Facebook Page

Fraser Valley Heritage Railway 7/30/2017

by Chris Guenzler

We all got up early and after a good breakfast, took off up Interstate 5 to Blaine where we took the State Route 543 Truck Crossing into Canada. With only a less than five minute wait, we had one car in front of us before it was our turn and we continued north to the Surrey suburb of Cloverdale. First I had to photograph the depot.

The replica Cloverdale station, which is on the same location as the original station. From here, we parked and Elizabeth opened the station building as she was station master for the morning, and I helped her move benches outside.

Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society History

Based on an idea by, and personal funding of $25,000 from Mr. Jim Wallace, a commissioner with the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission, a feasibility study was undertaken between 1996 and 2000 to ascertain the feasibility of reactivating the old B.C. Electric Railway line in the Fraser Valley for passenger service.

Based on that study, a recommendation was made to Surrey City Mayor and Council at least two original interurbans could possibly be repatriated from their U.S. museum owners and that reactivating the interurban line through Surrey was feasible. Surrey Council requested that a not-for-profit group be formed to undertake the repatriation, rehabilitation and return of original BCER Interurban cars to the original Fraser Valley line for use in a heritage tourism initiative.

In 2001 the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society was formed to acquire, restore and operate the remaining BCER Interurban cars. The original Fraser Valley rail line still exists in the valley from New Westminster as far East as Chilliwack. Some adjustments to the tracks have been made in the past 50 years, but most of the original track is still there. The Fraser Valley interurban line last carried passengers in 1955, a special trip from Chilliwack for Miss J. E. Fowlie and her grade 3 class from Yarrow. The original BCER Fraser Valley line remains a forgotten jewel in the valley.

BC Electric Railway History.

BC Electric Railway was incorporated on April 3, 1897, under English laws, with head office at Threadneedle Street in London, England, according to BCER Historian Henry W. Ewert.

It was not just an amalgamation of existing street car lines, but of an interurban line from Vancouver to New Westminster developed by the Westminster & Vancouver Tramway Co. on October 8, 1891, Ewert shows on pages 20-21 of his excellent book, "The Story of the British Columbia Electric Railway Company Limited" (Whitecap Books, July, 1986) Although the idea of servicing the Fraser Valley had been considered in the 1890s, it was not until the Fraser River Bridge was built and in operation until June 1904, that the BCER could attend to developing its Fraser Valley Line.

Fraser Valley Line was completed in 1910 and that passenger service was inaugurated on October 3, 1910.

When completed the BCER ran from downtown Vancouver out to Chilliwack. There were up to four complete round-trip runs each day. Carrying not only passengers, it also provided a fast method for moving freight, the mail and gossip.

Another goal of completing the rail line was to electrify the valley. Modern conveniences, such as electric light and telephones, came to the valley as the rail line spread up from the Fraser River and through settlements. Over time these settlements grew into the town centers and cities we find today: Whalley (Surrey City Center), Newton, Sullivan, Cloverdale, Langley, Abbotsford, Sumas, Yarrow and Chilliwack.

At 1:30 a.m. on July 16, 1954, the last interurban train operated from the Carrall Street Station on the Central Park line. Reaching Park Avenue at 2:10 a.m. it then proceeded to the New Westminster barn. Closing down sixty-three years of passenger service on the Central Park line was an interurban train consisting of cars 1316 and 1304. Car 1304 was saved from the scrap yard being declared the system's official stand by coach. This decision enabled the car to survive until to today. Following one last trip to Chilliwack in 1955, Car 1304 left Canada in 1955 and moved to Glenwood, Oregon to reside at the "Trolley Park" of the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society. It was returned to Canada, to the FVHRS in 2009.

The original Fraser Valley rail line still exists in the valley from New Westminster as far east as Chilliwack.

The Society owns B.C. Electric Railway Car 1225 and Car 1304 plus operates speeders and a velocipede.

The above information was taken from the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society web site.

My visit and rides

The next thing I did was walk with Bob to the car barn where I started taking my pictures for this story.

B.C. Electric interuban car 1304 "Connaught" in its final stages of restoration.

B.C. Electric interurban car 1225; the car that is operational at this moment.

B.C. Electric interurban car 1207 acquired from the former Downtown Historic Railway in Vancouver.

An end view of the 1207.

Pictures from inside the car barn giving the history of each interurban car.

The generator car that provides the power for BCER 1225.

The speeder and its cars that gives rides down the museum's track when the interurban car is out on its run. This is part of the barn tour. From here, I went back into the station.

BCER timetable board.

