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Yankees came, and tore up the tracks again

July 9, 2011

Stole a march

At Liverpool, Brownsville, and South Westminster, relations with the railroad had turned sour.

The extension from Liverpool westward ran through many established properties from Brownsville to South Westminster, and the Great Northern was slow to settle with the landowners.  Eventually one property owner got a court order for the portion of railway on his property. On March 30, 1893, LP Eckstein, acting for the landowners

"took over a force of carpenters with him and a barricade was run up quickly at both ends of the property and the officers were left in possession with orders to watch the barricades day and night until further orders . . .  The incoming train this evening was obliged to stop at Liverpool, a mile and a half up the river, and send the passengers to the city by special steamer. There is a rumour that the company will abandon the South Westminster branch and make its terminus at Liverpool until the bridge is built."

Indeed the Great Northern played hardball with the South Westminster stakeholders, announcing April 1st that they would take up the track west of Brownsville and the landowners could keep their land.

However, without a settlement of outstanding claims, this was not amenable to the land owners and when, late on a Saturday night, a special train arrived from Fairhaven with 80 men and commenced tearing up the track and preparing to take down the station building, the locals were ready for them armed with a restraining order.

The owner with the most to lose, was AJ McColl, who had first "boomed" the subdivisions there and coined the name "South Westminster" when he gave property to the City of New Westminster for a Ferry Wharf.  The railway station was also on his land, and he took out an injunction against its removal. Other land owners with property at Brownsville included Judge Norman Bole and James Punch.

Punch’s case against the Great Northern Railway was quickly settled in the Arbitration Court with an award "for damages done to his property at Brownsville and for right of way."

While other legal proceedings passed through the courts, the railroad people, in typical go-ahead fashion, seized a moment in May to salvage their investment.

Chortled a Seattle paper:

Stole a March on the Canadians

"The Great Northern railroad took advantage of the fact that yesterday being the Queen’s birthday, was a public holiday in Canada and removed its depot building from South Westminster to Liverpool and tore up the track from South Westminster to Brownsville.

The injunction proceedings had been settled with the owner of property, so far as the depot ground was concerned, and as the court was not in session it was impossible to enjoin the tearing up of the track.

Thus the company has got rid of a piece of track for which it had no use without sacrificing the rails which composed it and which would have been forfeited if the owners of the ground had begun proceedings for trespass as they threatened."

In May of 1893, without fanfare, the Great Northern Railway having withdrawn from South Westminster, and latterly Brownsville,  re-established their station back at Liverpool.

Railway town excitement was extinguished, but would be rekindled in 1910 with the announcement that Canada’s second great transcontinental railway, the Canadian Northern, would build a terminus and a new city at Bon Accord,  to be called Port Mann.  Tremendous real estate "booming" ensued, encompassing all of Brownsville and South Westminster, but Port Mann also fell prey to railway manoeuvring, with traffic passing right by the incipient City and on over the Westminster Bridge and through to Vancouver.


December 15th 1893 the Westminster and Burrard Inlet Telephone Co laid a cable across the river to a point just below the Brownsville wharf with a line directed to Ladner’s Landing, bringing that settlement into telephone communication with New Westminster.

At the Brownsville Hotel, long time manager Michael Barry was reported to be up to celebrate New Years, 1894, "looking quite spry" after being laid up with rheumatism for more than a year.

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