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First runs and auspicious openings

July 9, 2011

New Hotels at South Westminster

In the first week of 1891, railway builder Nelson Bennett arrived in Liverpool from Fairhaven, having pumped a handcar 18 miles after a train derailment. The following week one of the engines sank into a bog between Port Kells and the Serpentine River. Work continued, and a week later, the first through train arrived from Fairhaven.

With the ferry terminal complete and trains running the length of the track to Fairhaven, plans were announced for three new hotels at South Westminster.

"John George, of Surrey, has made arrangements for the erection of a large hotel at South Westminster, near the ferry landing.  The building will be 40 x 80 feet, and two and a half stories high. The hotel will be fitted in first class style throughout and commodious stables and out houses will also be erected in connection with it."

John and Katie George  formerly ran a general store and Post Office at Clayton Hill on the Yale Road, afterwards taken over by Charles Cameron. 

Surrey Hotel  
Surrey Hotel — John George Proprietor  


Robert Crossman built a hotel, stables, etc with the main building 26 x 62 feet and two stories high, white with red trimming.  

And a third was announced.

"Mr Phil Smith, the popular host of the Occidental Hotel, is about to build a new hotel at South Westminster. The building will be 62 feet long, 28 feet wide, and two stories high.  Mr Smith intends to call it the Surrey Hotel, and has already applied for a licence."

This hotel, in the first block of Lot 6, would contain 30 rooms including a restaurant and billiard room.

The longstanding use of the south shore as a target again was evidenced.

"Three cannon balls were found at South Westminster last week while workmen were digging the foundation for the new hotel. They were probably sent there during one of the target practices of the artillery."

Inaugural run of the ferry Surrey

On February 9, 1891 the newly finished ferry Surrey, having had installed her boiler, engines, and fittings,  was given her first official trial under Captain Michael Terhune,  taking a party of dignitaries–city officials and the Fire Chief Thomas Ackerman,  and contractors on the construction, including Reid and Currie for machinery and D Henderson for the cabin woodwork— from the CPR wharf up to the Brunette Shipyard, where she made her first landing under power.  John Reid handed out sufficient Havanna cigars for the assembly and then the Surrey put out into the river to Liverpool and after "coasting down past old Brownsville," she "returned to her permanent wharf on the north side."  The run was a success but there was still work to be done before putting her into regular service.


Ferry steamer Surrey  
Ferry steamer Surrey launched 1891  


Valentine’s Day fete – Meeting of the rails

February 14, 1891  was the date chosen for the official opening of the rail line to Fairhaven. A fresh layer of snow lay on the ground as Engine 202 did the honors.

[Pulling] "gaily out of Liverpool Station. . .the train slowed down after proceeding a few hundred yards and finally stopped" alongside a platform near which stood a tall mast, "from which proudly floated the meteor flag of old England."

TJ Trapp, a director of the railway company, and a principal in the "Liverpool Land and Improvement Company," presented to Mrs Nelson, the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, a deed to a corner lot in the new city, and she in turn, christened it "Liverpool." 

The train proceeded to the boundary line, where a ceremonial meeting of trains joined the two lines, the Fairhaven and Southern Railroad and the New Westminster Southern Railway, together.  Much banqueting ensued, at Blaine, at Fairhaven, and at New Westminster.

The Fairhaven and Southern Railroad engine met No 202 of the New Westminster Southern Railway at the international boundary at Blaine. GN Locomotive
  FSR locomotive, decorated for the opening

Despite the fanfare, it would be a long time before the railway was put in working order.  Work continued on ballasting the track.  The Columbian reported:

"There are about 200 men employed on the Southern Railway, and about 70 at Liverpool.  They consume about 10 quarters of beef daily." 

Accounts of the grand opening were reported in major newspapers through the northwest. Railways were big news everywhere, and the connections they forged were a benefit to every city with a train station.  But travellers venturing into the northwest corner of Washington State met with disappointment.  A Seattle correspondent reported:

"The railway service north from Seattle to New Westminster is not yet organized . . . The construction companies have not yet turned these lines over to the railroad company. . .
The only mode of communication between the two countries is by stage, the driver of which evidently dreads to start out on a trip.  It is stated that the roads are in an almost impassable condition and that it takes fully six hours to make the run of 20 miles."


Brownsville Post Office

Brownsville Post Office opened in February 1891.  The first Postmaster was John Beaton, who opened a store there. Beaton would double as a Constable in service of the township of Surrey.

Bon Accord siding

The Bon Accord Cannery two miles up from Liverpool was to be the first industry in Surrey to take advantage of the railway, announcing that it would construct a spur-line to its buildings.

"This will enable the company to load their goods ready for direct shipment, and save the cost of several handlings."

The cannery had branched out from its origins as a salmon packer under the management of Haigh & Sons.  The new owner Mr Daniel J Munn found success with plums and other fruit grown locally in abundance, now canned with colorful labels depicting fruit, the setting sun, and the legend "Occident Brand." 

Bon Accord Label
Bon Accord Fishery Co Fresh Salmon
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