Pictures and map of the Fraser Valley interurban line.

Pictures around the window.

B.C. Electric Railway memorabelia and models on display.

New Westminster car barns.

Museum room scene with conductor's hats, B.C. Electric Railway china and other memorabelia. There are chairs here and showing on the screen, on a loop, is the "Last Run of the Chilliwack Line", which anyone can sit and watch and is also available in the gift shop.

Pot belly stove and other historical BCER pictures. I was then taken outside to be shown something special.

The original B.C. Electric track in front of the depot here.

The Fraser Valley Heritage Railway carbarn with the recently-completed extension to house B.C. Electric interurban 1231, which is coming to the property later this year. Next I met Bob in the car barn and then boarded the trolley 1225 for the safety run. I sat on a stool for my trip down the museum's trackage. Here is the trip.

Exiting the car barn.

Leaving the museum's property.

The switch to the depot trackage.

Running down the old B.C. Electric main line.

Rolling down the museum's privately-owned spur.

There is an industrial switcher at the Parrish and Heimbecker grain transfer facility.

That picture was taken while the derail was unlocked so that the museum's runs could gain access to the Southern Railway of British Columbia tracks.

As we returned to the depot, a picture of the interior of Car 1225.

Once we returned, I walked over to the barn for an unobstructed view of Car 1207. I went into the museum room of the depot and sat in the chairs to watch the video. Elizabeth brought me my first ride ticket and a few minutes before the trip started, I walked out to the platform and waited to board the trolley. On today's rides, Bob would be the motorman for two trips and the conductor for the other two trips. I talked to the crew about how I wanted to take my pictures and they agreed to let me kneel on the return trip to get the trip back down the line.

A quick picture while we were stopped at the switch to the Southern Railway of B.C. main line switch. From here, we would head west to Sullivan. Now I will share views on the way to Sullivan.

The line to Roberts Bank is behind these bushes.

Blueberry bushes, some ready to be harvested, others that have been harvested.

Our route crossed the Serpentine River.

Interesting view along our route with a variety of trees.

The replica Sullivan station.

The car barn that the group was in when I last visited here in 2011.

This is as far as our trip went. Once the crew had moved to the other end of the car, I knelt to shoot the pictures back down the line.

Back by the Sullivan station.

Interesting clouds above our route.

The view was so good we could see all the way to the high rise buildings in New Westminster.

Crossing one of the farm crossings along our route.

Running along the Serpentine River's levee.

Crossing the Serpentine River.

Crossing Highway 10.

Running along Highway 10.

Crossing 168 Street, originally known as the Coast Meridian Road.

One last view of the original right-of-way.

Curving on to the newly-laid welded rail trackage that was put in to run underneath the new bridge that replaced the two grade crossings.

Rolling east down the welded rail.

An approach signal to the Canadian Pacific crossing east of the junction to the museum's trackage.

Curving down the approach to the Highway 15 bridge, named for the late Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Roger Pierlet.

Views of the Highway 15 bridge.

We rolled down the welded rail past milepost 14.

We came back to the switch to the museum's trackage. I relaxed the rest of the way back to the depot. Once there, I got off the trolley and walked back to the ticket office, picked up my complimentary ticket and got in line for my next trip. I made my second trip and after that, I checked with Elizabeth to see when we were going for lunch and then walked on top of the Highway 15 bridge and waited for the 12:30 train.

Mount Baker on a clear day.

Car 1225 from the bridge. I returned toward the museum and found Elizabeth waiting for me and we went to A&W where I had a Mama Burger and a root beer, which really hit the spot. After that, we returned to the depot where I picked up my final complimentary ticket and took the next train which I took some pictures of.

Car 1225 at rest at the Cloverdale depot.

Parrish and Heimbecker TP56 5601 built in 2013 from Canadian Pacific SD40-2 5805.

Views of the mountains to the north. After my third trip I bought my fourth and Elizabeth joined me on her first run of the day. Once we returned I had just a few more pictures to take.

After all the trips, Car 1225 finally headed to the car barn. We waited for Bob to finish his duties before we left and headed to the Save-On Foods store. Once that was done, we drove back to the border where it said there would be a twenty minute wait. We did it in twelve minutes and once we were across and back in my homeland, my Verizon phone worked again complete with the correct time, so I made a few phone calls as we travelled down Interstate 5. We stopped for petrol in Bellingham before stopping in Burlington for dinner at the Outback Steakhouse. Once that was done, we returned to the Alkire's house in Lynnwood for the night. It had been a great day and I highly recommend you come to Surrey to visit the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway.