Heritage rail is running late

Light rail transit in Surrey was a reality in 1910. Pictured is the Cloverdale B.C. Electric Railway Interurban station. 205.03B - Image courtesy Surrey Archives
Light rail transit in Surrey was a reality in 1910. Pictured is the Cloverdale B.C. Electric Railway Interurban station. 205.03B
— image credit: Image courtesy Surrey Archives

A society of heritage rail enthusiasts won’t be moving into a new home in Cloverdale until sometime this summer.

Construction on the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society’s new operations was supposed to begin months ago, but the project is at least six months behind schedule.

The project unexpectedly hit a snag last April, when contaminated soil was discovered on the 5554 176 Street property, a site that will be home to the society’s Interurban car barn and replica Cloverdale Station once the move from Sullivan Station is complete.

The society had hoped to capitalize on the publicity generated by an exhibit about the historic Interurban railway that opened at the Surrey Museum earlier this week – as well as begin offering limited passenger runs in May.

Now the plan is to start construction on the railway barn in March, move in July, and begin test runs sometime in August.

“It’s been a challenge,” society secretary Allen Aubert told the Reporter in a recent telephone interview.

Things looked like they were about to get back on track in August, when the soil remediation was completed and a new surface drainage system and storm drains were put in place, but the project stalled again in the fall while the society waited for the green light from city hall.

“You can’t do much if you don’t do things before October when the monsoons come,” he said.

The society’s new car barn and replica Cloverdale station – modeled on the original B.C. Electric Railway Interurban station here – is part of a $5-million million project (a sum that includes in-kind donations of material and labour).

In early 2011, the City of Surrey approved $2.9 million in spending to relocate the society’s operations to Cloverdale from Sullivan Station at 64 Avenue and 152 Street.

The move was supposed to be completed in time for the opening of the exhibit The British Columbia Electric Railway – More than Just a Tram, presented in partnership with Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society and Chilliwack Museum, to March 24.

The intention was to bring Surrey Museum visitors to view the society’s two Interurban cars, which have been the focus of nearly a decade of effort and some 17,000 volunteer hours of labour.

“We are a little disappointed,” Aubert said. “We really wanted to take people by the hand and bring them to the site.”

Last June, the society held what was intended to be their last open house at Sullivan Station.

“We were ready,” Aubert said.

Now, thinking of holding two more open houses at Sullivan in order to keep the project in the public eye and continue building momentum prior to “the big move” to Cloverdale, likely sometime in July.

And the move, Aubert stresses, will be quite big, involving cranes that will lift the vintage cars onto the four tractor trailers that will haul the refurbished cars to Cloverdale, an operation that’s expected to take 12 hours to complete.

Meanwhile, plenty of work awaits. Aubert said excavation on the foundation could begin the first week of March, once the tendering process is complete and the necessary permits are in place.

Cloverdale Station – a second phase of the project – will also be home to the Clover Belle, a vintage 1912 streetcar that’s at the focus of separate restoration efforts by the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce and the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association. Plans call for a streetcar line up 176 Street from Highway 10 to 58A Avenue.

See related story, 'Heritage Rail back on track.'

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