Monday, January 20, 2014

Vancouver's First Passenger Train

This home at 918 Salsbury Drive was built in 1910. 

As we know, the coming of the railroad helped create the City of Vancouver. Way back when, in the 1880s, there were seven cities on the coast being considered for the terminus for the proposed Trans Dominion Railway. The Fraser River route was chosen in 1877 and the route would terminate at Burrard Inlet however no place for the terminus was stated. This created a political storm, as you may remember from my series on the province's premiers.

Victoria, Esquimalt, New Westminster and two upstart clearings in the bush - Port Moody and Gastown - were vying for the honour of being named the terminus. Being the terminus meant instant growth and money so it was important and every place being considered was willing to go to all lengths to be named the terminus.

In 1880, the Canadian government paid for work to begin on a 215-mile section between Savona and Port Moody. When the Fraser section was completed, the government would give it to the Canadian Pacific Railway - CPR - which was formed in 1881. So I guess it looks like Port Moody was going to be the terminus.

The CPR sent its engineer John Ross to survey the Burrard Inlet. Ross found that the eastern end of the inlet, Port Moody, was too shallow to accommodate ocean-going ships and since the CPR wanted to link with sea-going fleet, Port Moody was ruled out as a terminus. Ross favoured Vancouver.

Now that the area that was to become Vancouver had been chosen as the terminus, the CPR had to decide exactly where, Kitsilano or Coal Harbour? Both locations had the needed flat land for yards, repair and stores facilities. During 1882 and 1883, there was lots of real estate speculation. Some of it by CPR directors themselves.

The railway had no cash so it had to move with great care. The grants provided to the CPR by the Dominion of Canada stopped at Port Moody so in order to get the land needed for right-of-way and the terminus; the railway had to negotiate with the B.C. provincial government.

In 1884, negotiations started for the acquisition of a right-of-way from Port Moody to terminal sites "in the immediate vicinity of English Bay and Coal Harbour." These areas are actually two miles apart and separated by seawater.

Where was the CPR going to put the centre of the new city?

Wednesday I will tell you more about these early days in Vancouver history AND show you photos of the locomotive in question. Thanks goes to the History of Metropolitan Vancouver website for the information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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