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Sold down the river–Liverpool looses out

July 9, 2011

Extending the road to South Westminster

The success of South Westminster dashed the hopes of those associated with the Liverpool development.  In September the railway began work to extend the Great Northern Railroad down the Fraser River, cutting a 100 foot wide swath along the riverbank from Liverpool, past Brownsville, to the city ferry terminal.  By the end of October, when the new telegraph line reached Liverpool from the south, the extension was completed.  The extended railbed was described as follows:

"The track is raised to a level of about 8 feet above high tide level.  Aquaducts are built under the track at the plank roadway of about 12 inch square timbers with a 2 x 3 foot waterway.  The station building is 70 x 50 feet, and is about 100 feet distant from the ferry depot.  The railway embankment will form a strong breakwater against the freshets of the Fraser."

Brownsville 1891 Map features-
-Liverpool Stn on NWSR (near foot of 126A St)
-rail extension to Brownsville
-Strip of land that belonged to the City of New Westminster 1888-1927
-Brown’s Landing old ferry wharf for the K de K
– rail extension to South Westminster landing for the “Surrey” ferry and plank road  connection from Yale Road
-plank road connection to Scott Road (now Tannery Rd).
Brownsville, BC -  Railway Extensions & Ferry Landings – 1891  

The ferry wharf itself was extended some distance into the stream and measured 66 x 60 feet.  A shed measuring 50 x 23 feet provided shelter on the dock, and a waiting room 21 x 15 feet accommodated the passengers on the shore.


South Westminster Ferry Landing The South Westminster Ferry landing connected with the Yale Road and Scott Road via plank roads. The railway was extended to this point over objections of the property owners and rival developments.
South Westminster Ferry Landing  


At Liverpool the Great Northern was constructing a roundhouse and shops, but the continuation of the line to South Westminster proved fatal to plans for a station at this point and knocked the wind from land sales and the prospects of a city there.

AE Rand, the creators of "Liverpool" and heavily invested there in land, sued the Great Northern for the huge amount of a quarter million dollars for failure of the railway to construct the terminal and station at that place.

James Punch applied for an injunction over the removal of the ferry landing from Brownsville to the new South Westminster dock, claiming $50, 000 damages to his property. He would later receive a judgment in his favour, but with considerably less damages.

The ferry landing issue would simmer for some years as would the location of the railway tracks, cutting a swathe along the south bank of the Fraser, resulting in more litigation from Brownsville property owners. Not since the land rush of 1860 had so many disputes arisen over Brownsville property, fuelled as  before by expectations of profit.


Ribbons cut, stakes pulled

During the New Westminster Exhibition in the year 1891, a ceremony was held at Albert Crescent to open Prospect Park at the viewpoint overlooking the Fraser and the south bank of the river.  John Robson, Premier of the Province of British Columbia performed the opening assisted by the Mayor of New Westminster.

"Hon John Robson in a short address said he had assisted in cutting down the first trees on the ground which was now so tastefully laid out and terraced in pretty drives and promenades. He remarked the great changes in landscape since those old pioneer days."

Robson cannot have failed to look across the river at the line of the new railway and marvel at the changes that had ensued since he first cleared a few acres on Lot 3, Group 2, hoping to homestead on the south side of the Fraser, and the twists of fate that led him to the office of Premier, while opposite stood the settlement named after Ebenezer Brown, who had purchased the land he believed was rightfully his.

Before the close of 1891 there was another great celebration between the American towns and New Westminster, with the inauguration of daily scheduled train service through to Seattle and the opening of the extension to the South Westminster ferry dock. 

On November 27, over 700 passengers arrived by train from Seattle at the South Westminster terminus.  The American guests included the Mayors and Councillors from Blaine, New Whatcom, Fairhaven and Seattle, along with members of the House of Delegates, Judges and other assorted dignitaries.  They brought with them a 22 member strong brass band.  They were greeted by a rousing three cheers from assembled local politicians and then ferried over to the City on the steamers Delaware and Surrey.


Steamer Delaware meets the railway

Steamer Delaware bringing guests to railway celebration, 1891  


Starting the first week of December one train south and one north would run each day. These were mixed trains, carrying both freight and passengers, and were subject to frequent and time consuming stops. 

The station agent appointed to operate the northern terminus of the north western railway system was Mr WB Pease, "one of the oldest hands on the Great Northern."

The railway would prove a great disappointment to the township of Surrey.  Although responsible for the inception of the communities of Liverpool, Port Kells, and Cloverdale, none of these settlements was able to take advantage of their position on the line.  Service was limited to just one train a day north and south.  The railway was solely concerned with a through service and reluctant to build local stations.  As early as the first year of operation businesses began to go bust.

Four years later, the Surrey Times, published in Cloverdale, bemoaned the fact that

"this foreign railway company was operating 25 miles of railway through Canada, practically without accommodation for freight or passengers." 

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