In the 1870s and 1880s horse-drawn trams operated by the Ottawa City Passenger Railway Company were the major mode of public transport in the nation’s capital. Founded largely by Thomas McKay, the horse car service transported 273,000 passengers in its first year of operation. It travelled from New Edinburgh to the Chaudière Bridge, weaving through the downtown core and along Sussex Drive.
In 1891 the Ottawa Electric Railway Company (OER) began operations with routes running north and south along Bank Street and Elgin Street and east and west between Britannia and New Edinburgh. The façade of the company’s headquarters can still be seen on Sparks Street.
In 1901 the future King George V and Queen Mary visited Ottawa and the OER refitted a streetcar from the Britannia Line. Boasting the “Pullman Standard” dark green exterior and a luxurious interior with plush olive-green seats and blue carpets, the former streetcar was soon dubbed “The Duchess.”