicle with the Cambridge red strip but minus Cambridge's "three C" logo. Though there were rumours of the town acquiring a new ELF as their primary vehicle to replace the original, a 30-foot Blue Bird, complete with rear wheel chair lift, was acquired instead from McNabb Bus Sales. As of the summer of 2001, the original ELF was spotted for sale at a dealer on Highway 6 south of Guelph, still wearing the driver side mural.

For the last couple years of service, the little Blue Bird provided the bulk of the service, with the fishbowl continuing to serve as back-up, and it was repainted into the "town" colours of blue and green. Neither the Blue Bird nor the new look carried no roll sign, but just showed the name Tillsonburg Transit, with the fishbowl having it painted right over the roll sign glass. Though the town attempted to promote the service, including transit route information on town maps and on a two-page spread in the annual community service guide that featured a picture of the Blue Bird, the ridership level was deemed too low to continue service. No information is available on the current status of either the new look or the Blue Bird.

These three pictures show the small system's equipment, which I believe to be the "all-time" roster for the town service. The top photo was taken by Kevin Nicol in April 1999 and shows the original ELF with its driver-side mural, and the ex-Cambridge bus, still in its former paint scheme, in the background. I was able to visit Tillsonburg for the first time in August 2001 and found the ex-Cambridge new look, by this time repainted, but sitting out of service at the town yard. The bottom picture shows the Blue Bird stopped downtown.

Richard Oldfield

Tillsonburg ELF

Tillsonburg 307

Tillsonburg Blue Bird