White Rock's Marlene Penner

Surrey’s Heritage Rail brings together Yarrow B.C. train tots

In 1955, Grade 3 students at Yarrow Elementary took a memorable field trip on the Interurban. Last month, they reunited in Cloverdale.

Sixty years after a memorable Grade 3 class outing, classmates from Yarrow Elementary gathered for a reunion on Surrey’s Heritage Rail.

In 1955, an excited class of 38 students climbed aboard the B.C. Electric Interurban for a 45-minute railway journey home from Chilliwack, car 1304’s final ride.

Last month in Cloverdale, about half of those students reconnected after 60 years, riding the Interurban again and making new memories.

“As children, we often wondered what would we be like when we grew up, and whoever gets a chance to really find out what happened?” said Marlene Penner, a White Rock resident who helped organize the reunion, tracking down former classmates for a historic reunion.

http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wSmilingatbob.jpg“Thank God for email that we could do this, and we caught up with almost all of them,” Penner said, adding one student was located in Kelowna just a few days before the reunion.

Out of 38 students, 18 were able to attend the July 23 reunion. Classmates came from as far away as Alberta, Prince George, Kamloops, the Okanagan and Salt Spring Island.

“The rest are pretty well local,” Penner said, adding most still live in the Fraser Valley.

It was a kick seeing familiar faces again after so many years.

“You look at somebody and think, ‘I know you, I know who you are! Look at you!” she smiled, joking, “Next year my husband wants to get his Grade 2 class together.”

The hoot of the B.C. Electric Interurban passenger train hadn’t been heard in the Fraser Valley for five years when a request from Yarrow Elementary Grade 3 teacher Joy Fowlie brought Car 1304 out of retirement.

The students were studying transportation in class and she thought a train ride would be a fitting way conclusion. According to a May 4, 1955 story in the Chilliwack Progress, she wrote BCE president Dal Grauer, who helped set the wheels in motion, bringing the Interurban out of its five-year retirement “for one last special run.”

The members of the Fraser Valley Heritage Society have always wondered about that historic trip. By chance, the mystery was solved last August, when Penner’s good friend and former classmate Elsie Giesbrecht was taking a tour of the society’s operations in Cloverdale, where she recognized her former teacher and some of the students in a photograph on display.

She was a couple of years behind that class, but the Abbotsford resident knew most of the kids in the photo, setting the stage for a class reunion.

Last week’s gathering was a banner day for the society, whose members have worked tirelessly to restore Car 1225, which is enjoying its third season of weekend passenger runs out of Cloverdale Station. Their efforts continue apace on Car 1304, set to return to service in 2017.

Former classmates, their spouses, children and grandchildren met at Cloverdale Station for a tour, a ride and lunch. After the event, the group was invited to Penner’s home for a barbecue.

“We all had such a great time,” Penner said. “No one wanted to leave and many of us have again, become fast friends.”


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