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Waiting for trains –Brownsville spring, 1891

July 9, 2011


First freight

Towards the end of April 1891 the Royal City Planing Mills—the major logging outfit in Surrey—announced it would construct a wharf at Port Kells, in conjunction with a spur line to the New Westminster Southern Railway.  The RCPM had major timber holdings south of the Nicomekl River.  The sawmill was located directly across the river from Liverpool. The company would shortly begin construction of its own railway 6 miles long, to connect its Mud Bay logging operations with the Railway at Hall’s Prairie. A new engine for the logging railway would arrive in April.

In March the railway had completed its formal transfer to the Great Northern, but there was still no regular train service, and work still to be done.  Mr Donovan, the Chief Engineer vowed that on April 1st he would "take a party from Liverpool to Fairhaven, a distance of 47 miles, in 60 minutes."

But on April 1st the Columbian reported that:  "The terminal facilities at Liverpool are now being erected, but work on the station has not yet been commenced."  

Donovan once again had set out "to walk the greater part of the way from Liverpool to Blaine, for the purpose of minutely inspecting the work done." 

The construction was satisfactory and the first week of April the first freight train left Liverpool with consignments to Port Kells and Hall’s Prairie.  The same week a gravel train from Port Kells ran off the rails at Kensington Prairie.

A contract was let to the firm of Stilweel and Berry to string a telegraph line from Sedro, WA, the connecting hub of the northwest railways, to Liverpool BC, the northern terminus.


Saloons and settlers

John George, Robert Crossman, John Falk and Phil H Smith, the proprietors of South Westminster’s new hotels, each submitted applications for liquor licences, and after much opposition from local residents, only John George was awarded a licence.

Brownsville and "South Westminster" were places to pass through, and places to stay during times of peak construction and the fishing season, but those who settled in the district permanently had family interests foremost and were busy organizing a school district for their children’s education.

Another new store was being built by Henry Murk, located just west of the Surrey Hotel. 

John George ran a stage from his place all the way to Lynden WA.  It left South Westminster, Mondays and Thursdays, on the arrival of the first ferry at 8:20, passing through Aldergrove and arriving at Lynden at 4:00pm.  It left Lynden on the following mornings, ie Tuesdays and Fridays, at 8:00am arriving back at South Westminster at 6:00pm, thereby "making connections with the Blaine stages, the ferry, and Victoria and Vancouver boats."

There were still no regular trains running late in May apart from intermittent freights and excursions.

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