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Proponents of a heritage rail revival are closing 2012 on a high note in Cloverdale, where the walls and roof of a replica B.C. Electric Railway station will be in place by year’s end.
It’s the next important step on the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society’s decade-long journey to return an original BCER car to the original line, some 60 years after the last Interurban rolled through Surrey.
Society secretary Allen Aubert is working to galvanize financial support and sponsorships for the project, something that will gather momentum once the building’s up, inspiring another infusion of donated materials and labour for the project.
Sponsors such as RJP Contracting Ltd., Rempel Concrete, and project construction managers Seagate Structures and others have already climbed on board, offering work-in-kind or at cost, along with materials for the foundation, exterior walls and roof.
Additional sponsors are being sought for trades and supplies like cedar siding, shingles, concrete floor, insulation and drywall, interior finishing and millwork, painting and concrete floor finishing. The list will be posted on a sign going up at the site. (new car barn at 5554 176 Street.)
The society wants Cloverdale Station completed inside and out for the May 2013 launch of passenger service between Cloverdale and Sullivan Station, staffed by volunteers and running weekends and holidays to Thanksgiving. The project is in partnership with the City of Surrey and the Southern Railway of B.C., with the assistance of B.C. Hydro.
The FVHRS is in the midst of a $1.5 million fundraising campaign. This includes construction costs, the restoration of car 1304, and the acquisition of a replica baggage car to house the power generator that supplies the electricity needed to run the cars on the line, Aubert said.
Cloverdale Station will house a display room, ticket room and waiting area. It’s located on the rail right-of-way at the foot of 176A Street, next to the Clydesdale Inn south of Highway 10, just steps from its original location.
The project is a vision shared by hundreds of volunteers and society members, along with civic officials, Surrey’s business leaders, and transportation history buffs. People with a keen interest in urban planning are also watching.
For more than 40 years, the B.C. Electric Railway, or Interurban line, transported passengers and freight between Vancouver and Chilliwack, providing a vital, road and highway-free connection for commuters, farmers and residents alike.
As a toddler, Myrna McRae and her family rode the line from New Westminster to her grandparent’s dairy farm in Chilliwack. Decades later, in March 2011, she found herself passing the FVHRS’s former base of operations at Sullivan Station, and one night the light was on. Vice chair Bob Ashton gave her a tour. “His enthusiasm just kind of rubbed off,” she smiles.
Left: These friendly faces are a few of the regulars who turn out three days a week to volunteer with the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society. New volunteers are needed to work as conductors, ticket takers, greeters and more.
Now she’s in charge of coordinating volunteers who will run the passenger operations as ticket takers, greeters, conductors, maintenance crew and more.
McRae says she’s interviewed as many as 115 new recruits, and orientation sessions are already underway. She hopes more young people will get involved.
“More women and quite a few men are volunteering,” she says, adding they have a range of skills and an interest in heritage preservation.
“We have a lot of fellows on the restorative side and the operational side, but we’re going to need more people on the passenger side,” she added.
The society has more than 300 active memberships and growing, building on a strong foundation of core volunteers who have stuck with the project for years.
Three days a week, more than a dozen volunteers are busy working away in the car barn from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., getting car 1225 ready and restoring 1304.
They represent a breathtaking scope of expertise: on a recent Thursday morning there were several CNR retirees on hand, including one who is also a former high school shop teacher, plus a bus driver and heavy equipment operator, and a commercial carpenter with 25 years experience that includes time as a general foreman superintendent.
To volunteer, call 604-597-9704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
To become a sponsor, call FVHRS secretary Allen Aubert at 604-538-9611. Visit www.fvhrs.org.