Facebook Page

Roberts Bank, Delta, British Columbia Railfanning

by Elizabeth Guenzler

For about ten years from the mid-1990's to the mid-2000's, I attended the twice-yearly model railway shows held at the Cameron Recreation Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia. These were the largest model railway shows in the province, with the one in March being operated by West Coast Railway Association and the November version a 7th Division, National Model Railroad Association show. While I have never been interested in having a model railway of my own, I do have a collection of N and HO gauge locomotives and cars, and I bought several at these shows. Memorabelia is of interest to me and I have picked up some unique items over the years. These shows also gave me the opportunity to add back issues of various magazines to my collection, acquire books and photographs.

For several years, I would accompany my friend Richard Isles, who taught me so much about railways. Two of his sons would sometimes join us and a typical day would start early when I drove over to his house then Richard would drive us to the B.C. Ferry terminal for the 07:00 sailing to Tsawwassen. A drive to Burnaby arriving around 09:30, then two to three hours at the show always resulted in both Richard and I coming away with plenty of "loot", as he called it.

It was in the afternoons that we would visit the various railyards in the Greater Vancouver area. Southern Railway of British Columbia has Trapp Yard, Canadian National has Thornton Yard and Canadian Pacific has Coquitlam Yard. On the way back to the ferry terminal, a visit was made to Roberts Bank to see what interesting motive power happened to be there. These photographs are from those visits as well as others.

Roberts Bank is home to a twin-terminal port facility located on the mainland coastline of the Strait of Georgia in Delta. Opened in 1970 with Westshore Terminals as its only tenant, Roberts Bank was expanded in 1983-84 and in June 1997 opened a second terminal, the GCT Deltaport container facility. Part of the Port of Vancouver, Roberts Bank is also known as the Outer Harbour of Canada's busiest port. Westshore is the busiest single coal export terminal in North America. Like the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal to the southeast, Roberts Bank was built at the end of a long causeway over a shallow bank. Originally created as a 49 acre pod of reclaimed land for a major coal port, it is now four times that size. In January 2010, Deltaport added a third berth and doubled its capacity. It is now one of the busiest import/export ports in North America and a major hub for container trucking companies. Roberts Bank is serviced by Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

Canadian Pacific SD40-2 5801, SD40-2 5492 and an unidentified SD40-2F on June 17th, 1999.

Canadian Pacific SD40-2 5801 at Roberts Bank on June 17th, 1999.

Canadian Pacific SD40-2 5802 in the short-lived dual flag paint scheme was seen on September 8 th, 1999.

Canadian Pacific SD40-2 5847 and one of the new AC4400CW's was spotted on March 23rd, 2003.

Canadian Pacific SD40-2F 90092 and SD40-2 5927 on June 17th, 1999.

Brand new Canadian Pacific SD90MAC 9100 with the beaver emblem on November 8th, 1998.

Canadian Pacific SD40-2F 90102 on June 17th, 1999. These Red Barns were my first SD40-2Fs that I had seen and upon learning of my finds here, my friend at Canadian National in Montreal would track them every now and then and it was fun to find out where the those specific locomotives were.

On November 14th, 1999, Canadian Pacific AC4400CW 9527 and 9682 were at Gulf Road ready to enter the Roberts Bank facility.

Canadian Pacific AC4400CW 9527 with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) emblem at Gulf Road.

Canadian Pacific AC4400CW 9627 leads an empty coal train out of Roberts Bank on November 14th , 1999

Canadian Pacific AC4400CW 9646 and 9668 enter Roberts Bank on June 17th, 1999.

Canadian Pacific AC4400CW 9648 was seen on November 12th, 2000. These would become as ubiquitous as the SD40-2s had done in the 1980's.

Montana Rail Link SD45 360, ex. New York, Susquehanna and Western 3624, nee Burlington Northern 6513 on February 23rd, 1997. Photograph by the late Michael Coles, who used to travel to various parts of North America, take photographs and sell them at the railway shows.

In Spring 1998, GATX Capital Corporation SD40-2 7364 (nee Missouri Pacific 3183) was spotted at Roberts Bank. Photographer unknown.

I found Canadian National SD40-2W 5346 in the North American map scheme on July 5th, 2002.

Canadian National C44-9W 25412 was found roadside on February 14th, 2002.

On March 15th, 2004, Canadian National SD40-2 5068 was found beside the B.C. Rail sign with Canadian Pacific power in the background. Photograph by Bob Alkire.

Canadian National SD40-2W 5346 and SD40-2 5381 (ex. CN 61022, exx. Union Pacific 4102, exxx. Missouri Pacific 3102, nee Missouri Pacific 802), both in the map scheme, on July 5th, 2002.

Canadian National units were quite prevalent this day as SD50F 5421 and SD60F 66222 were found onsite.

Omnitrax, the Denver-based transportation holding company, created TransCANADA Switching Services in 1996 and won the contract to provide switching services at the then-new Deltaport container shipping facility. This lasted until 2008. It was therefore with enjoyment that I found SD9 1750 (ex. Great Western 912 1997, exx. Southern Pacific SD9 4375, exxx. Southern Pacific 3935, nee Southern Pacific 5461) on June 17th, 1999. 1750 happened to be its horsepower as well.

A second SD9, OML 1751 (ex. California Northern 200, nee Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range 138), was assigned to TransCANADA Switching Services. Note the HBR on the side which is Hudson Bay Railway, one of Omnitrax's Canadian operations. This was espied on February 14th, 2002.

And a third SD9, OMLX 1752 (ex. California Northern 201, nee Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range 139) was delivered in November 2001 and also lettered for the Hudson Bay Railway.

A month later both OMLX 1751 and 1752 were together at Roberts Bank on March 17th, 2002.

On April 14th, 2007, CP AC4400CW 8505 leads a coal train into Roberts Bank. Photo by Bob Alkire.

On the same day, Canadian National SD40-2 5387 was wandering around the coal terminal.

Canadian Pacific Railway painted nineteen of their locomotives for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which were held in Vancouver. AC4400CW 8873 was seen at Gulf on February 8th, 2010, just a few days before the Games commenced.

There was not really an area to pull over on the overpass into Roberts Bank but this scene on September 5th, 2010 called for it since a rare Illinois Central unit was visiting. Canadian National Railway had taken over Illinois Central in 1998 but this was the first time I had seen an IC unit anywhere, let alone in British Columbia.

The road leading to Roberts Bank parallels the railway line. One of the very few times I saw Burlington Northern Santa Fe motive power was on September 5th, 2010 when BNSF 8826 and BNSF SD70MAC 9735 led a coal train.

BNSF SD70MAC 9735, nee Burlington Northern 9767 as the second unit on the coal train.

While my visits to Roberts Bank were not as frequent as the other mainland yards (mainly because of time constraints in order to catch a ferry back to Victoria, what I found here over the years was usually noteworthy. In the last few years, a major road project created the South Fraser Perimeter Road which completely changed the highway in Delta. I have not been to Roberts Bank since then but when the opportunity arises, I will most certainly return.