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Bradshaw & Lemon — Contractors on the New Westminster Southern Railway

February 12, 2014

In February 1889 the clearing and grading of the New Westminster Southern Railway had progressed as far as the Dominion fish hatchery on Fraser River, and with the line of the survey reaching the great bog now known as Surrey Bend extensive crib-work was required, for which James Leamy hired the firm of RE Lemon & Company. Lemon, with partner EW Bradshaw, would complete many sections of the railway requiring bridging and cribwork.

Kentucky-born Robert E Lemon had come out to the Puget Sound in 1884 and followed the work to the Canadian Pacific Railway at Kamloops the same year.

In May 1885 he opened a general merchandise store at Eagle Pass Landing just as the place was thriving with activity from construction parties working on the final section of the Onderdonk contract.
In the same place at this time were GF Kyle and the writer Morley Roberts.
Lemon made good money, afterward moving into the same line of business at Revelstoke in 1886 and Nelson in 1888. 

In 1889 Lemon sold his business at Nelson and came down to New Westminster where he engaged in contract work on local construction projects.

Lemon’s partner on the NWSR projects was Edwin W Bradshaw, a native of Stormont County, Ontario, who had come out west to work on building the CPR, afterward moving to the lower mainland. 

Bradshaw & Lemon are best known for their work on the Surrey dyke in 1889 and 1890, a project to protect farmland between the Serpentine and Nicomekl rivers that generated huge controversy over funding and  ended the political careers of more than a few councillors.


Bradshaw & Lemon contracted to build some of the earthworks, bridges and cribwork along the route of the NWSR from Bon Accord to the border at Blaine, beginning with the cribwork skirting Surrey Bend begun in February 1889.
In September it was advertised that Bradshaw & Lemon wanted 20 men for railway work. At the same time they had a bridge contract in New Westminster, and had won the contract for building the Surrey dyke.

"Bradshaw & Lemon, the contractors who had the contract for filling in and grading Agnes street, will complete that part of their work next Thursday, leaving only the sidewalk building portion of their contract unfinished. Today they will send several teams and men up to Kells to take out a cut on the Southern railway grade, on which road they already have a number of teams at work on a cut at White’s. These gentlemen are hustlers and let no grass grow where they work."

Bradshaw and Lemon also attended to individual projects. RE Lemon still owned a merchandise business and Revelstoke and a ranch.


In 1890 following the takeover of the NWSR by Nelson Bennett, the terminus was determined to be at Liverpool, about a mile upstream from Brown’s Landing, where passengers and freight would be met by a railway ferry.

In April a contract to build a large wharf, 740 feet in length, was awarded to Bradshaw & Co. The wharf would first be used for landing the rails which were now being shipped from England.  Work of driving piles was delayed in May due to high water, but wharf was completed in June and the first shipment of rails arrived on the Cordelia in July.

EW Bradshaw also built a hotel at Liverpool,  finished in October.

The challenge of traversing the many soft-spots along the line was brought into focus shortly before the railway was opened in 1891.

"While a Southern Railway train, consisting of an engine and four cars was crossing the muskeg this side of Port Kells, on Wednesday evening, the track suddenly gave way under the weight of the carriages, and the locomotive rolled off the rails and lay gently down on its side in the swamp. Fortunately no one was injured in the accident. The machinery for hoisting the engine on to the track again is being erected at the spot, and it is expected to be ready for service again in a few days.. . .The line over the swamp will be cross-barred with 8 x 8 timbers, 20 feet long, which are expected to make a solid foundation and prevent further accidents…"

Extra caution was also taken with the numerous bridges along the line during the course of construction.  Piles were driven, one on top of the other — a technique known as dowelling, in order to provide a more stable foundation.


The New Westminster Southern Railway was formally completed on February 14, 1891 with a driving of the last spike connecting it with the Fairhaven Southern Railway at Blaine, Washington.

RE Lemon later went back to Nelson BC where he became Warden of the Provincial Jail. He died at the age of 51 in January, 1907.

EW Bradshaw pursued other projects in the Interior before returning to Surrey late in life.

Edwin Wellington Bradshaw at age 71 was married for a second time and resided with his bride at Sullivan in Surrey.  In 1934,  his demise at the age of 76 was reported under the headline—

"Pioneer of BC Drops Dead at Surrey Church." 

Bradshaw had collapsed on the steps of Bethany United Church at Sullivan where he was going to attend a social. His obituary described him as "a pioneer contractor for the C.P.R."  No mention was made of his participation in the greatest of Surrey construction projects.

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