Cloverdale is about to become the epicentre for the heritage railway revival movement in Surrey.
City council has approved plans to relocate the rail car barn of the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society (FVHRS) from Sullivan Station on 152 Street to a new home in Cloverdale just southeast of Highway 10 and 176 Street.
The society is edging closer to a planned launch of its refurbished BC Electric Railway (BCER) heritage rail car #1225 later this year.
Volunteers have spent five years and more than 16,000 hours lovingly restoring the old Interurban rail car at the Sullivan barn and an inaugural run could be made by late summer.
A city report says relocating to the new Cloverdale site will make it easier to launch the heritage rail demonstration project, which would initially carry passengers between Cloverdale and Sullivan, but could later be extended to Newton and ultimately Scott Road SkyTrain station near the Pattullo Bridge.
The report to council from engineering general manager Vince Lalonde notes the plan will “complement the rich history and heritage character of Cloverdale.”
The new car barn in Cloverdale will have a storefront on the east side of 176 Street south of the highway and would link to the main Southern Railway line by a new rail spur.
The building will be a three-car barn double the size of what the society has now, with one quarter of the space set aside for workshop use and a second mezzanine level for society meetings.
It will have sprinklers and a security system to protect the investment in the restoration of the rail cars.
The city will front the $2.9 million to buy the land and build the new car barn and related facilities.
The Sullivan site and buildings would go back to city use as park land.
Also under consideration by the city is the possible launch of a streetcar line running from Highway 10 north along 176 Street to 60 Avenue, linking Cloverdale downtown and the fairground.
A report to council estimates the cost of the project at $3 to $4 million.
City staff will begin a more detailed study of the concept in partnership with the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce and the Surrey Heritage Railway Society.
Volunteers behind the streetcar project hope to use the “Clover Belle” 1912 heritage streetcar acquired from Saanich in 2002.
The study, to be complete by summer, is to determine the reasonable scope for the first stage of the project, refine cost estimates and resolve issues related to governance, possible partnering opportunities and whether it can be integrated with the FVHRS-led heritage rail project.
Council is also asking the FVHRS to continue raising funding from other sources for the restoration of its second mothballed heritage rail car, BCER 1304, and continue preparations for a launch of the heritage rail demonstration project.
Because the rail cars can’t use overhead power lines as the old Interurban line did, the society would plans to connect the passenger cars to a “donkey” – a replica baggage car that would house a 600-volt diesel generator. (Advocates are also exploring greener fuel sources, such as natural gas or even a hydrogen fuel cell.)
The old Interurban line opened in 1910 and carried passengers between Vancouver and Chilliwack in the electricity-powered rail cars.
The BCER stopped running in 1950 as society shifted to car travel and all but a few of the rail cars were scrapped or burned.