*Update: for those of you heading to Clover Square Village for the move, it is running late. The lift should happen around 3:30 p.m.
Heritage rail enthusiasts and lucky bystanders at Clover Square Village can catch a historic sight tomorrow if they looked skyward.
On Wednesday (Aug. 15) around noon, two interurban electric rail cars will be hoisted by crane into their new home, a car barn recently built by the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society on 176 St. south of Hwy. 10.
The 70,000 lb. cars will be relocated from Sullivan Station, and the move marks the start of a new phase in the society’s project that hopes to see people in the community and beyond enjoy a working rail car next spring.
The society plans to complete a replica station in Cloverdale by May 2013 in time for the Cloverdale Rodeo so passengers can climb aboard one of the two cars for a leisurely seven mile ride to the replica Sullivan Station.
BC Electric Railway Car 1225 was built in St. Louis in 1913 and was the last car to run (from Vancouver to Steveston) before the interurban system was permanently shut down in the early 1950’s, explained the society’s communications director Ray Hudson in an email.
Society secretary Allen Aubert said restoration of Car 1225 involved more than 17,000 volunteer hours over five years.
He said only seven of the original BC Electric Railway cars have survived (most were burned in the rail yard under the Burrard Bridge) and theirs will be the only one to ever run again on its original tracks thanks to the partnership with track owner Southern Railway of B.C. and the City of Surrey.
“That makes us very unique.”
Over time the tour will be extended westward through Surrey.
The second car, BC Electric Railway Car 1304, was built in New Westminster in 1911 and is also known as the Royal Car because it carried the Duke of Connaught and his family on a tour of the Fraser Valley the following year. It is still being restored.
Aubert said the idea for the entire project began with the Surrey Heritage Advisory Committee back in 1996 and that it took four years of research to track down the two cars in U.S. museums.
The society is currently raising $1.5 million for the replica Cloverdale Station (which will be based on the original design and built as close as possible to its original location), a replica baggage car, and the rehabilitation of Car 1304.
A $50 contribution will get donors a complimentary ticket for next spring. Excitement for the project is growing, said Aubert, as evidenced by the 151 tickets already handed out.
They are also looking for volunteers to take on a range of jobs, including conductors, operators, ticket-takers and station masters. Training starts this fall (contact Myrna at 604-597-9704).
In fact, there will be plenty of opportunities for people to get involved, such as participating in the construction of the replica station in the later stages.
“This is a true community project and we want the community to take ownership of the project with us,” Aubert said.
For more information on the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society and tomorrow’s moving day, visit fvhrs.org.
By Kristine Salzmann