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The last streetcar driver

By Nick Seebruch

Published on September 13, 2018

Les Foulds holds his hat from his time working with the Cornwall Street Railway, Light and Power Company, Limited. Foulds is the last surviving driver of Cornwall's old streetcars (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

CORNWALL, Ontario – In 1949, Les Foulds took one of Cornwall’s old streetcars through its route for the last time. Almost 60 years later, Foulds is the last surviving Cornwall streetcar driver.

Back then, there was no Cornwall Transit yet. Before 1971, transportation in Cornwall was managed by the Cornwall Street Railway, Light and Power Company, Ltd.

“The old street railway was like working with a family,” the now 98-year-old Foulds remembered. “They were cold in the winter. You usually drove standing up because the position of the braking handle and the power handle.”

Foulds said that in a time before T.V. transit was a more frequent part of life.

“Cornwall at that time had two theatres uptown and three or four hotels,” he said. “So people didn’t come home to watch T.V.”

There were three streetcar routes in Cornwall at the time, one on Montreal Rd., one on Pitt St. and the Belt Line.

Foulds was 27-years-old when he started working for the Cornwall Street Railway company. He was born and grew up in Morrisburg before serving in England during World War II as a member of the ground crew for a night fighter squadron.

After the war, Foulds moved to Montreal and worked in a factory for a time, before coming to Cornwall to work in his friend’s denture manufacturing business in 1946. After Veteran’s Affairs stopped supporting dental work at the end of that year, Foulds was looking for a new job and found a place at the Cornwall Street Railway company. Foulds would spend the next 38 years working in transit.

After the streetcars stopped in 1949, Foulds began operating trolley buses.

“They were warm in the winter,” Foulds remembered. “The trolley bus was a nice vehicle to drive.”

In 1971 when the Cornwall Street Railway, Light and Power Company, Ltd. became the publicly owned Cornwall Transit, Cornwall’s 16 trolley buses were sold to the Toronto Transit Commission for parts.

Foulds says he has seen a lot of change in Cornwall over the years.

“When I came to Cornwall, east of Second St. was just two homes east of Baldwin,” he said. Foulds went onto explain that when he moved into his current home near Ninth St. in 1950 that besides a train station and a few homes, there was nothing north of him.

“Brookdale Ave. North of Second St. was just a dirt road,” he said.

For the last few years of his time with the street railway company, Foulds worked in the office as a manager, but said that what he enjoyed the most about the job was the people.

“When I went into the office, I missed meeting the people,” Foulds said. “I knew a lot of my passengers by their first names. I knew when their mothers or mother-in-laws came to visit or if their kids were sick. A lot of them are gone now too.”