Gary Branconnier

Bypass resolves Cloverdale bottleneck for heritage rail

The Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society is closing in on its latest achievement – a dedicated bypass track that is nearly complete.

Almost three months after work began, a new section of railway through Cloverdale being built for the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society’s Interurban is nearly complete.

The 2,000-foot long section of dedicated track is a bypass that will allow the society to resume passenger operations next year without fear of interruption due to freight movements.

The new track will join up with the existing line that runs to Sullivan Station at 152 Street and 64 Avenue, the round-trip stop for the society’s weekend passenger runs for the past two summers.

The society’s heritage rail operations on a restored BC Electric Railway car were unexpectedly sidelined about half of the time in 2014.

A backlog of grain from the prairies had to be moved through the grain handling facility at the east end of the Cloverdale spur this summer, sidelining the fledgling heritage railway about half of the time, making it impossible to keep to schedule.

Freight movements were also an unexpected conflict in 2013, prompting the society and its partners to seek an alternative: a bypass track that was approved this past July.http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wScrunch.jpg

Work began Sept. 10 with RDM Enterprises performing the first phase of the job, and the second half expected to be completed by PNR Railworks late last week.

[Right, a close-up of the tamper pushing ballast into position under the newly-set rails – Jennifer Lang photo]

Along with rebuilding a new culvert and drain, the project involved clearing a 2,000-foot right-of-way, and then adding and packing fill until the surface was smooth enough to lay down ties, tracks and ballast.

“This is the final piece of getting the track to be absolutely perfect,” FVHRS secretary Allen Aubert said.

Lifting the tracks and tamping the ballast is a job that used to be done through backbreaking manual labour, requiring large crews of 20 to 30 men.

But today it’s a leaner operation, requiring a couple of machines. The first is a tamper, a machine that lifts the tracks and packs ballast around the ties and rails. Lasers relaying information to the control cab enable the tamper to correct the alignment of the rails at the same time. A regulator follows closely behind, removing stray ballast.

http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wVelocipededemo.jpgAubert said an inaugural run on the new bypass track won’t be taking place for some time; track testing will get underway in December. But before that, a half dozen power poles must be moved first.

The project is being done through assistance – funding, material and labour – from the City of Surrey, Southern Railway of B.C., RDM Enterprises and PNR Railworks.

[At left, a velocipede is a new acquisition – Jennifer Lang photo]

With the bypass in place, the society is now looking forward to a busy 2015, when volunteers expect to welcome between 7,000 and 8,000 visitors to ride BCER 1225, hop on speeder carriage rides on the new track, take guided tours of the car barn and Cloverdale Station, along with special holiday programming.

“We’re going to be doing special events next year, such as Christmas trains,” Aubert said.

The society has plans to restore one of its latest acquisitions, a hand-powered, three-wheeled track inspection vehicle called a velocipede.

It was found mouldering away in a garden in White Rock, where it was used as an outdoor plant stand. It dates from around 1910 and is thought to have been used by CN in the Mt. Robson area.

A two-man hand car is also on the society’s wish list.

Meanwhile, another new speeder carriage was expected to arrive over the weekend.

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