Actual time travel may not be possible – yet – but don’t tell Lord Tweedsmuir High’s class of 1951.
On Sept. 18 a group of Cloverdale grads celebrating their 65th class reunion took a spin on Surrey’s Heritage Rail, hopping aboard restored Interurban car 1224 for a journey from Cloverdale Station to Sullivan and back.
The group included former Surrey Mayor Bob Bose and his brother Roger, a historian and writer.
They were part of a graduating class of just 25 students, making it ever more remarkable that a dozen or so turned out for their 2016 class gathering.
About half of the attendees took advantage of the ride on Car 1225 but all toured the car barn that’s home to the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society’s operations. Some also tested the human-powered velocipede, and the speeder car, or capped the day off with a ride on the speeder, a small track maintenance car.
Riding the Interurban again stirred up vivid memories for the passengers, who seemed to agree that the restored electric railcar is a smoother, gentler ride than they remembered on the original passenger railway, which operated from 1910 to 1951.
“It rattled. A real shake, rattle and roll and it would vibrate and make a lot of noise,” recalled Roy Merritt, who lived on New McLellan Road on a family property with 20 acres the railway ran through.
He’d catch the Interurban at the Latimer Road station, taking the train to New West, Vancouver and “even to Cloverdale,” he said. “Cloverdale is rather unchanged,” he pronounced during the reunion ride. “Langley was a more vibrant town.”
Jocelyn Glacier’s strongest memory of the Interurban was probably the time she was 14 or 15 years old, climbing aboard the train and taking it all the way to the BC Electric building in downtown Vancouver for an event she called the Sweet Sixteen. “It was just a normal part of life in those days,” she said, recalling the last 1940s commute from Surrey to Vancouver. “I remember the car as swaying more, from side to side. But really, in this fast-paced world we’re living in today, it’s very soothing and wonderful to know that there’s still some farmland in the Fraser Valley.”
During high school, Eileen Menun lived outside of Sullivan. “This was our basic means of transportation.” As a teen, she rode the Interurban to the Surrey Coop in Cloverdale, picking up meat in cold storage and riding back. There was a three-hour delay between trains coming and going.
“Riding the car today is very nice compared to then. It went sideways more as far as I remember.”
“Those were the days,” said Norm Dinsmore, whose father used to put him on the train at Sullivan Station at 152 Street and 64 Avenue, taking it to Clayburn to visit a cousin in Milner. “It seemed that there was always someone on the road that wanted to go as fast as the train, and the guy was going about as fast as he would go as well. It seemed to me they said it could go to seventy or eighty miles per hour.”
He was wowed by the restoration efforts, calling the car, “Just like she was – really good.”
Lorraine Goddard lived in Abbotsford until Grade 11, and still remembers riding the Interurban from home to downtown Vancouver, where she got off at Carrall Street. From there, she took a streetcar to her aunt’s house.
“It was a new experience,” she said. “Today, it’s very nice. You can see so much more than you can from a car, and it’s interesting to hear the history.”
Surrey’s former mayor Bob Bose has a constellation of memories of the Interurban. In 1938 or ’39, when the King and Queen came to Vancouver, his parents bundled the kids onto the Interurban to ride to Vancouver for the occasion, even though they had a car.
When his mother moved to Surrey in 1920 to take up a position as an elementary school teacher at Anniedale School, she was met by Surrey’s Superintendent of Schools.
“It was part of the landscape when I was growing up, because we farmed the Serpentine Valley,” he said.
The Sept. 18 ride on the Interurban was his first in 75 years.
“This is a marvelous restoration,” he said, praising the talent and commitment of the volunteers of the FVHRS, and the vision of those involved. “Life was so much more relaxing in the days when the Interurban was part of the Fraser Valley. You got on the train and you visited. I remember seeing the original Sullivan Station after it had become a chicken coop. And there were some of the original graphics on the inside walls. That was the station we would have used to board the train.”
In those days, the high school was located on Highway 10. “It was a small school.” The gym had a 16-foot ceiling, presenting challenges for volleyball and basketball games.
“It was tough, but it was still a good school,” he said. He and his fellow grads attended high school during the Second World War years. “We all survived, and most turned out really well. They’re all good memories.”Follow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.