Heritage rail enthusiasts have lost a treasured colleague and friend.
Frank Horne, a former BC Electric Railway motorman and tireless booster with the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society, has passed away at the age of 90 – mere months before his dream is to become a reality.
Society secretary Allen Aubert said Horne was the iconic face of the FVHRS’ ongoing efforts to return a working Interurban to the original track.
“He was the motorman on the car that we’ve just restored, 1225, so he was really hoping to be able to have another ride,” Aubert said. “He passed away just too early.”
He’d wear a full uniform for appearances at open houses and events. “He would talk to people and regale them with all the stories,” Aubert said. “He was wonderful.”
His obvious passion for an era of transit supposedly thought long gone inspired a large granite statue in downtown Cloverdale created by sculptor Paul Slipper. Horne is depicted in hat and uniform, checking his pocket watch.
But Horne wasn’t a ticket-taker, he was a motorman, meaning he was a driver/engineer from 1946 to 1951, the sunset years of the line.
A modern suburban commuter’s dream, the Interurban moved passengers and freight between Vancouver and the Fraser Valley for more than 40 years, providing a vital connection for Surrey residents.
More than a decade in the works, the society plans to launch weekend passenger service in May between Cloverdale and Sullivan Station at 64 Avenue and 152 Street.
Last month, work began on a replica Cloverdale Station, where passengers will board Car 1225, poised to make its first trip on the original line in over 60 years. The exterior walls and roof are to be in place by the end of the year.
Until his health started to fail him, Horne worked alongside other volunteers with the FVHRS on the restoration of Car 1225. He worked on the woodwork surrounding the safety glass.
His memory of his decades on the Interurban made him a living encyclopedia for the other volunteers.
He drove both cars 1225 and 1304, which is the focus on ongoing restoration efforts.
A fascination with railways ran in the family – his father was a motorman at Marpole Station.
After the interurbans were phased out in the 1950s in favour of buses, Horne stuck with trains, working as a railway foreman for another 31 years.
It was his dream to see the inaugural run of a restored BCER car in Cloverdale.
“I hope to live long enough to run that thing on the main line,” he told the Surrey Leader in 2010.
“I think they’ll let me run it on the first day. I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t.”
He is survived by his wife, Pearl, children Lynda and Kenneth, six grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.