‘Amazing response’ to call for replica rail station sponsors, donors

A sponsorship campaign for the replica Cloverdale heritage rail station has been a success, organizers say.

Cedar shingles spruce up the roofline of the replica Cloverdale Station

Cedar shingles spruce up the roofline of the replica Cloverdale Station

A heritage railway station is gradually taking shape in Cloverdale, where volunteers and sponsors have been climbing on board what’s been dubbed the People’s Railway, set to launch this May.

A recent sponsorship campaign for building materials, labour and cash to construct and complete Cloverdale Heritage Station has been an unqualified success, says Allen Aubert, secretary of the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society.

The FVHRS has spent the past decade working to return an original B.C. Electric Railway car to the original line.

Twenty four sponsors for the Cloverdale Station building project signed up, meaning virtually no more are needed at the moment – just a landscape supplier who could provide conifers for hedging, topsoil and someone to dig it into the ground, Aubert said.

“Everything else is pretty nearly spoken for. The actual response has been amazing.”

Thanks to such generous support, the replica station will be solidly built, but will also have the so-called extras, like heritage-style windows and doors plus otherwise budget-busting flourishes that will make the building a showpiece in the historic Cloverdale town centre.

He believes the sponsorship campaign has gone smoothly because the project sparks imaginations, particularly once construction began in late November, under some of the wettest skies imaginable.

“It’s something to see and touch,” he said. “I guess seeing is believing for some people.”

The walls are now up, the roof is on, as is the platform where passengers will board the weekend service – all volunteer operated – between Cloverdale and Sullivan Station at 152 St. and 64 Avenue. It’s part of an overall project in partnership with the City of Surrey and the Southern Railway of B.C., with the assistance of B.C. Hydro.

Cedar shingles have spruced up the fetching roof line, and brickwork on two historically-accurate, but non-functioning, chimneys has begun.

Much of the recent work has been taking place inside the building, and before long, various tradespeople will be putting the finishing touches on the outside of the building, Aubert said.

“It’s all wired. It’s all plumbed,” he said, adding he expected insulation and drywall to go in this week.

Last Wednesday was a momentous day for the society. The wheels were spinning on a jacked-up Car #1225, undergoing a rigorous commissioning process before it can be deemed ready for passenger rail service.

“The wheels have not gone round on its own in B.C. in over 50 years,” Aubert said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

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.

The BCER was closed down in the 1950s, and almost the entire fleet was burned.

Decades later, a heritage rail revival in mind, the FVHRS tracked down two surviving cars, and a team of volunteers has been working steadily to bring them back to life.

While there’s still work to be done on car #1304, Car #1225 is nearly ready for its inaugural run.

And when that day comes, don’t be surprised if you can hear the shouts of joy all the way to Chilliwack.